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Pure love transformed into festival

Interview with Daniel Pavlic, founder of SEFF – Sisac Eco Film Festival (Sisak, Croatia)

Sisac Eco Film Feestival, or SEFF, is one of the most unusual film festivals you would hear about. Or, if you are lucky, experience. For last 10 years Daniel Pavlic, culture manager from a small town on the border of Croatia and Bosnia, rides his bike to all the small towns and villages of the region, shows eco films and cartoons and organises talks and discussions… Every month we ask environmental film festival directors about their work, their festivals and plans for the future. So welcome to the story of SEFF.

How did it all start? How SEFF was born?

Eight years ago, Sisak was known as the most polluted town in our region. Yes, it was an industrial giant in time of Yugoslavia, but actually these days, if you are outside of limited industrial zone, you can see beautiful healthy nature all around. So I thought how I can show the real side of this city. Together with my friends, we simply took our bicycles and rode to 5 towns in this region to screen short eco films. We used that way to promote ecology and to show our audience that we must take care of nature… When we saw how audience, especially kids, react to films, we decided to continue our festival and include more towns, more villages… Now we cycle through places both in Croatia and Bosnia. But that very first trip was a real adventure! Crazy four guys running on bikes in rural areas!

First year, we got problem with rain. My friend Brane even told me then: “We are not SEFF (Sisak Eco Film Festival), we are SEMFF (Sisak Eco Wet Film Festival)”, because when it rains, you can not hide. You can only keep on riding… Rain became almost a symbol of our festival, marking every year. For 2015 edition even our Festival t-shirt had a design of a girl on a bike under the rain.

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What do you like the most about your work?

Improvisation. This is what we do during the festival, because sometimes you don’t know what kind of audience waits for you in urban or rural areas. You need to improvise the “way” of how to introduce to them whole idea of the environment and importance of protecting the nature. And I like to improvise myself and see how my team does it every time!

Do you have some funny story about Festival preparation that you can share?

There are so many funny stories! For example, Samuell is a good spirit of the festival. This guy is from France but his family originally are from South India, so let’s say he is very different from what people used to see around here. Samuell visited SEFF three times. First year during our night in Kulen Vakuf, small town in Bosnia, we learnt that he snores a lot, so we sent him to another room. Early morning, a scream woke us up! It was the owner of the hostel, she came to wake her son up. It was very hard to explain what this black guy was doing in her son’s bed.

Also, once in small town Perna in Croatia, the police tried to arrest us because they took us for illegal refugees from the East. They came to our camp with dogs and Kalashnikov. But as you see we survived. Every year we have some funny stories and sometimes some love stories too. But I won’t get into details here.

What was the film festival among ones you visited that you remember the most?

I visited lots of festivals, but it’s very hard to name the one I remember the most. Turin and CinemAmbiente will stay in my mind for all my life because I finally met my “festival brothers”. I met people who do the same thing that I do in Italy, Mexico, Russia, Spain, France, Austria, Kosovo… Turin made me fly much higher! Also, Zaragoza and Ecozine Film Festival showed me a good way of organisation. Every festival is new experience and new friends… In my region there are not so many eco festivals. I cooperate with Green Fest from Serbia and Sarajevo Film Festival. Kinookus – Food Film Festival – is interesting too.

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What can you advice to other film festival organizers? Some word of wisdom.

I’m not so wise, because I work for my festival with so much (maybe too much) emotions and passion. It’s nice to work on something that you like. Then you got pure love transformed into festival. My SEFF bring me so many friends all around the world – that’s the main thing! This is what helps me to grow more and more and give me wings to make every year festival even better.

Why did you choose films as a tool to give environmental message? Why do you think is a good media?

Visual media is the best media to show our audience the concept of climate change. Also to show them what they can do to stop destroying our planet. One picture worths more than thousands words. Our festival speak them through pictures. We teach our audience to “read“ our eco films. And I know that people change. Every time when we come back to the town where we screened films year before, we see that people organize new eco-events. They ask us about biking and actions to protect nature. Especially youngsters and kids, they are the best defenders and protectors of the nature, did you know that? And they teach their parents to become better too.

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Do you believe that you are  partially “saving the world” with your work?

In some way, yes! Every drop of water to our waterfall makes it even stronger! I live my life with SEFF and I believe I do a good work for my region.

What are your future plans?

Next year there will be a lot of changes. For the first time I will organise the Festival with my own NGO – Ecological Cultural Scene EKS. The name of the festival will change. It will remain SEFF, but now it is Smaragdni Eco Film Festival. “Smaragdni” means “Esmerald”, and that’s the exact color of the beautiful Una river that we follow during our trip. This river connects Bosnia and Croatia, and we also connect different religions, nationalities and very different people. Together with Una river we will connect people and environment. This people fight each other in war 20 years ago. But today they “fight” all together for better Planet Earth.

And next year I want my friends from Green Film Network to become part of the Festival team! Welcome to Croatia and join me on this eco film adventure in June 2016!

By Anastasia Laukkanen