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Exposé COLLECTIVE | Video

A conversation about the film COLLECTIVE, investigative journalism, and filmmakers who document their work

In 2015, a fire at the Colectiv nightclub in Bucharest, Romania, killed 27 people and injured 146. Romanian Health Minister assured the nation that the burn victims would receive the highest level of healthcare. Instead, another 37 club attendees died in the hospitals which used many times diluted disinfectant in ICUs which led to infections and sealed the fate of the burn victims.

Filmmaker Alexander Nanau’s powerful film documents the painstaking work of Sport Gazette’s investigative journalists, who uncovered the shocking scandal behind the tragedy. Prominently featuring the persistent Catalin Tolontan who pursued the powers that be at every turn, their account of corruption at all levels of government led to one of the largest public protests that toppled the government, and brought in a patient rights advocate as the new Health Minister.

The cinematic power of COLLECTIVE is as gripping as Tom McCarthy’s academy award-winning narrative, SPOTLIGHT. The Gazette’s journalists who pursue the layers of corruption in Romania are as captivating as the Globe reporters as they uncover the depths of deception from the Catholic Church.

The program features excerpts from relevant films and spotlights investigative journalism in South Eastern Europe. Mocha Jean Herrup, founder of the New Bedford Film Society and content producer for the South Coast Film Forum,  and Chale Nafus, founding board member and long-time director of programming, Austin Film Society, join in the conversation with Vera Mijojlic, festival director, South East European Film Festival, SEEfest, Los Angeles, CA.

The live event was presented in November 2020 on the co-watch platform Beem.

Collective is available for at-home streaming. Collective is Romania’s official Oscar entry for Best International Feature.

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Mindset that knows no borders: Interview with Otto Banovits

Online cultural magazine Transatlantic Panorama (TAP) has just published an interview with film director Otto Banovits, whose short film Donkey Xote won Best Short Film Award at SEEfest 2017. He talks about his migratory life that took him from Sweden to Hungary to England and Los Angeles, and how this journey informed his work – and his mindset that knows no borders. Interviewed by Bettina Botos, publisher of TAP, Banovits touches upon many themes including, among others, form vs. content, quotes Hungarian writer István Eörsi, and references the 2016 Oscar-winning film Son of Saul by László Nemes when talking about the fate of refugees. You can read the entire interview here

 

 

Interview with Greek-American Evan Spiliotopoulos, writer of the 2017 remake of the BEAUTY AND THE BEAST

By Anna Spyrou

Los Angeles, July 2017 

Greek-American Evan Spiliotopoulos, screenwriter of the 2017 live action remake of Beauty and the Beast, directed by Bill Condon and starring Emma Watson and Dan Stevens, spoke to SEEfest about the Disney hit movie and his writing career in Los Angeles.

SEEfest: Tell us a little about yourself and how you got involved in screenwriting.

Evan: I always wanted to be a writer and I always loved movies, so screenwriting was the natural combination. Growing up in Greece, I would write short stories and watch every movie I could get my hands on. When I finished high school, I attended the university of Delaware and then American University in DC where I got a degree in screenwriting. 

SEEfest: What brought you to Los Angeles?

Evan: Greece has no competitive film industry and certainly no structure in place to cultivate screenwriting. Since I wanted to specifically be a screenwriter, my best option was to come to Los Angeles. For theater and some television, it’s New York. But for film and the rest of TV production, it is L.A. The move was intimidating since I didn’t know a soul, but I had won a few writing awards in festivals and had built a portfolio. So, in 1995 I made the trek to California. I was fortunate enough to very quickly get a job writing for the Sci-Fi Chanel, which launched me. 

SEEfest: When do you know an idea is worth writing, and what is your process of getting it there? 

Evan: If there is a great conflict, an interesting plot and a unique angle into a story – and if it is cinematic – it’s worth pursuing. My process consists of writing a paragraph of bios for the main characters to get to know them, then laying out the screenplay in a beat sheet. Usually I can see plot holes and structural flaws in an outline before I start writing. With this prep, a first draft takes me around three weeks. 

SEEfest: How was your experience working on Beauty and the Beast with such a star-studded cast?     

Evan: Fantastic. As thrilled as I was with Emma Watson and Dan Stevens, it was being associated with the incredible supporting actors like Kevin Kline and Ian McKellen and literally everyone else that blew me away. It also made me feel very confident that with people of that caliber, the script and dialogue would sound golden. 

SEEfest: Had you worked with Stephen Chbosky before? How did that writing partnership work?

Evan: I had not, but I loved his work in Perks of Being A Wallflower, which he also directed. We actually did not write Beauty together. But our work, and director Bill Condon’s contributions, overlaps throughout the film. 

SEEfest: We get noticed because of our successes, but we create them on the back of our failures. What failures (of your own) have you been able to learn from? How did they change you and your process?

Evan: In film, failure is married to success. Getting a script produced and made into a movie is a success unless the film fails at the box office, in which case the entire experience is perceived as a failure. The catch with applying what I have learned in a bad experience is that there’s very little I can do to avoid it next time. Once the script is done, there are a thousand things that can go wrong that the writer has no control over. That’s why films like Beauty are a bit of a miracle. 

SEEfest: Are you on social media and do you use it in your work? Why or why not?    

Evan: Not really. I have yet to engage with Instagram and Twitter. Other writers have had bad experiences with social media where strangers will pop up out of the blue and try to push scripts on them. It’s happened a couple of times to me. So my social media presence is sparse. 

SEEfest: We are all here because we LOVE cinema. How did your love for movies get sparked and what can we, as a Southeast European community, do to help others discover a similar pleasure?

