CHUCK NORRIS VS COMMUNISM
(2016, Ilinca Calugareanu)
[Hot Docs Oz Documentary Film Festival 2016]
[3 out of 5 stars]
I must say, some of my best moviegoing experiences weren't just because of the film itself, but the total experience of going to the movies. The eventfulness of the ritual - like embarking on a journey. It's why I love film festivals so much because it feels like a religious experience. Watching multiple movies a day, one after the other, brings out monastic habits from serious cinephiles. I once starved through a four and a half hour film and walked out feeling cleansed.
Unlike in multiplexes where people go to pass the time, go on a date, or luxuriate oneself with air-conditioning on a hot day. No, in these instances you can feel the passion for movies in the air. All have come to sit in the dark amongst strangers and share a transcendent collective experience. It's like attending church.
This cheekily titled documentary is full of these images. We see a group of people huddled together in a room entranced by the screen - their window to a world that doesn't belong to them.
Set in 1980s Communist Romania, the subjects are ordinary citizens sneaking in illegal copies of Hollywood films and furtively screening them in their homes. Their stories are told in reenactments and interviews with scenes from famous films spliced in between. The reenactments visually evoke a sense of nostalgia. The scenes are shadowy but the anonymous faces glow from the light of the screen with their eyes also lit up. It is a time of fear and oppression, but hidden away is an era of discovery and reinvigoration through cinema.
The other important figure is Irina Nistor, the woman who translated the films. She has dubbed thousands of them and voiced everyone from Chuck Norris to Julia Roberts. Her sweet voice is instantly recognisable; some describe her as an 'entity' or a 'consciousness'. The sound of her voice represented freedom.
Memories and movies sit at the heart of this delightful documentary. It's a political movie but not overly so. It's mostly about film lovers reminiscing. But most importantly, it's about the way movies inspire aspiration and even incite a revolution.