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Radu Ciorniciuc • Director of Acasă – My Home

"Art is one of the ways we can humanise the true savages of our time: ourselves"


- We caught up with Romanian filmmaker Radu Ciorniciuc to discuss Acasă – My Home, his documentary focusing on a family forced out of the wilderness of the Bucharest urban delta

Radu Ciorniciuc  • Director of Acasă – My Home
(© Katy Jenkyns)

The first feature-length documentary by Romanian journalist and filmmaker Radu Ciorniciuc, Acasă - My Home [+see also:
film review
interview: Radu Ciorniciuc
film profile
, world-premiered at Sundance and won the Special Jury Award for Cinematography. The film recently triumphed at the Krakow Film Festival (see the news), and we caught up with Ciorniciuc to talk about his film.

Cineuropa: How did you meet the Enache family, and why did you decide to make a film about them?
Radu Ciornic
iuc: I met them in 2016, when I heard that the Romanian government was preparing to give high environmental protection status to one of the largest green areas in Bucharest, which has been an abandoned landfill for the last 25 years. But because it wasn’t accessible to visitors, nature took over and made it one of the richest urban ecosystems in the world. I wanted to make a reportage about how they were planning to transform the area, so I went there to film them with my partner and the screenwriter of the film, Lina Vdovii.

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We knew of a family that was living there from the local news. The head of the family, Gică Enache, became a local superhero when he saved three children from a burning house some years ago. We were interviewing people when we saw two of the Enache boys running through the tall bushes, playing. They took us to Gică. Gică was used to journalists coming to ask him about his Robinson Crusoe-like life, and about the area. He was already working closely with the NGO that managed to convince the government to make the place a nature reserve.

A few months into the research, it became clear to me that a reportage wouldn't do justice to the things I was seeing and feeling while I was filming with the family. I made sure, at every stage of the project, that the family was aware of my intentions. And it meant a lot for Gică to understand that we weren’t the usual types of reporters who would come there for a day, ask him a couple of questions, and then leave. We were in it for the long run, and we became close friends.

How long did it take you to make the film? At what point in your relationship with them did you find out they would have to move out of Văcărești?
It took us four years to finish the film, and we knew from the start that they had to leave Văcărești, but we didn’t know when. After the authorities signed the protection agreement, Romanian bureaucracy took over. And it took them two more years to finally appoint an administrator for the park; in the meantime, the family was still “allowed” to live there. This is how we managed to spend almost half of the four filming years with them in Văcărești.

What were the biggest obstacles or problems during filming and production? You and Mircea Topoleanu are credited as DoPs; did you use two cameras?
Depending on the scene, Mircea and I would go to film together, sometimes alternating, but only when two cameras were too many. He had the idea of camping in Văcărești for many nights, and this is how we filmed all the night scenes. Some of the most powerful shots in the film were done by him; he has a raw and very honest photographic eye and intuition, which was a perfect fit for how we decided to approach the story, visually.

We quickly came to understand that we had to keep the size of the team and the filming equipment to a minimum. The sound was sometimes a big problem, especially during the heated dialogues where I was filming by myself and couldn’t use a sound engineer, so that I wouldn’t “interfere” too much with the natural atmosphere. Having a sharp and clear-minded editor, Andrei Gorgan, who edited this film for two years, was also essential when deciding on how to shoot or record the sound for different scenes.

Where are the Enaches now, and how are they doing?
Almost one year into filming, we built the Acasa Social Project with the help of volunteer doctors, psychologists, educators and social workers: a modern instrument for social integration, with the purpose of helping the Enaches become “socially independent”. One important aim of the project was to help the family stay together, as the social welfare services in Bucharest wanted to put the kids in a state shelter. And shelters in Bucharest are well known for their terrible living conditions.

Three years after we started this project, coordinated by Mihaela Murgoci (one of the characters in our film), the family have their own piece of land and house, all the children are regularly seen by a doctor, and they go to school every day. Having their names on a piece of paper, saying that they’re the owners of a parcel of land, gave the father and the mother a great amount of pride and dignity.

How do you see the impact of gentrification on vulnerable groups? It’s happening all over Eastern Europe.
People, regardless of their ethnic or social background, should be free to live however they choose to, but they should also have equal access to all of our modern opportunities in life. And no rule of the capitalistic market should ever change or override this. Until we challenge the ways in which we’ve built our way of life, many of the ugly things in our society will not go away, but rather intensify, including gentrification. Art is one of the ways we can do that, humanising the true savages of our time: ourselves.

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