Movie Diary 11/22/2020

Collective (Alexander Nanau, 2019). A spellbinding documentary about the aftermath of a nightclub fire in Bucharest in 2015. Dozens of people died, and multiple scandals erupted when a group of dogged newspaper reporters uncovered the layers of corruption that surrounded the tragedy. Romania submitted this movie as its official selection for Best International Feature Film at the Oscars; don’t be surprised if it makes the final list.

Uppercase Print (Radu Jude, 2020). An experimental treatment of the true story of Romanian teenager Mugur Calinescu, who wrote graffiti messages against the Ceaucescu government in 1981 and was caught by the authorities. (He had heard broadcasts from Radio Free Europe that inspired his actions.) The film consists of actors speaking the words of the people involved (frequently delivering their lines directly to the camera) interspersed with flagrantly kitschy propaganda from the 70s and 80s. Jude, the director of Aferim! and I Do Not Care If We Go Down in History as Barbarians, deploys the various distancing devices to strong effect, as though in the blunt manner of the graffiti itself – and as counterpoint to the corn of the propaganda material. (Both films screened in the Romanian Film Festival in Seattle.)