Tuesday, January 12, 2021

ACASĂ, MY HOME: Radu Ciorniciuc's beautiful, provocative doc opens in virtual theaters


The theme of individual freedom against the power of the state only recently received an amusing, thoughtful and emotional workout via the Netflix movie from Italy, Rose Island, and now here it is back again, even more powerfully and movingly explored in the new Romanian documentary, ACASĂ, MY HOME, directed by Radu Ciorniciuc (shown below) who also produced the film and, along with Mircea Topoleanu, handled its often ravishing cinematography.

This "individual vs the state" idea also cropped up rather hugely and nastily here in the USA last week, as those protesters (or, depending on your viewpoint, domestic terrorists) attacked Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. TrustMovies' view of this individual vs state thing often rests on whether those individuals offer a live-and-let-live attitude rather than the inflict-damage-overturn-a-democratic-election-and-maybe-end-some-lives kind of clashing that these deplorable, brainwashed Trump & Fox "News" followers exhibited.

In Acasă, My Home, Mr. Ciorniciuc offers a situation in which a large Romanian family, having lived for years (the kids were born there) in a wild area that will soon become an official nature preserve -- "the largest urban nature park in the European Union!" as one official puts it -- is soon to be "relocated." From the start, as we follow the oldest brother and his young siblings as they fish (by mouth!) and glide over the water, playing with the local wildlife in a near-idyllic, gorgeously photographed paradise, it is clear that this is probably to be a losing battle for the family.

And yet, for the most part, the State seems to be trying to act at least somewhat justly toward the family, and the filmmaker lets us see and understand this -- even though we also know that bureaucracy almost never takes in the individual situation with the nuance and caring that it deserves. And yet, the family's head, a very set-in-his-ways father, is also shown to be too intransigent (there's a brief but devastating scene of "book-burning" midway along that will bring you up short). 

Ciorniciuc allows us to consider both the pros and the cons of "civilization" and, once the family is moved into its new quarters inside the city, we experience these ups and downs with them as their lives move ahead. All this is handled with such finesse and understanding that you might imagine the filmmaker had spent his life doing documentaries, yet this is but his first attempt. He plays fair, it seems to me, with everyone. Clearly, he managed to gain the trust of this family, as well as of the various bureaucrats with whom he and the family had to deal, and they, too, appear to have been fairly considered.

Early on we get one of those breath-taking surprise shots that shows, with a shock, nature and civilization, side by side, while at the nature preserve, we meet the Prime Minister, a female government minister, and even England's own Prince Charles. Later, in town, we get a little local prejudice and some police brutality. "Someone call the police!" is screamed out at one point, followed by (and spoken by the brutalizers) "We are the police!" Oh, right. Finally and just barely, the filmmaker takes us, with only a little kicking and screaming via the eldest brother, into the next generation.

Toward the end of this "family moves from the country to the city" saga, I was put in mind of Visconti's great narrative melodrama Rocco and His BrothersAcasă, My Home is that powerful and meaningful. What it might lack in narrative plot, drive and force, it makes up in breadth, scope and good old-fashioned documentary realism. And it is so very beautiful -- in its generous images of people and place -- as to be both exemplary and memorable. 

From Zeitgeist Films and Kino Lorber, in Romanian with English subtitles, and running just 86 minutes, the documentary hits virtual  theaters this Friday, January 15. Click here and scroll down for more information on the film and the venues in which you can view it.

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