The Brisbane International Film Festival (BIFF) is the premier film event in Queensland, Australia, showcasing the best and most interesting cinema from around the world. BIFF celebrated its 21st anniversary in 2012 by taking over city cinema screens for 12 intense days of screenings, premieres and conversations with film-makers.
From 14–25 November, the Festival screened more than 100 best films from around the world and among them was the award-winning Lithuanian documentary film, The Field of Magic, directed by 28 year old Mindaugas Survila. It was great to see a large turnout of Lithuanians from Brisbane and beyond at the Barracks Cinema on 19 November, who came to see the film and meet Mindaugas. After the screening, Festival Director, Richard Moore, invited Mindaugas to talk about the making of the film and take questions from the audience, who were invited to join them afterwards for free champagne in the Barrack Cinema‘s foyer.
The film has already had great accolades during screenings throughout Europe, Canada and Lithuania where all tickets have been sold out. The last Kaunas International Film Festival, opened with Stebuklų Laukas (The Field of Magic). Each year the Festival tries to introduce both renowned Lithuanian works of cinematography and promising filmmakers. They chose the work of Mindaugas Survila because he represents the young generation of Lithuanian filmmakers.
The film follows the daily lives of a group of people living in the Buda Forest, near the Kariotiškės Dump, 20 kilometres from Vilnius, from which they make their living. The title Stebuklų Laukas is the name of a very popular Russian game where you search for valuable objects in landfills. The documentary is a testimony of the marginalisation of people who live in a tiny slum. It shows the pride they take in their home and depicts the dignity in their existence. It‘s a different life, a difficult one, but no less respectable than that of others.
Mindaugas spent four years making the film, then another two editing. “My visits to the Buda Forest were very frequent during the filming and gradually those people began accepting me. All of a sudden I could see them in a completely different way as compared to the picture drawn by the press and television – they not only do their share of hard work every day, but also read books, listen to music, make jokes, fall in love, sing, cry, play cards, do their hair and are always ready to help each other,” said director Survila.
Survila told his Brisbane audience that he didn’t approach his filming from a political viewpoint but tried to inform the viewer about the realities of his country. He said he was always very open with the people who participated in the documentary, with his camera never leaving his shoulder so it became a part of him, and in the end they became his friends. He gained their trust by promising not to show his film on Lithuanian TV so his film has only been seen in movie theatres—with the Buda community in front row seats at the premiere in Vilnius. Mindaugas said the dump was closed by the government in 2008 and the younger members of the community scattered away and today only two older couples remain.
The Field of Magic was one of 15 films chosen by BIFF to enter their prestigious competition, BIFFDOCS, Australia‘s richest prize for documentary filmmakers – which rewards excellence in documentary production. Although his film did not win, Survila said he was just honoured that it got to the finals to compete alongside the world‘s strongest documentary filmmakers. The BIFFDOCS 2012 winner was American Director Lauren Greenfield‘s The Queen of Versailles, a documentary about a billionaire family and their financial challenges after the global financial crisis.
Mindaugas Survila has now left Australia to take his film to Israel to be shown in the Anthropological Film Festival in Jerusalem which focuses on films which deal with a variety of issues concerning the complexity of the cultural, social and political life of individuals and communities around the world. From there, Mindaugas is off to the Lünen International Film Festival in Germany and after that, the film is back in Vilnius’ cinemas in mid-December and then The Field of Magic will reappear in the highly anticipated DVD format. Mindaugas has a Bachelor of Biology and Masters in Ecology and the Environment and has 3 cats and a dog, so it’s no surprise that his next film is about wildlife in Lithuania.
Anna Augunas / www.lithuaniatribune.com