Monday, April 26, 2010

Ceausescu returns from grave in Romania documentary

By Isabelle Wesselingh (AFP)

BUCHAREST — Twenty years after his execution, and thanks to the magic of cinema, Nicolae Ceausescu has returned to discover how Romania has embraced capitalism with a passion. And he likes what he sees.

"Kapitalism: Our Improved Formula," which opened in Romanian theatres on Friday, is documentary Alexandru Solomon's take on the radical changes that have swept over the country since the collapse of communism in Europe.

To carry the narrative, he "resurrects" Ceausescu -- executed with his wife Elena against a brick wall on Christmas Day 1989 by a firing squad -- to see the changes that time has wrought.

Initially he is shocked to discover the capital Bucharest festooned with giant billboards for Coca-Cola and other Western brands, and the streets alive with glitzy casinos and luxury cars.

But he is please to see one-time members of his feared Securitate secret police reinvesting themselves as multi-millionaire tycoons, as powerful as ever, unashamedly living the good life.

In one of the poorest countries in the European Union, erstwhile apparatchiks run media empires, football clubs, oil refineries and construction groups -- assets they managed to snap up for a song.

Some now are under investigation for corruption, but by and large they are happy to be portrayed in their luxurious villas, yachts and private jets.

In the film, they talk openly about how fast they made their "first million" and how they negotiate profitable deals with a weak state.

"I did not make a film to criticize economic liberalism," said Solomon, 43, who has previously turned his camera on such subjects as Radio Free Europe ("Cold Waves") and road chaos in Bucharest ("Apocalypse on Wheels").

"I just wanted to show the strange form of our post-communist society, where we have neither a classic, Western form of capitalism nor a real democracy," he said.

What it does have, he said, is "a classic cocktail of power and money in Eastern Europe," with a capitalist society "still deeply rooted in its communist past."

Several Romanian filmgoers to the premiere of "Kapitalism" said they found it "fair but very depressing." One of them said: "It gives you the desire to emigrate."

Produced with financing from Belgian, French and Romanian sources, "Kapitalism" will be distributed abroad after its domestic release.

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