Dear friends, colleagues and participants,
for the first time International Festival of Ethnographic Film Sofia has a competitive character. The jury prize for feature length ‘Best film’ went to “Weight of Salt” by Margaret Bong (director, researcher and camerawoman). She will receive a statuette “Samodiva” made especially for the IFEF 2015 by the Bulgarian ceramist Marto Kirov.
“Weight of Salt” gives a glimpse into the life of the last active salt maker family in Kelabit highland, an isolated settlement in the heart of Borneo. It is a portrait of the tribe and a place where life is simple and time has another pace; but not after 2009 when the first road connecting this remote village to the populated lowlands was completed. The same year, cellular communication was extended to this area. Young Kelabits move to the cities to continue their education. Upon graduation, most do not return to the highlands since the agrarian economy does not provide many job opportunities. The salt making family knows that the continuation of the family trade depends on the children. However, the parents want them to receive an education and to have a better life. This is not only brings changes to their lives when they become modernized like the rest of the world and the salt making tradition will surely come to an end.
The “Weight of Salt” impressed the jury, among several strong candidates, with its long-term dedication to a single family and community. It followed the main protagonists for several years and we were able to observe their transformations, alongside with the transformation and self-discoveries of the film director. The film addressed important issues like migration, modernization, re-negotiations of gender and age roles, and the struggles of a traditional community to preserve its coherence in several years of dramatic changes. All this made the “Weight of Salt” a logical choice.
The members of the jury decided to give a special award for a short length film. Thе prize went to “Gorgeous of the evening” by Davor Borić (director) and Josip Perčević (researcher). The film features carnival traditions in the villages Donja Bebrina and Ruščica in the heart of Slavonia. Although basically very conventional, people are still finding various ways to adapt them to modern times.
The “Gorgeous of the evening” offers important observations on a rather neglected process – the transformations (sometimes painful, always difficult) of male roles in post-socialist Central Europe. Rogues and hard-working guys, conservatives and men wearing women’s clothes are confronted in the film. The solemn, reflexive gaze of a man donning a piece of traditional female clothing is one of the best moments in the whole festival selection. Further praise deserves the fact that the director managed to find original and previously overlooked trends in one of most thoroughly studied rituals – the Carnival.