7,000 PETs with coins, cheerful songs and smiles brought joy to Roșia Montană. For a week, the valleys of the Apuseni Mountains hosted the biggest environmental festival in Eastern Europe.
Ioana Pasc, journalist at AlTreileaSector.ro
FânFest, now a symbol of the fight to save Roșia Montană, reached its ninth edition, and the longest in the campaign’s history so far. The festival animated 7,000 participants for a week. The agenda was full of cultural activities, mountain expeditions, literature, painting and citizenship journalism workshops, photography exhibitions and concerts. All these kept engrossed those who had come to celebrate FânFest at Roșia Montană, between 11th and 17th August.
Ioana Pasc, journalist at AlTreileaSector.ro, was there and wrote down her impressions for all the readers who supported the festival from the distance.
Credit for photos and video: Matei Budeș (ViraFilms).
We got late to Roșia Montană. On Thursday night, together with heavy rain that had turned my tent into a not so comfortable bedroom. My feelings were shared by other less fortunate beings. At five o’clock in the morning, Mr. Bârlă, the owner of the land where we camped, was towing a car stuck in mud.
10.00 A.M. – the prospects are brighter. It isn’t raining anymore. Steam is going up in heaps in the air from the woods around Roșia Montană. I promised to myself that I wouldn’t be hurrying from one workshop to another as I had done at previous editions. I kept the middle path between boredom and pleasure.
The literature workshop
“People have battles, courage and sometimes butterflies in their stomach. They have impressions, but they mostly have needs. People find it normal to exist just one month a year without a boss and will frown at you if you tell them they are not free”, reads Oana Moisil to her public a few lines from the book she intends to launch this autumn.
In the courtyard of the Parish House, people are sitting on wooden beams. No one is blinking too often or breathing too deep. Oana daydreams, recites poetry, and makes paper planes at the end, using the papers she has just read from. Participants hurry to catch those paper planes, to take home as a souvenir of the workshop.
The freelance journalist, Mircea Barbu, talks about the four visits he made to Eastern Ukraine, in the area around Donetsk, now controlled by the rebels. Behind him, black and white pictures of the chaos in Crimeea are rolling.
A short film, a few minutes long, shows images of bombed hospitals in Gaza, maimed children, bereaved mothers, wives and daughters who lost their children, husbands or fathers. Palestinian doctors who had studied in Romania are explaining in a poor Romanian that the hospitals in Gaza are facing a crisis situation. On the one hand, they’re suffering from lack of medicine, equipment and personnel, on the other hand, they are overwhelmed by the ever growing number of victims filling the improvised rooms of the hospitals in Gaza.
The mixture of war atmosphere with an atmosphere of celebration and relaxation in Roșia Montană during the festival feels like an exotic cocktail.
I go out of the Community Center and I see smiling faces everywhere, many colorful faces, serene people and families that had come to meet the place for which tens of thousands of Romanians had gone out on the streets in the protest movements of the “Romanian Autumn”. Foreheads smooth out. The Mining law was definitively rejected in June 2014 and a fresh air of relaxation is all around.
Movies on civic duties
The Romanian protests were the subject of two documentary films which I watched at FânFest: “Where are you Bucharest?” by Vlad Petri and “The Romanian Autumn” by Matei Budeș. Over 140 people choose to stay outside till late to watch them, defying the cold that makes me clench my teeth.
At the end of the screening, people continue the debate with the directors on the meaning of protests, freedom of expression, and the gains of the 2013 autumn. You can just sense people’s unrest, caused by these films. The debates are carried out with intensifying passion and subjects vary around some general social issues: the restructuring of the electoral system, the presidential elections in 2014, the broadening gap between the MPs and the people; and a more specific topic, that of the environmental problems confronting Romania at the moment.
Storytelling around the fire
Each night, many of those present at FânFest gathered around a camp fire to talk to Eugen David, president of Alburnus Maior, and to other locals of Roșia Montană. Eugen greeted his guests as he has been every year, with his serene, talkative, open-hearted and honest presence. This is his way of being for which he is already known to millions of Romanians. Stories revolved around what it meant to wage a 14-year-old battle with a foreign corporation.
Eugen talked about what the poverty induced by authorities means, about the one-industry area (as is the case with Roșia Montană nowadays) about life in a town with no pharmacy and about plans of urbanism that are being adopted without much public debate.
The great gathering from Roșia Montană
Every year, according to the festival’s traditions, on the last day of FânFest, participants gather in a solidarity march going through the streets of Roșia Montană. People march wearing trumpets, drums and guitars. It is a celebration of the success the locals had in keeping the place the way they had known it since childhood.
There is smiling and dancing in the center of Roșia Montană. Actors from all over the world wearing costumes in the colours of the rainbow and colourful make-up form this dance. It was during such a moment that The Movement of Resistance Anthem was born three years ago.
What was different at FânFest 2014?
Although this was the longest edition of the festival, I didn’t see any of the cars of the Canadian company parked at every gate, nor the representatives of Gold Corporation who used to greet participants at the festival with brochures, invitations at the gallery or the museum, promotional materials, caps or lemonade. This edition, they could hardly be seen on the streets, driving the same SUVs with Alba county registration numbers and the initials RMG on the rear. They met with total indifference from the participants, as if they did not even exist. Participants came from all over the country and abroad. They were more relaxed and less vocal than at previous editions. To quote a young woman who came there for the first time, there was “a distinct air of Vama Veche in the atmosphere”.
Despite this relative relaxation, the cause of Roșia Montană has not been irrevocably won. Although significant steps have been made towards the rejection of the mining project in its present form and civil society has won a very important battle, the evolution of the public debates for the adoption of the new general urban plan (keeping the current status of Roșia Montană as a one industry area) in favour of Roșia Montană Gold Corporation (RMGC) show that the fight to save Roșia Montană is yet to be won.
Translated in English by Alexandra Calu