Heartland Film Festival Interview: Bram Conjaerts, Director of “The Circle”

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One of the most fascinating films of the festival has the most deceivingly simple names. “The Circle” is all about the people who happen to live upon one of the greatest scientific experiments in human history. The Large Hadron Collider races particles around at such an incredible speed in order to recreate the Big Bang, the origins of the universe. This is located 100 miles underground in Europe and director Bram Conjaerts talked to those on the surface to learn what they think of all of this.

We were thrilled to talk to Bram about the focus on the documentary, his history with the Large Hardon Collider and the documentaries that intrigue him.

Heartland Film Festival: Do you remember the first time you heard about the Large Hadron Collider? What were your first thoughts on the experiments they were conducting?

Bram Conjaerts: The first time I heard about the experiment was a couple of years back, I believe it was in 2008.  That was before the start-up of the collider. My father who studied physics, told me about the LHC. I was immediately interested, because the experiment tries to answer some deeply human questions. How did it all begin? What is this reality we live in? Also the factor of not knowing what would happen when the first collisions of particles would take place, intrigued me and scared me at the same time. I heard about the possible creation of a black hole and had this dream that is a part of the film now. After some research and talking with physicists in Belgium I was more or less calmed. But I remained very interested in the larger whole.

In 2009 my graduation project “Henri and the Islands”won a price from the Flanders Audiovisual Fund which allowed me to began a new project on the LHC.

Heartland Film Festival: How long did it take you to talk to everyone you wanted to within the circle?

Bram Conjaerts: The first time I went there was for 3 weeks, mainly to talk with physicists of CERN (European Centre for Nuclear Research) and visit the experiment itself. Afterwards it took me some time to know where the collider exactly passed by above the ground. There are almost no markings. After some time I received a map from CERN. But it was too big to take along, so we photographed each day a part of it and went on adventure. I spent a month following the circle above and talking with local people. The research part of the film was more or less combined with the filming part. Most of the time, there was just a cinematographer and me, so we could improvise more on the spot.

Heartland Film Festival: Why did you not want to interview people involved directly with the research?

Bram Conjaerts: I did interview people from CERN but decided while editing to use only the audio. In this way they would be more like voices coming from beneath the ground and I could focus more on the opinions from local people above. The physicists I talked to had some very interesting thoughts. But I didn’t want to make a scientific film.

Heartland Film Festival: What surprised you the most from the reactions within the circle?

Bram Conjaerts: Actually, what surprised me the most was that not everyone knew about the experiment. Sometimes I talked with people that lived exactly on top of the biggest scientific experiment on earth and simply didn’t know or didn’t care. Although I have to say that many older people knew every scientific detail and were well informed as well.

Heartland Film Festival: Are you working on a new project?

Bram Conjaerts: I’m trying to develop some new ideas for documentaries and hope to get funding for it in the near future. For the moment it’s too early to discuss the subjects, because it’s very vague in this stage.

Heartland Film Festival: What are the moving films that have inspired you as a filmmaker?

Bram Conjaerts: It’s difficult to name them all, because on every festival I see films that blow me away. One of the last documentaries I saw was The Machine Which Makes Everything Disappear, a wonderful film focusing on the lives of young adults in Georgia. And Werner Herzog’s Encounters at the End of the World about the scientific base in Antarctica. After seeing films like that, I realize I still have a lot of work to do. But they give me the desire to go for it. There’s still so much to tell and explore!

“The Circle” will play in the program Festival Award Shorts 1 and you can buy tickets for the following days…

  • Friday, October 18 at 10:45 a.m. at AMC Castleton Square 14**
  • Friday, October 18 at 7 p.m. at AMC Castleton Square 14**
  • Saturday, October 19 at 10 a.m. at AMC Traders Point 12**
  • Sunday, October 20 at 12:45 p.m. at AMC Castleton Square 14**
  • Monday, October 21 at 2:45 p.m. at AMC Traders Point 12
  • Tuesday, October 22 at 7:30 p.m. at AMC Castleton Square 14
  • Friday, October 25 at 9 p.m. at AMC Castleton Square 14
  • Saturday, October 26 at 2 p.m. at AMC Traders Point 12

**Bram is scheduled to attend the following screenings.

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