SIFF Says:Communist Romania in the 1980s was a time of cultural isolation and ideological censorship, but bubbling under the surface was a movement of disparate crowds who would gather for clandestine meetings to experience the most forbidden of fruits—bootleg VHS tapes of Western action movies. Behind it all was the shadowy figure of Teodor Zamfir, the Godfather of illegal VHS tapes, who smuggled thousands of Hollywood movies behind the Iron Curtain, primarily genre films featuring stars like Chuck Norris and Jean-Claude Van Damme. He hired a female translator, Irena Nistor, to watch the films and live dub them with Romanian narration, which she did with unprecedented speed and a growing infatuation with the art of cinema. Director Ilinca Calugareanu grew up attending these clandestine VHS nights, where friends would revel in stories of heroism and marvel at the lavish settings which featured such rarely seen symbols of freedom as fully stocked supermarkets and wild fashion trends. This nostalgic and thrilling documentary combines dramatic re-enactments, interviews, and scenes from the best (and worst) of ’80s cinema to tell an inspiring tale of how movies really can change the world.
During the reign of ceaușescu, the stifled Romanian people found an unlikely hero in the form of a mysterious woman who tirelessly churned out VHS bootlegs. Fun, especially when showing clips of the helium-voiced translator doing her thing, but the lengthy reenactments of people in their living rooms don’t really add much. (ANDREW WRIGHT)
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