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Nestled inside Bucharest, Romania is the largest urban nature reserve in the European Union, VÄcÄreÅti. Initially a failed development project under the dictatorship of Nicolae CeauÅescu, in the post-communist years, the abandoned artificial lake surrounded by dikes has turned into a thriving ecosystem. Just another encouraging lesson in how altered nature, when ultimately ignored by humans, will straighten out.
However, some sections of society have taken up residence in the wetlands, and one Roma family in particular – the Enaches – decided to work together with the city to help protect it, a tacit agreement that allowed them some freedom. without being disturbed. . But as Romanian filmmaker Radu Ciorniciuc’s powerfully empathetic documentary on the Enaches shows, âAcasÄ, My Homeâ, the tug-of-war between nature and civilization, however well-intentioned, does not always do good for those who live in between. the two.
Investigative journalist directing his first feature film, Ciorniciuc filmed GicÄ Enache, his wife Niculina and their nine children for four years, a period during which the creation of VÄcÄreÅti as a protected park would mark the end of the two decades of the family there, requiring their forced migration and turbulent integration into the jungle beyond the concrete that delimits the reserve.
At first, seeing the buildings in the distance when the eldest in the family, a sweet-smiling teenager named Vali, is fishing, seems almost unreal. It’s a contrast that Ciorniciuc makes even more visually explicit from the start in a jaw-dropping drone shot that begins at ground level as the Enache kids kick a soccer ball outside their dilapidated hut on the edge. from the lake, then pulls straight out to reveal just how a swarming city this swampy, biodiversity-rich world is. For all the ways that epic drone shots have become a staging clichÃ© in documentaries, its vertical use here is surprisingly thematically focused, like Google Earth in reverse, a story of ‘progress’ in one. single plan. (Ciorniciuc and Mircea Topoleanu won the World Cinema Documentary Special Jury Prize for Cinematography at last year’s Sundance for âAcasÄ.â)
Most of the time, however, the camera work is of the intimate, artful, and true kind – reminiscent of journalist Katherine Boo’s living, human writings on the poor. At first, it serves to capture the wild, independent and often playful existence of the clan, which does its best to keep the outside world at bay. Ceremonial tours (including one featuring the Prime Minister, another by Prince Charles) and nature tours are one thing, and GicÄ, a famous figure who says he was promised a ranger position by the people of the park, hover on the outskirts of the photo ops like a vigilant guard. The intrusion of social services and the police, who threaten to break up the family, is another matter.
But when their cabin is finally demolished – the city puts them in a cramped apartment and the children are put to school – the pressure to assimilate creates rifts in the united family. As proud as a foreigner as he is as an overbearing patriarch, GicÄ lashes out at Vali, whose growing awareness of what has been denied him for so long – an education, friends, girlfriend – turns out to be a rebellion. But for Vali’s brother, RicÄ, who regrets the beauty and generosity of VÄcÄreÅti, the city is like a âprisonâ, he says. âAre we supposed to eat concrete? (It’s a bitter-tongued family; in one scene there’s a hilarious exchange of insults between Niculina and a fanatic neighbor.)
Needless to say, the point of Ciorniciuc’s immersive, lively, warm and heart-wrenching film is not to see the Enaches in the park as total paradise and their attempt to live in the city as a terrible detour into restriction. “AcasÄ, my home” is much more complicated, as any complete portrait of our modern world is when progress is a balance between old and new ways and people like the Enaches see their notions of survival and survival. independence called into question. When Vali starts working on one of the new nature trails in VÄcÄreÅti, a colleague asks him if he’s sorry for leaving. There is nothing more human than the way he responds, âYes and no. “
“AcasÄ, my house”
(In Romanian with English subtitles)
Duration of operation: 1 hour 26 minutes
Playing: Virtual and limited-release cinemas where cinemas are open