WAITING FOR AUGUST, by Teodora Ana Mihai, documentary, Belgium, 2014, 88′
Georgiana, a 15-year-old teenager living in Bacau, Romania, raises her six siblings, while their mother works abroad in Italy. A heartwarming portrait of youthful resilience and the love of family in the face of Europe’s economic realities.
Best International Feature Documentary, Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival, 2014
Best Long Documentary Karlovy Vary International Film Festival, 2014
- Saturday, November 7, 2:15 pm, Coppola Theater, SFSU
- Sunday, November 8, 3:15 pm, Cubberley Auditorium, Stanford
- Tuesday, November 10, 6:30pm, Doe Library,# 180, UC Berkeley
My name is Teodora Ana Mihai. I was born in Bucharest in 1981, during the Ceaucescu era.
My parents fled Romania in 1988 and were granted political asylum in Belgium. I stayed behind as a guarantee for the secret services that my mom and dad would return: it was the only way for them to flee the country. In the absence of prospects, parents sometimes take risks whose consequences are difficult to calculate in advance. In the end I was lucky: about a year later, after some diplomatic interventions, I was able to leave Romania too and was reunited with my parents. But that one-year absence during my childhood left a significant mark on me.
I remain in close contact with my country of birth, intrigued and preoccupied by its current fate. It’s this connection with Romania that made me realize that, in a way, history is repeating itself there. The difference is that children are no longer left behind for political reasons, but for economic ones. The impact on the child though, remains the same.
The economic migrants are occasionally given a voice by the media, but we hardly ever hear from the young ones left behind. That is why I wanted to tell their story – the story behind the story.
But telling the story of children who are left behind by their parents is a delicate matter. It is a taboo in practically all cultures, as no one is proud of ending up in such circumstances. It was not an easy task to find a family who were not only expressive enough, but who also agreed to be filmed in an open, uncensored way.
Luckily, after many months of searching and numerous interviews, I finally met the Halmacs. Their story particularly touched me; fortunately, they agreed to share their everyday life with me and with the broader public. The Halmac kids literally claimed my empathy. Every single one of them is a real ‘character’, with a fascinating and well-defined personality that I just wanted to get to know better.
Having said that, I was of course also confronted with a crucial question: who was the main character in this story? Who was holding this family together in the mother´s absence? The answer came quite naturally: Georgiana, who was about to turn 15 when we started filming, had obviously taken over the parental responsibilities. She was the new point of reference for the rest of the siblings, despite her age.
As I started following Georgiana, I discovered an extremely strong, uninhibited teenager who accepted her new ‘head-of-the-family’ role with humility, without considering herself a victim. But she did possess the realization that she — like the rest of her siblings — should have the right to a normal, more protected childhood.
I felt privileged to be allowed into their lives to tell their story of courage and resilience. After spending so much time together we all became like family, which gave this film its intimacy and, I believe, also its strength. Getting to know the Halmacs truly enriched my life.