Just over a week ago I spent a few days in Bucharest as a guest of Vivolis - a new travel company who have funded and organised Hip Trip, Romania's first travel film festival. It was my first time in Bucharest (and what a beautiful place it is!) but what I really came away with from the weekend was just what a fun and invigorating process a really good film festival can be.
This festival was small scale, as you might expect from anything in its inaugural format, but the team behind it were extremely passionate about bringing something like this - something totally new and different, that is - to the existing cultural arena in Bucharest. The idea, I gathered, was to encourage folk to broaden their horizons and think outside the box - to embrace change and challenge. That's a message I can get on board with!
I was there to present Into The Empty Quarter, and to host a Q&A afterwards in English and Romanian (an event made all the more amusing for my inability to provide succinct answers, leaving the poor translator an impossible task...) Unsurprisingly however, the real highlight came once I left the stage and Romanian adventurer Uca Marinescu replaced me- Uca recently became the first sexagenarian in the world to reach the North and South poles in one year (this after a lifetime of adventure.)
The weekend had other high points too (Şerif Yenen's film 'Istanbul Unveiled' for one) but mostly I was blown away by just how enthusiastic the organisers, volunteers and audiences all were about creating and partaking in something new and exciting. There were no egos, no big demands, no complaints or disgruntled murmurings after the screenings - just lots of normal people having a good time sharing travel stories.
Alastair and I have spent much time trawling through lists of film festivals and deciding which ones to enter our Empty Quarter desert movie into. Often, I admit, it feels like a chore - fill out a form, maybe pay a fee, probably wait at least 6 weeks, definitely forget completely that you've entered. We've had our fair share of rejection letters, but even for most of those that we've been accepted at it's been hard to get truly excited without being there in person (and this isn't always possible.) So far I've only made it to the Sheffield Adventure Film Festival and HipTrip, both of which I've loved.
What going to Bucharest reminded me (and what I shouldn't have forgotten in the first place) is that these film festivals exist not just merely as a business (at least most of them don't) - they're created as a platform to showcase ideas, thoughts and generally cool stuff. Most are run by adventurous people who love travel and the outdoors, FOR adventurous people who love travel and the outdoors. And there is no shortage of them. There are hundreds of adventure, mountain, travel and all other sorts of outdoors-specific film festivals taking place all over the world (including, now, in Romania!)
So here's my point (finally!) - if you haven't already, go online and see if there are any festivals happening close by you. I bet there probably are, and I bet they're a whole lot of fun. For those of us involved in this 'adventure' niche - whether as filmmakers, writers or just good old-fashioned practicioners - these are the perfect combination of art, inspiration and enjoyment, as far as I can see. The next one on my calendar is the Adventure Travel Film Festival in Dorset - what's yours?