Acasa, My Home  ‘Sundance’ Review: Taming the Civil Way of Life
‘Acasa, My Home’ follows the Enaches, a Romani family marginally attached to Romania’s capital city of Bucharest comprising a couple and their 9 children thriving on a delta in their makeshift house without the need and desire for modern amenities, as they’re forced into the urban civilization with the government’s declaration of the area to be developed into an urban nature park, Văcărești.
The focus of this documentary concentrates upon the family’s patriarch Gică Enache and his eldest son Vali through their conflict and the struggle of the family as a whole.
Radu Ciorniciuc is a writer and an investigative journalist. His documentary boasts of his investigative eye while creating a fine balance with its storytelling aspect. You witness a family in absolute harmony with their surroundings and content with occupations they are involved in. Kids swim, catch fish, hunt frogs for bait and hide from Child Services’ officials. Gică smokes, takes immense pride in his lot and his way of life, and expects to be given the job of park ranger once the nature park is opened. Vali is a young fisherman who catches and sells fish.
The family is in a rigorous tussle with the government officials who do not want them there anymore. Gică has proved himself to be useful to the government, working as a guide for visitors and discovering various rare species in the land, and hence, the government is ready to establish and support his family.
However, the support is not a reward but a necessity to have the land vacated. Radu carefully and patiently captures the internal and external conflicts and hypocrisies the family is subjected to and plagued with. You observe Gică speaking highly of himself for he is a learned man, having attained education, and at the same time, burning the books his children have received for they do not need them, as per him. You find him ready to do anything to keep his children close, as he believes to have fought to raise them, and therefore, being unwelcoming to the child services. And then you see myopia he suffers from when it comes to their well-being.
Acasa, My Home raises puzzling conundrums. It compels its viewers to challenge their ideas of happiness and development. It will be natural for you to root for the family’s adaptation into the urban livelihood, to have the children educated, to have them living a cleaner and healthier lifestyle that promises stability. And at the same time, you will question your conditioning when you see them cry as they miss what they lost.
Radu condenses a long timeline to expand the canvas of ideas he’s trying to put forward. Socio-economic struggles do not have a homogeneous definition. Scarcity isn’t always determined by material availability. Kids aren’t an investment. Sometimes, gains aren’t as evident as the losses.
What is taken home is heavily dependent upon the sensibility of viewers.
In most instances, I found myself siding with the state and even though I understood Gică’s motivations, his villainy was too apparent to be masked. At the same time, nothing was beyond comprehension and hence, I couldn’t paint a black and white picture.
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When it came to my concern for the physical and mental well-being of the family, especially the kids, I was conflicted at the role of the makers and their degree of involvement with the lives of their subjects. Some events shown in the film indicate an acute lack of counsel and security that I believe the subjects deserved to be provided with. I do not advocate interference. Reality must exist unadulterated. But certain aspects of reality are so unpleasant that they are better prevented than cured.
In many ways, Acasă – My Home reminded me of last year’s much raved and appreciated documentary Honeyland, which has secured nominations in two leading categories in Academy Awards 2020. And I will be least surprised if Radu Ciorniciuc debut feature Acasă – My Home manages to carve its path to glory.