Subverting the Norm: Alumna Greta Rauleac
Alumna Greta Rauleac participated in the Dual Degree Program in Communications between JCU and the Università degli Studi di Milano. She graduated from JCU in 2015 with a B.A. in Communications, and she then went on to earn an M.A. in Sociology and Anthropology from the Central European University in Budapest, Hungary. Greta is also a multimedia producer specializing in visual anthropology and is one of the founding members of Wild Pear Arts, an arts and documentary production company based in Serbia. She is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Sociology and Anthropology at the Central European University.
Tell us about your background.
I was born in Iasi, Romania, and raised in Forlì–Cesena, in the Emilia Romagna region of Italy. I went to a Liceo Classico, a high school that focuses on classical studies and humanities, which helped me cultivate critical thinking and the rigor of scientific analysis but also taught me to distrust conservative education systems. From studying the classics, I became interested in the mechanism of knowledge production and circulation, and this is why I joined the degree program in Comunicazione e società (Communication and Society) at the Università degli Studi di Milano. After completing the Dual Degree Program between JCU and Unimi, I continued my education at Central European University, a U.S.-accredited university, where I specialized in global and urban issues, and I stayed for my Ph.D.
What made you decide to pursue the Dual Degree Program between JCU and the Università degli Studi di Milano? What were the main challenges and rewards?
I wanted to get an international experience during my laurea triennale (undergraduate degree) at the Università degli Studi di Milano. I didn’t put much thought into the Dual Degree Program, I simply applied because I met the requirements. Once I got accepted, I was too curious to turn down this opportunity. Looking back, being a student from a working-class background in a prestigious university presented its challenges, but I was lucky to encounter professors who taught identity politics very seriously and I thoroughly enjoyed my classes in the Communications Department at JCU. John Cabot also had many extra-curricular activities that gave me the chance to apply the skills learned in class. The JCU community is well embedded in the life of Rome, a city that was new to me at the time, and this also gave me a unique position to explore it. Rome quickly captivated my heart and left a lasting impression.
You’re currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Sociology and Anthropology at the Central European University. How did you become interested in these topics? How did JCU prepare you for your graduate studies?
My research interests throughout my academic career so far have built on what I learned at JCU, especially in terms of approach. Because of my previous engagement with Italian student movements, I was interested in social movements and practices of resistance, and JCU helped me realize that these were valid research topics. Rome was also such a puzzling city for me, and I naturally started to use the media analysis toolkit I was learning in my classes to understand the city’s multifaced nature. Professors Peter Sarram and Antonio Lopez encouraged me to experiment with the ethnographic method and test the boundaries of media studies, and I began to wonder playfully about the subversive power of urban spaces.
For my capstone project at JCU, I analyzed the visual transformation of CSOA Forte Prenestino in Rome, and I continued looking at the cultural and political significance of squatting for my M.A. thesis, eventually publishing a paper on squatting and the urban commons. In my Ph.D., I mostly focus on public space and its significance in the development of antagonist movements and community building, but I also pay attention to the relationship between popular culture and public space. My time at JCU was grounding for what I ended up doing.
What JCU classes and/or professors impacted you the most and why? Did your passion for filmmaking begin at JCU?
The classes with Professor Peter Sarram (Advanced Media Theory, Popular Music and Mass Culture, Race and Gender in Cinema-TV) were surely the ones that impacted my research approach the most. I still find myself to be at home in the field of Cultural Studies. I took my Senior Capstone Project with Professor Antonio Lopez, which was my first time designing a research project, and I think that class gave me a basis that I used down the line. Professor Federica Capoferri’s teaching went way beyond her Italian Cinema course. She taught me how to use my Italian humanistic training in the U.S. academic system and I am grateful for her guidance, even after leaving JCU.
My passion for filmmaking started at JCU when I joined the Film, Media, and Communication Society. I had lots of fun running around with cameras and boom mics to film all sorts of small projects. The FMC Society is one of the highlights of my time at JCU! I also took the Foundations of Digital Video Production course with Professor Brian Thomson and, although we learned about all the stages and roles involved in video production, it became clear that I was predisposed to production. Through the JCU Center for Career Services, I also had the chance to do a six-month internship in the production department of GA&A, a leading production and distribution company in Rome. I left JCU knowing that I wanted to somehow combine long-term field research and documentary filmmaking.
You’re also a multimedia producer specializing in visual anthropology. What do you try to showcase with your work? Was there a producer who particularly inspired you and why?
My work usually tries to depict marginalized communities in an emancipatory way. I believe that within the intricate paths and varied circumstances of people’s lives, even in the most difficult times, there is a vitality and a desire to define one’s own path from which we can all learn. I am always interested in practices that subvert the norm and craft alternative ways of existing within or at the margins of the dominant system. Usually, my work is based on extensive engagement with the subject and tries to bring difficult topics to wider audiences in an open and accessible way. For example, my first (co-directed) ethnographic film dealt with sexual pleasure among women in the sex industry, and I often looked at how diaspora communities create the feeling of home.
I believe in filmmaking as a collaborative effort, I am not necessarily bound by the label of “producer.” I am influenced and inspired by Edgar Morin and Jean Rouch’s “cinema verité” and by the more recent trend of “cinema del reale” in Italy – for example by the work of Gianfranco Rosi.
You’re one of the founding members of Wild Pear Arts (Divlja Kruška). What inspired you to launch this company?
Zoe Aiano, Alesandra Tatić and I founded Wild Pear Arts as an “umbrella organization” to host our research and projects in Eastern Serbia among the local Vlach community, a Romanian-speaking population. Although our core research is in Serbia, we are an extremely international team, and each of us lives in multiple countries, but the film industry tends to be very nation-based. We wanted to develop a filmmaking approach that transcends our national borders and promotes a horizontal collaborative approach. We are an all-female team, and we all have training in social sciences, which grounds our engagement with a topic and its subjects. We believe in reciprocity and try to establish personal connections with the people we work with, but that requires a lot of time and emotional availability from the entire team. This is why we privilege working in small crews and with crew members who are culturally sensitive and willing to bring something of themselves to the set.
I am very satisfied with the work I’ve done with Wild Pear Arts. Our research in Eastern Serbia has led to several essays, visual installations, and short films that have been well-received in the film festival circuit, proving that there is space for our type of filmmaking in the industry. But mostly, working in this team was really an exercise in care and feminist solidarity and I couldn’t be prouder of it.
What are your plans for the future?
In the immediate future, I am focused on the distribution of my first feature documentary, Flotacija, which premiered earlier this year at goEast Film Festival in Germany. A few months ago, I co-taught a workshop titled Videogames and Autoethnography where we used collaborative autoethnography to generate and analyze data in the field of videogame studies, and I’d like to develop this project into a more substantial pedagogical experiment. But my main medium-term plan is to complete my dissertation, which is based on ethnographic research in my home region, Emilia Romagna. I’d like to disseminate some of this research’s outcomes through multimedia projects.