Aferim! to slavery and communism  

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A friend of mine published an article in medium on communism and entrepreneurship (ana-medium) and Aferim!, a movie a cousin of mine was involved in producing has hit the theatres, and I feel a debt of honour to write about each one. So hard to stay focused and write meaningfully is. 

aferim-radu-jude-film-romanes-aferim-ursul-de-argintFirst, let me tell you about Radu Jude’s Aferim! even though I haven’t watched it, much like I have yet to listen to a theatre production that won a Uniter prize.

The movie earned the director a Silver Bear at Berlinale 2015 and can finally be watched in theatres in Romania. There’s nowhere I can watch the movie right now and if I was in Romania I’d really go to the theater to watch, which is pretty much what mofo’in’ ctp is saying as well.

LE: Since the Digi24 interview linked previously, ctp came out with a laudatory, almost panegyrical chronicle (ctp-aferim), stating, claiming that this movie bests all the other Romanian historical movies before it.

Toate filmele cu acţiunea plasată în timp mai jos de sec. XX, de la Independenţa României, Munţii în flăcări, Falansterul, Tudor, Haiducii, Cantemir-Muşchetarul român, trecând prin Întoarcerea lui Vodă Lăpuşneanu, Mihai Viteazul (I, II), Ştefan cel Mare 1475, Sentinţa, Mircea cel Batran (1989), până la Columna, Dacii, Burebista, arată ca nişte înscenări, mai bune sau mai proaste, structurate din perspectiva secolului XX.  Aferim! încearcă, şi în bună măsură reuşeşte, să fie de-acolo, nu despre.

It pains me that I had to read it for lack of an original source; yet we should not forget that the same ctp had been fined by CNA back in September 2014 (hn-ctpcna) for the publication of an article in the newspaper The Thought (“Gandul”) which prejudices the Roma and creates a degrading and insulting atmosphere for the Roma people, with the following content:

This fall I attended an international meeting in Paris. The most unpleasant situation that I encountered was the confusion, whether or not intentional, of serial offender Gypsies in France with Romanians. I tried as best as I could to explain that these Gypsy thieves, beggars, criminals, have no connection with the Romanians. That they have an international culture of lawlessness, pertaining to their own ethnic group, which the entire Europe must cope with and not Romania alone. (gnd-fambas)

After CNA having fined him, ctp wrote an article claiming essentially that the fine was incorrect but he does not have the resources to fight it and that he is so free of prejudice that he would actually vote a Gypsy president (ctp-clarif). I could not help wondering if his movie chronicle is not itself part of his attempt to come to terms with his antiziganism. Sadly, he doesn’t get it and never will: it is one thing to claim that Roma / Gypsies are a different ethnicity than ethnic Romanians (even though some may share the same citizenship); what is wrong is to assign negative particularities to the entire group.

Like I said, I haven’t watched the movie, but as far as I can tell, it is an attempt to explore the issue of slavery in Romania’s past, inspired most likely by similar Hollywood explorations (I’m thinking mostly of 12 years…, Selma, the Help, etc). I don’t subscribe to the “Cartarescu school of thought” (linked in Roma are impolite again and republished in Poc-Rrrom I) which holds that the Romanian majority has some kind of collective guilt over its treatment of the Gypsy minority (i.e., slavery). This kind of slavery was prevalent in the medieval era and Gypsies as well as Romanians were tied to their land; I make my choices and decisions based on sounder principles than the feeling of guilt extricated by a logically inconsistent article, be it as well written as it was. In short, if this is not obvious by then, I believe like him that the Roma must be helped on their road to emancipation, I just don’t find lachrymose prose to be particularly helpful in convincing me, partly because I am already convinced due to other reasons. And I would be watching this movie not because a cousin of mine was involved in its production, but because even though I do not fully agree with the movie premise, it is a milestone in Romania’s exploration of its not-so-proud moments of its history (8.3/10 on IMDB with less than 130 votes at the time of writing). Aferim! (2015) on IMDb

As for my cousin, he is definitely not my favourite relative. I came up with a trick to better interact with him. We are quite different and vibrate at different stimuli. He is a “doer”, he had a rock band in his youth, has five kids (or more, I lost track) and I think by the time he was my age he was already divorced. I tend to overthink and underachieve (Othello complex?) – definitely not his problems. Interacting with him, as frustrating as it may sometimes be, is (or should be) for me a reminder of what is important in life.

Quite frankly, this “different vibrating range” is one of the main themes of this blog. For instance, I recently watched the last episodes of the 3rd season of HBO Girls. I’m sure my previous attempt to explain what the show is about didn’t sell it much to anyone. A better attempt would involve describing the anilingus scene in the first episode of the season, involving Marnie, the hottest of the bunch and the daughter of NBC anchor Brian Williams who had recently been suspended because of a scandal of his own making. But in that particular scandal, I’d have to go to Jon Stewart’s coverage (awesome!) and also explain why his announcement of retirement and what he meant to me.. By the time I’m done, nobody would be left following the narrative or knowing WTH I’m talking about. Or how the second last episode (S04E07, Ask Me My Name [Mimi Rose]) of the season is really about sogori and sogorie, the kind I have previously described here.

I have a similar problem with my friend’s article, which blames communism for what she calls, in an excess of self-criticism, “entrepreneurship failure”. She claims that communism had programmed her to comply, but I take a [once again] different view. I think she just happens to “care too much” and that’s not due to communism – a subject that has its own category on this blog, and was treated previously in old Romania, western communism and 1974 – or the slow squeeze.

But to tell you the whole story, I’d have to reveal my own entrepreneurial beginnings together with more personal stories, and I’m not prepared to do all that yet.

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Sources / More info: ana-medium, mihnea-medium, ctp-aferim, hn-ctpcna, gnd-fambas, gnd-clarif

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