Evan: As the story goes, my parents took me to see an Asterix and Obelix cartoon when I was three. I stayed absolutely silent during the film and started crying when it was over because I wanted more. That was my addict’s moment.  As far as what Greece can do, well I think people have plenty of
opportunity to discover a love for cinema without help. There are theaters and DVD stores all over the place, plus Greece unfortunately has a big piracy problem. So the real question is how to cultivate film production and how to encourage foreign films to shoot in our country. Local film production explodes when both the state and independent producers have a lot of money to invest in films. The way they get a lot of money is by doing everything possible to attract foreign films and get them to spend cash in Greece. Since every consecutive Greek government regardless of political leaning has ignored or discouraged foreign film production, we will not be making a ton of movies in Greece and the success of our filmmakers overseas will be confined to rare examples. 

SEEfest: Do you have a project in the works right now? Would you share some details about it?    

Evan: I do have a science fiction thriller that seems to be in a good place. But the plot, as they say, is under wraps. 

SEEfest: What words of wisdom would you share with an aspiring writer?    

Evan: To quote Ray Bradbury: “Writers write”. Every day. Without fail. If it’s one page or ten, write. 

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Anna Spyrou is an award winning writer-director passionate about storytelling and living in Los Angeles. She has been involved with SEEfest social media team since 2016.

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Volunteer Spotlight: Nick Bergen

SEEfest Staff Writer | April 5, 2015, 10:47 AM

Nick Bergen is a musician and composer for visual and interactive media. A recent graduate of Berklee College of Music, he has extensive experience in arranging and producing music and has written Profile_pic_NBand produced music for mobile games, advertisements, and television.

 

Nick moved to Los Angeles in January 2015 and presently works as a keyboard technician and synthesizer programmer. Current scoring projects include a new web series called “Tommy the Great.

 

Nick contributed trailer music for SEEfest 2015 and is looking forward to continued involvement in the future.

A sampling of Nick’s work can be found here: www.nickhbergen.com

 
 
 
 
 
 


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Volunteer Spotlight: Julia Macnelly

SEEfest Staff Writer | November 16, 2014, 8:05 PM

 

Get to know Julia Macnelly, SEEfest 2014 Festival Coordinator and World Traveler. 

Здрасти от България!

I’m writing to you from Tryavna, a very small and equally quaint town in the center of Bulgaria that is known for artisan crafts like wood carving, silver filigree, and icon painting. We also have cobblestone streets and a clocktower that sings an operatic rendition of a famous local poet’s verse every night at 10 pm, seriously. I’m living here for the year on a Fulbright grant, teaching English to the students in 8-12th grades at Petko Slaveikov uchilishte (school). The town is situated within the Balkan mountain range, so you can basically walk ten minutes in most directions for beautiful razxodki (hikes…did I mention this blog post is also a Bulgarian language lesson?)

I’ve made several trips around Southeastern Europe in the last few years, so in some ways it feels very familiar being here in the region—but mostly my life feels so completely different. I am learning the ways of the Bulgarian school system (lots and lots of bureaucratic busywork. Your signature is literally required at least 3 times per day for various things) and trying to communicate with my very welcoming colleagues in Bulgarian (I have so far heard that I either have a Czech, Polish, Croatian, Russian, Slovenian, or Romanian accent, but never an American one, so maybe I’m on my way?) I’m also starting a chapter of the BEST Foundation (Bulgarian English Speech Tournament, http://bestfoundation.bg/) at my school, which means I will be coaching students in performing prose, poetry, original work, and debates, all in English—obviously they’re brave souls!

I will be here through the end of the school year next June, which means, sadly, that I will have to miss SEEfest’s 10th anniversary. I had such a wonderful experience working with the festival for the first time this past May and can’t wait to rejoin the team when I’m back in the States. I have loved sharing my stories about Southeastern Europe with friends and family, and so I’m truly proud to be a part of this event which brings this slice of the world to an even wider audience. I hope this year is the best yet, and I look forward to keeping up with the festival from overseas.

– Julia

 

 

 

 


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Volunteer Spotlight: Shae Popovich

SEEfest Staff Writer | October 16, 2014, 5:42 PM

 

Shae Popovich is a SEEfest Volunteer and Supporter… here’s a little about her.

 

I was born in Niagara Falls, Canada and moved to LA after winning a green card in the lottery. I’ve been an actor for many years but in 2002, with the drumbeat of war in Iraq, I put my acting on the back-burner and got involved in social justice causes. I was the Associate Director of a non-profit peace and justice organization called Office of the Americas from 2007-2010. While there, I was fortunate enough to be sent on two fact-finding delegations in the Gaza Strip and Cairo, as well as work with several organizations including Codepink, and the ACLU. I have a passion for social justice!

 

Currently, I work part-time as an Assistant and Manager of a small business and I’ve recently returned to my love of performing and recently shot an indie film entitled “Citizens United” and will be guesting on a web series in Vermont entitled “Queen Dad”. I write poetry, I am learning to play guitar, I love to read and play tennis and study conversational French.

 

I am pleased to be helping out with SEEfest 2015. One of my favorite pastimes is watching foreign films and documentaries and SEEfest has an amazing lineup of films. SEEfest’s promotion of the cultural diversity of Southeast Europe in it’s presentation of films from the region, provides me with a window into the area where my father and his family are from in Serbia as well my mother’s family in Croatia. SEEfest’s incredible leader, Vera Mijolic, is a pleasure to work with. I first volunteered for Vera many years ago when she ran the International Rescue Committee and I am happy to be back with her and the hard-working and oh so fun volunteers!

 
 
 
 
 


Support international cinema in Los Angeles and new film talent from South East Europe. Donate here!