Acasa, My Home: Review. By Ryan Lambert.
The first detail I noticed while watching director Radu Ciorniciuc‘s “Acasa, My Home” is how close the camera is to the action at hand, sitting behind a group of brothers paddling a small boat through filthy water, chasing a brown goose. With the exception of some vague Google Earth cinematography a few minutes later when the title card appears onscreen, the remainder of the film is spent within a few feet of the family at the center of this cinematic tapestry, benefitting from a high level of access to the subjects during a bizarre transitionary period in their lives.
The Enache clan are roamers and scavengers, fishers and hunters, a pair of Romanian Gypsies with nine children who live in the woods near a river delta, butting heads with cops and social workers alike. As father Vali claims early in the runtime, “I moved here because I hate this wicked civilization.”
Vali is a fascinating and idiosyncratic patriarch for this small army of blood relatives. One day his aim is to become an honorary park ranger for his work preserving the land; later on, his unhinged goal is setting himself on fire to prove a point to the police. His spawn may be dirty and lagging behind in education compared to their peers, but at least they are together — the film proves to be semi-sweet during the more intimate scenes of family discussion (and dancing).
The State is indifferent to these joys, stepping in with threats to take the kids away. The audience has an exclusive front row seat for each and every development, witnessing a forced conversion from Wild Child to Village People and all the associative culture shock that comes with it. These are people that simply want to be left alone, a semi-dysfunctional family unit spending life on the margins until The Man drags them back to the “real world.”
Why are cinderblock cities and concrete jungles considered to be more real? Seen from the lens of scrappy individuals living off the land, the trials and traditions of society seem artificial. This is the invasion of the natural world by bureaucracy, as government officials — acting with the worst brand of institutional cruelty — destroy the Enache family’s self-built hut on the edge of the city, sending them packing to subsidized public housing where the lights don’t even work.
To sell the dramatic divisions between their life before and their life after, the film frequently returns to the motif of fishing: early on we see one of the sons selling recently-caught fish door to door, and later this same endeavour leads to a violent arrest for illegal poaching. The boys take it in stride, crossing busy streets like they have a deathwish.
This is observational filmmaking at its finest, so proximate to these people and their story that for moments I forgot I was watching a documentary, thinking that this level of direct coverage must have been planned and executed as a work of fiction.
Ryan is a filmmaker and critic from Atlanta. He takes inspiration from rhythm and people-watching, and his other interests include 8-ball, artificial intelligence, and clowns. His previous video work has appeared in showcases organized by Out on Film and Collect Atlanta, and his previous writing has appeared in Skewed and Reviewed, Blood Knife, and more. He is currently in development on two feature-length film projects. Sign up for his newsletter at flickpicking.org for weekly movie picks and production updates.
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