Acasa, My Home

****

Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

Acasa, My Home
"Ciorniciuc maintains an admirable ambivalence about the situation, showing both the good and bad aspects of the family's rural existence as well as the positives and negatives of city life." | Photo: Radu Ciorniciu and Mircea Topoleanu

Radu Ciorniciuc's debut documentary immerses us in the lives of the members of the Enache family - dad Gica, his wife and their nine children - who spent almost two decades living in the Bucharest Delta. This abandoned reservoir on the very fringe of Bucharest is a wild space and it is where we meet the children, also seen enjoying a pretty wild time, fishing and generally tumbling about as their days stretch ahead of them.

Their home is a shack where animals are just about as free to roam as the youngsters but the family operate as a tight unit, heading out to a hiding place every time there is a suggestion that social services might be coming for the kids. Change is coming, however, as the city converts the space to a nature reserve and moves the family to the city and what follows is an observational consideration of how this affects the family.

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Ciorniciuc takes a non-judgemental and non-intervention approach to the family's lives, quietly observing them in moments of happiness but also capturing them at times of crisis. The decision to cut themselves off was evidently Gica's - "I moved here because of this wicked civilisation," he says, later burning books the children have been given as presents. The move brings with it a juggernaut of new experience - the freedom of nature may have been sacrificed, but the children, as they start school enjoy, perhaps, a liberation of a different sort, as they are free to embrace new identities. The documentary, in particular, considers the relationship between the parents and the family's eldest son Vali, who turns 18 during the three years of filming, showing how his hopes and expectations shift dramatically once the family move.

The documentarian - who has a background in investigative journalism - evidently developed a strong bond with the family, who never seem to acknowledge the camera, even though, as they leave the Delta they are seen talking more directly, and rather shyly, to other reporters. Ciorniciuc maintains an admirable ambivalence about the situation, showing both the good and bad aspects of the family's rural existence as well as the positives and negatives of city life. He acknowledges those who are trying to help the family - including a social worker who stands up for their rights - while also showing the discrimination they face at the hands of others, including a particularly obnoxious neighbour and heavy-handed police.

This verite film sits alongside Alexander Nanau's 2014 Toto And His Sisters as an unvarnished snapshot of life in modern Romania -  an intimate consideration of life on the fringes and the way our environment shapes us, whether we want it to or not.

Reviewed on: 14 Feb 2020
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In the wilderness of the Bucharest Delta, nine children and their parents lived in perfect harmony with nature for 20 years – until they are chased out and forced to adapt to life in the big city.

Director: Radu Ciorniciuc

Year: 2020

Runtime: 86 minutes

Country: Romania

Festivals:

Sundance 2020

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