Entries tagged with “Radu Jude”.


It so happens (and maybe it was not just a coincidence) that  I have seen ‘The Dead Nation‘ (‘Tara moarta’ in Romanian) at the Haifa International Film Festival the very day that is declared in Romania as the National Holocaust Day. I saw the film in a hall where maybe one half of the viewers were survivors of the Holocaust or their immediate descendants. This very special documentary created by is part of a still open debate in Romania about the role and responsibility of its leaders and people in the Holocaust. It’s the kind of event that cannot be judged only from the perspective of the film fan, because it includes so much history, politics and emotional charge.

 

source http://www.imdb.com/title/tt6855898

source http://www.imdb.com/title/tt6855898

 

shows again that he is a director who does not run away from controversy and who is not afraid of inventing new ways to put on screen his ideas and the messages that he considers as important. ‘The Dead Nation‘ covers the years 1936 to 1944, the darkest period in the history of Romania and in the history of the Jewish community in this country, which counted almost one million people prior to WWII. While the country fell into nationalistic dictatorship, became an ally of Nazi Germany, implemented racial laws, and deported part of its Jewish population in ghettos and forced labor camps in occupied Russia and Ukraine, it also lost part of its territory to the neighboring USSR and Hungary, with the Jews being considered and scapegoats. However, there is no direct footage on screen about what happened. Instead, the director used a collection of photographs recovered from a photo studio in a small dusty town in South Romania of the epoch. Instead of pogroms, ghettos and death trains we see on screen the peasants, soldiers, nationalist militants in their festive but also daily lives occasions. And riffles. Many, many riffles. The soundtrack is more sophisticated, composed from a combination of nationalist Romanian songs, news reels commentary, speeches of the politicians of the time alternated with reading from the daily journal of a Jewish doctor – deprived of all rights, subject to fear, abuses, persecution. The message is the one of ‘parallel lives’.

 

(video source ROLLERCOASTER PR)

 

The Dead Nation‘ lets the viewers make their own judgment, there is no off-screen comment that guides, explains, tries to make explicit points. There are no moving images, just a collection of stills pictures from the Acsinte collection of photographs. Viewers are left to judge by themselves. It belongs to a category of itself, maybe the only similar documentary that I can compare this film with is ‘s ‘Shoah‘. I can only wish that the public impact and contribution in understanding and assuming the dark history of the Holocaust will be – from the Romanian perspective – similar.

 

What critics and audiences call ‘the Romanian New Wave’ is not that new any longer. Already in its teens it has focused on the present times, and the recent past of Romania – the last decade of the Communist era and the ‘transition’ period the country went through after the fall of the Communism. By doing so it neglected a tradition built into the history of the Romanian cinema – the historic movies. The first grand Romanian movie made more than a century ago was already a historic film, bringing back to screen the War of Independence of Romania in 1877 several decades after the event. The genre was taken over and polluted in the Communist period by many films which not only brought on screen heroic episodes and heroes of the Romanian history but also distorted it on the lines of the National-Communist propaganda of the regime. This may be the reason Romanian directors, producers, and audiences as well avoided the genre for a while. It is only in the last few years that historical themes came back to screens in more significant movies – the war period and the Holocaust first. Now ‘Aferim!’  by Radu Jude goes further back in the past, to the first half of the 19th century. His film (blessed with an important prize at the Berlin Festival early this year) however has also strong and explicit implications in the realities of today’s Romania as well.

 

sursa http://www.imdb.com/title/tt4374460/

sursa http://www.imdb.com/title/tt4374460/

 

Folks who know the history of Romanian cinema and remember some of the films made decades back will recognize elements of atmosphere and quotes. The ‘Eastern’ genre which took the structure of the classical American Westerns bringing on screen local characters or even changing the landscape to the fields, forests and mountains of the Romanian countries was popular in the 70s with the ‘Haidouk’ series but also in the works of Dan Pita (the ‘Ardelenii’ series). The inspired black and white cinematography credited to Marius Panduru  and the very conventional generic that opens the film brought in mind the even older ‘Tudor’ by  made in 1962 which dealt with events that took place 14 years before the year 1835 when ‘Aferim!’ is situated. The violently naturalistic nature of some of the scenes has also its roots in the Romanian literature (Liviu Rebreanu’s novels) which were also brought to screen.

Yet, this film aims more. The story of the local sheriff (let us use this name for the sake of the international audience) and of his son searching for a fugitive gypsy in the forest and swamps of Wallachia is not just a road movie or an initiation story from the perspective of the young lad destined to inherit the profession of his father. It is a deep and cruel reflection of the prevailing attitude not only of the ruling class but of the whole or great majority of the population of Romania towards other nationalities. The story and the characters come in a frontal manner against deeply rooted stereotypes like the welcoming attitude of Romanians towards strangers or the positive role of the Orthodox church in the moral fiber and education of the masses. It is actually a priest who speaks on screen a tirade full of prejudice against all categories of strangers living or getting in contact with the Romanian at that time – Gypsies of course, but also Jews, Turks, Russians, etc. Folks less familiar with the history of Romania should know that by 1835 Romania was still broken into smaller countries under Turkish, Austrian and Russian rulers – so what is seen on screen has a historical perspective. It is however the relation with the present that comes in mind immediately for those who know history and present. Romania as other East European countries have a big social and ethnic problem with the lack of integration of part of their Roma (gypsy) minorities. The roots of this situation lay to a great extent to the slavery practiced on this minority until mid 19th century. Slavery was abolished (in 1855-1856) but prejudices stay.

 

(video source Agentia de Film)

 

The merit of Radu Jude is to avoid any excuse or sweetening of the historical facts, while telling a coherent story and creating characters who are not only credible but also memorable. He carefully builds the atmosphere, habits, language of the time in a well documented manner. He is helped by a fine team of actors -  and as the father and son, as the fugitive (would have deserved maybe more screen time to give more complexity to his character), and  as the cruel but credible landlord. Two of the best actors of Romania from the older generation  and  appear in short roles, which shows that even important artists were interested to be part of this cinematographic experience. I feel that ‘Aferim!’ is a film that was much talked about since its release, and will be even more talked about in the future.