Best Short Film Award Interview: Mihai Salajan & Adelina Bulibasa


Mihai Salajan and Adelina Bulibasa, the directors of Libelula, altcineAction! 2015-16 Best Short Film Award, talk to us about their reactions at the time they heard they won the award, their current projects and their future plans and expectations.


Adelina Bulibasa

Adelina Bulibasa, director of Libelula


How do you feel about winning this award?

Mihai:  Sincerely, while I was working on it I kept thinking that this will turn into a film that no one would enjoy. I was thinking that it may be too close to home and while I see every corner of it familiar, no one else would. When I heard the news that we won the award, a tear ran down my face. I really couldn’t believe it and felt completely flattered.


Adelina: To be honest, I never thought not for one bit that we would win so that came as a total surprise. I was extremely happy just to find out that our short movie was selected to be screened at the Greek Film Archive, so you can imagine how happy I was when I heard that it won one of the best short film awards!


Tell us what you plan to do with this award?

Mihai: Take a nice selfie with it J. Just joking, with the prize itself we are still thinking of the options we have. We have in plan to do another short this year and I’m also working on a feature film so we are still figuring out which service would apply better to which project.


Adelina: I personally, would like to use the award to create a short movie, something around 3 or 4 minutes long, something that until now we could not think of because of the complications that such a project would imply and only with help from the outside(not our team or small city) would be possible. But we need to think, as Mihai said, at what will be the best option for us and which one is the best possible way to use the services we were provided with.


Do you already have a new project in mind? Are you ready to seize this opportunity in order to create something more professional and/or international?

Mihai:  Yes! As mentioned above we plan on doing a short movie while also finishing up a feature film I started working in 2015. The thing with working more professional and mostly with more expensive equipment and services  is that it’s always very appealing and I think it’s probably the most common “road” of a film director but it can also take away some of your “edge” as a creative artist. While I’m always trying to find a way to make my image look sharper and more aesthetically pleasing I try for now to concentrate on  working with what I can and try to communicate through film as best I can. It’s more like instead of waiting for the opportunity  to arise I can still go and do my stuff. But yes, working on a more professional level from now on is something I keep waking up with and I spend most of the time thinking of ways to do it. As for international  appeal  it’s something I’m really focused right now, I think it’s really interesting how you can translate your film to different languages without actually using words and it’s something I want to explore as much as possible  in this new feature I’m working on.


Adelina: Yes, in fact we do have a new project in mind so besides Mihai Salajan’s “Bodrog”, we also have a script for a new short, but I think this one will be more lighthearted than “Libelula”; we would like to focus more on improving our technique and also to include a dialogue this time and we were thinking about making it more complex and subtle at the same time.


How helpful is an Online Festival for the Balkan filmmakers?

Mihai:  Well in this day and age, the age of information I see it as a necessity or maybe even the inevitable solution to get your name out there. For us it was really like that clear milestone when you know that this is it. When you know this is going to be what you will do for the rest of your life be it good or bad. The most important factor here I think, is that a lot of people got to watch it and personally I was really glad to have this chance to watch all the other movies. I felt connected to what happens next to us, around the corner. It’s like you feel part of a community of people that think alike and it was really nice. Having the time to study all of the films at your own time from home is really nice and that was one of the things that made me think we could not win. There were just too many good movies.


Adelina: Being our debut film and the first time we submitted a movie to a festival, for us it was a very helpful experience. Not only we learned how things work regarding this whole process but we also enjoyed the direct feedback we received. The reviewers expressed their opinions in comments and we read them, so this gave us a great chance to receive actual feedback. Another good thing was that a very large number of people saw the link to our film and shared it and watched it, people are more comfortable doing that from their own homes. Also, being online and free helped us a great deal and I strongly believe that not only us, but a lot of other directors and producers. It is not so simple being a Balkan filmmaker to make your name visible among so many other gifted names. I don’t mean to offend anyone but to speak really blunt and honest our community(country and especially city) did not help us spread the word about our work so we had to do it on our own. These kind of accessible festivals makes such a big difference for people like us who are just starting with their career or passion in this field.


Mihai Salajan

Mihai Salajan, director of Libelula


What is your opinion regarding the Best Critic Awards and its prize “The 5C Project”?

Mihai: I really think programs like this are the best way to go about critique, when you encourage a critic to love his work. To bring him into it, into the art itself and reward him for being unique in perception.  What I’ve seen in this edition of the festival were a lot of filmmakers that went out of the norm, trying to be personal about their work, all pushing boundaries to some extent to get their vision out and critics were going about the same. I really felt a connection between filmmakers and critics and having a prize for them felt like a very natural thing.


