voter apathy has saved Romanian President Traian Băsescu’s bacon. Each time he
was impeached by parliament, it required the ratification of a majority of all
eligible voters through a national referendum. While overwhelming majorities
voted to give him the boot, they fell short of the legal threshold.
Consequently, many Romanians are a tad disenchanted with the current political
scene. Vlad Petri captures a vérité kaleidoscope of frustration at a series of
2012 protests in Where Are You Bucharest?
screens during Making Waves: New Romanian Cinema 2014.
immediately get the sense the anti- Băsescu protests are way more personal than
ideological, even though they take place in University Square, the storied site
of many 1989 demonstrations against Ceauşescu’s Communist regime. After all, if
you do not like Băsescu’s ideology, just wait a minute and it will change.
After initially styling himself in the manner of a Scandinavian social
democrat, Băsescu has evolved into Romania’s Silvio Berlusconi, without the
gleeful disregard for decorum. Indeed, Băsescu’s shadow hangs over Where in more ways than one.
Petri’s film could be used to make the case Romania has become a mature
democracy that tolerates dissent. Even though there is quite a bit of finger
pointing directed at the police, the film never documents any seriously
problematic actions, especially compared to the crackdown on the Umbrella
demonstrators in Hong Kong’s Admiralty district. Frankly, most of the cops here
look like they would much prefer to be anywhere else but University Square.
a case of good news-bad news, the absence of any major human rights abuses means
Where is mostly just a lot of people
yelling at each other, which gets old after a while. We totally get everyone
thinks Băsescu is a corrupt jerkweed, but there isn’t any “then what?” It’s
just more chanting and arguing over trivial differences.
may very well be a ragingly problematic president, but on paper he is
considerably more interesting than the demonstrators demanding his head. In the
2004 presidential debate, he totally threw his opponent off stride with the
rhetorical bombshell: “You know what Romania's greatest curse is right now? It’s
that Romanians have to choose between two former Communist Party members.”
That’s a real conversation ender.
You can tell just from a little peak that
Romanian politics is a fascinating, rough-and-tumble world. However, we’re
already dealing with a glut of Arab Spring protest docs, where the stakes are even
higher. Petri talks with many pleasantly eccentric protestors, who actually
make Romania look like an infinitely more inviting country to visit, but as
cinema it overstays its welcome. Where is
certainly earnest and well-intentioned, but Andrei Gruzsniczki’s Quod Erat Demandstrandum and Maya
Vitkova’s Viktoria are the can’t-miss
films at this year’s festival. For those looking for a protest fix nonetheless,
Where Are You Bucharest? screens this
Saturday (12/6) and Monday (12/8) at the Walter Reade Theater, as part of
Making Wave: New Romanian Cinema.
Labels: Documentary, New Romanian Cinema '14, Romanian Cinema, Traian Basescu