Stefan Peca, Playwright

In our research for “In Your Own Words” I watched,

together with director Radu Apostol, about 1,000 movies

created by participants in digital storytelling workshops

in four Romanian cities, Bucharest, Cluj-Napoca, Sibiu

and Braila, in 2015. The general topic of these movies

was multi-cultural diversity as seen through the people’s

personal stories.

They were amateur storytellers who learned how

use images and create a video, illustrating a script

they wrote themselves. The outcome was a col-
lection of heterogeneous movies: essays, stories,

mini-monographs, interviews, biographies of fam-
ily members, promotional materials for NGOS etc.

Some of the unifying elements were, however, inde-
pendent of geography and more related to the way

we choose to express ourselves throughout our life.

Most of the movies, even when discussing very personal

topics, glided into clichés. Even when they were talking

about their own lives, the participants tended to guard

themselves by using “nice” words: clichés seemed to save

them from vulnerability or from a real opening towards

their subjective life.

These clichés were inherited from the language

of nationalism and communism (the fatherland is holy,

our village is an icon, we are victims of history) updated

to Facebook (patriotism is dead, there’s nothing holy

anymore) in all its shallowness and lack of information,

pompous and using figures of speech at random. It didn’t

matter is the movie was made in Braila or in Cluj and

age groups didn’t seem to count either, which made

us reflect on the current situation. It’s obvious that the

style is imposed by the school system, starting with the

first essays we are forced to write. In an age when all

of us have may express freely online and thus become

public figures (Facebook or Twitter posts are now quoted

by mainstream media), the way we use clichés to express

ourselves has become a social phenomenon. We are what

we say, in the end, even if we don’t, actually, say what

we are. The habit of critical thinking ranks among the

least important skills we get in school.

Therefore, the true source of inspiration for the story

told by “In Your Own Words” was less what we heard in

the 1,000 movies and more what we learned from the

way 1,000 people from four different regions of Romania

told their stories. How do we learn to express ourselves?

How do we tell stories? What does “personal” mean?

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