Adelina: I think it is a great way to motivate young people who are passionate about the film industry to express their feelings and opinions about movies. I am sure there are a lot of talented ones who are watching movies and would have a lot of things to say about them, but sometimes when you express your opinions and nobody reads or listens to them it can be pretty disappointing. So I see this project as an amazing initiative and a great way to motivate those who aspire to be a film critic: not only people will read their reviews but they now have the chance to improve them if they win, to participate at workshops and to travel, gain knowledge and meet people who share the same interests.


How do you think that “The 5C Project” initiative can be useful to you and your projects?

Mihai: For me I always thought that maybe my vision is wrong, or too “out there” and to see this good welcome from critics. We did the movie in unbelievable conditions, we did it ourselves. We wanted to take out what makes a movie a movie and still do one :))) and when we saw like-minded people sharing our vision we were blown away. I remember reading some reviews that got it so right it scared me :)) So I most definitely encourage the “The 5C Project” initiative as much as I can.


Adelina: “The 5C Project” already did help us very much. As Mihai already said and I share his feelings on this one: we didn’t think that anyone would enjoy this movie. The two of us along with the scriptwriter knew exactly what we wanted to share with the public through “Libelula” but we weren’t sure at all if the message will ever be perceived as it should. Your project helped us see that people not only understood it, but they actually felt every single detail we wanted to transmit. Also, we got the chance to get in touch with some of the participants of the project and we hope to meet with them and talk, share ideas and experiences and hopefully in the future they will also contribute to our work with their useful critique.


Besides your short, were there any other films in the competition that you particularly enjoyed and why?

Mihai: Oh yes, I remember in the first days right after it got published on the website we started watching the other ones to see if we stand a chance and I remember telling Adelina something like: “Well, at least we entered the competition, this is great news; I’m really happy.” It was like some of them were so good man, we don’t stand a chance :)))

Favorites:  Der Kübelreiter;  Fight Bitch; Pledge.


Adelina: Of course, there were a lot of good stories and amazing shorts in the competition. The films I particularly enjoyed were: “The Pledge” – because besides of its original and interesting concept, it was truly a beautiful short with great shots and good atmosphere, truly inspiring in terms of cinematohraphy; “See you in the morning” – very honest, well-made documentary, I also appreciated the hard work of the director because she was in charge with everything about this movie offering us insights about real people with real stories; “5 Ways 2 Die” – I remember watching this one with a smile on my face, but despite its somehow cheerful tone, the real conflict, buried deep down inside the character makes a great storytelling for this movie. Besides these ones there are still many others that I liked and it was a great chance for me to acknowledge very talented teams and people.


How did you learn about altcineAction! Online Balkan Short Film Festival?

Mihai: Some of our friends started out this project of getting some funds to make a couple of short movies here in our city, Arad. So after we did ours, we were thinking of submitting it to some festivals and one of them recommended us altcineAction!


Adelina: Our short was conceived as part of a project consisting of a total of 5 shorts, so one of the people who organized this project told us about altcineAction! and suggested that we could enter the contest because our short, in particular would match the Balkan theme of the festival.


What were your expectations and why have you sent your film to us?

Mihai: When we first did a preview of the movie in our hometown people reacted really well to it and was a huge surprise for us. Of course we put as much as we could in it and really gave it as much heart as we could so we decided to try our luck and show it to as many people as we could. To our greater surprise people liked it :)))


Adelina: Well, as I previously mentioned, and after reading on your website more informations we understood that our short could be a good match for your festival, thanks to its Balkan feeling so right after the submissions were open I submitted the movie. To be honest, our hopes were not too high regarding the feedback, we were just hoping that the movie will be accepted in the competition so that more people will get to see our work and efforts. We didn’t think that so many people will connect so much at an emotional level with our short and the reviews we received made us very happy and proud about our work.


Do you have any recommendations regarding the next editions of the festival?

Mihai: I really can’t say. I think this is such a great opportunity and you guys did such an amazing job. I can only hope you will have such talented filmmakers in every edition from now on.


Adelina: Indeed your team was amazing and did a great job and communication with them was so easy and spot-on. I only recently heard that your festival is affiliated with other festivals from Romania and other countries which I find extremely helpful for the talented filmmakers and critics because now their work will travel even further and word will spread about their work.


What are your plans and expectations for the future?

Mihai:  My plan is simple, keep going what I’m going right now and try to push the boundaries and try to get out as much and as good as I can. I hope to get to do this forever and make it as the art I grew up with and dreamt of doing as a child.


Adelina: I have one more year until I get my Bachelor’s Degree in Photography and Videography so I plan on finishing my studies and maybe after I will apply for a Master’s Degree in Performing Arts and Film. In the meantime, I would like to focus on the next projects, the little team we gathered when we made “Libelula” is a great team so I want to continue working as much as possible with them. In essence, I would love to continue creating, no matter if through short movies, experimental videos, photography or art performance.