Author and Film-Maker Caroline Juler
I met Caroline Juler last winter. She was making a film about Brynberian and the extensive renovation of their community centre. I came away from our brief conversation wanting to know more about this seemingly shy woman who fell into film-making using her smartphone just five years ago.
When we finally did manage to meet up, I asked her to tell me something of her background and what had inspired her passion for film-making.
Caroline explained that she had studied art history and worked as a freelance writer.
“I was writing for Galleries magazine,” she explained. “I became fascinated with Eastern Europe in the late 1980s, starting with Hungary and Czechoslovakia and their underground artists. When someone gave me a ticket to a performance arts festival in eastern Transylvania, I added Romania to my places of interest.”
What delighted Caroline as her trip progressed was the traditions of family life in the region, so different from the UK. She was impressed that there was much less industrialisation and more emphasis on families working the land together.
At the time she had many friends who were interested in growing their own food and she hated London life. She thought herself very lucky to find a home in Brynberian where she has lived with her partner since 1999.
Caroline learned Welsh and continued with her work as a correspondent for Galleries in Wales. Despite writing several books based on her Romanian travels, she was never entirely satisfied with writing as a medium.
She started experimenting with recording on her smartphone about six years ago and knew that this was something that she really wanted to explore further.
During her years of travel and exploration, Caroline has made many contacts among all kinds of people, including anthropologists in Romania, and activists in Ukraine. Romania’s rural heritage inspired her, and there she developed an interest in traditional shepherding.
Greatly impressed with the work of Dragoş Lumpan, a Romanian photojournalist, she helped him get a show in Narberth’s Queens Hall, and in return he furnished her with the contacts she needed to walk with shepherds in Romania. A book and a blog, both entitled Carpathia Sheep Walk were the outcome.
“I learned a lot about shepherding,” she told me. “It’s fascinating, for example, that there was a tradition of walking across the country into southern Russia and into the Caucasus. Romanian farmers settled there and some intermarried. Their descendants are there today. I discovered that Romanian shepherds have settled in places as far apart as the USA and western Iran.”
While working for the BBC on From Out Own Correspondent, Caroline was able to develop her film-making skills using a phone and a simple camera.
She shyly insists he is neither brave nor adventurous, but her life has included many varied and courageous activities and events. She has given a speech at a medical conference on behalf of a friend for a medical charity in Romania, where hospitals are woefully underfunded, and one of her first films was a video about a Baptist charity in a part of north-east Romania where there is a lot of homelessness.
Another lead took her to Kyiv, where she fell in with some activists who had supported the Maidan protests in 2013-14. One was an amateur film-maker and medical student. Another was a Breton journalist whose uncle lived in Lviv. She went with them to eastern Ukraine to make a film. The film was ostensibly about the massive voluntary effort Ukrainians made to support their vulnerable, under-equipped soldiers. It had another agenda: to investigate rumours of fascism in the Ukrainian voluntary militias.
Ultimately, with so much material, Caroline was finding herself at sea. She needed help to edit and critically analyse her work.
“Unlike writing which is so often solitary, film-making is collaborative,” she explained. “And I desperately wanted advice. So when I happened on a free course in media production designed for school-leavers in Aberystwyth, I jumped at the chance.”
Caroline feels that she really struck it lucky, not least because of the interest and support of tutor Sophia Behraki, an ex-Channel 4 editor.
However, the whole thing wasn’t easy. “At the start, I was travelling 100 miles for four days a week, and having to get used to classes starting at 9am. Then I got a room in Borth which eased a lot of pressure. Getting the freedom to imagine and create was wonderful and having people believe in you… well… that’s huge.”
During her second year, she had to make three films, one fictional, one documentary of choice, and one a documentary as if working to a brief.
“Brynberian Village Hall was being refurbished, so I asked if could take that process as my ‘brief’. The National Library of Wales and its oral history programme were very helpful with this, as was Planed.”
From there Caroline’s skills have blossomed and her projects grown varied and diverse. We at pembrokeshire.online are following her avidly and hoping to report soon on her latest ventures.
To find Caroline’s books go to:
Searching for Sarmizegetusa
The on-line version from https://amsterdampublishers.com/books/searching-for-sarmizegetusa/
Other books include Blue Guide Romania, National Geographic Traveler Romania, Les Orientalistes de l’Ecole Italienne.
To contact Caroline: email@example.com
To see Caroline’s videos: visit Caroline Juler on YouTube and Vimeo.