In the Twenty-first Century, it`s very easy for us to take film for granted. Everywhere we go, we are inundated by a barrage of moving pictures. And it`s not just cinema and the small screen; when we walk through the streets of any city in the West, we have a cavalcade of pictures in shop windows and giant screens advertising the new technologies that they themselves are a part of. In bed, in the kitchen, and even in the bathroom, we are never more than a few moments away from streaming something at the touch of a button.
Throughout our lives, we have been lucky enough to have had free access to whatever cinematic pursuits we have seen fit. Whether it’s the latest blockbuster at the local multiplex, home entertainment systems, or, in more recent years, the power of the internet, it`s easy to forget that there was once a time before media was such an integral and freely accessible aspect of our day-to-day world.
In her new documentary, Chuck Norris vs Communism, Romanian director Ilinca Calugareanu takes us on a moving journey behind the Iron Curtain to a world where film is outlawed by the communist regime. A follow-up to his 2014 short VHS vs Communism, Calgugareanu`s new film is a history of the black market trade in video tapes from the West in Romania in the late nineteen eighties. Told through a beautifully shot narrative punctuated with a series of talking head interviews with those who actually experienced the power of these illegal tapes, this is a touching tale of the liberating nature of cinema.
Following Teodor Zamfir in his quest to bring Hollywood to the oppressed in his country, we learn how Zamir spent his days making bootlegs of bootlegs, each one dubbed by the mysterious voice of the faceless Irina Nistor, and distributing them to the citizens. Despite the poor quality of the tapes, the people would flock to each others` houses to get lost in this exotic world of adventure, all brought to life by Nistor`s dulcet tones.
Seeing the sheer delight in the nostalgia that these people still retain for these films is a real joy; they speak of these bootleg films as we would talk of Ninja Turtles or HeMan, holding the unfaced voice of Miss Nistor in an almost deity-like esteem, and in spite of their shoddy reproduction and poorly translated dubbing, the tapes are a testament to the ability of film to bring people from all walks of life together in even the most adverse of times.
Touching, hilarious, and ultimately one of the most eye-opening expositions we are likely to see within the next few years, Chuck Norris vs Communism, much like its legendary tapes, is a film that deserves to be seen by as many as possible, changing the way that we see even the cheesiest of eighties action epics forever.
Dir: Ilinca Calugareanu
Scr: Ilinca Calugareanu
Starring: Ana Maria Moldovan, Dan Chiorean, Irina Margareta Nistor, Teodor Zamfir
Prd: Mara Adina, Brett Ratner
DOP: Jose Ruiz
Music: Rob Manning, Anne Nikitin
Run time: 78mins
Chuck Norris vs Communism is currently screening at the Edinburgh International Film Festival and will be released in cinemas in September 2015.