Remember watching VHS action films in the 80s? If you’re the same age as me (I’m [redacted] years old by the way) you probably have fond memories of being taken to the video store at the weekend and getting to choose a movie based entirely on how cool the explosions were on the cover. Jean Claude Van Damme! Chuck Norris! Sylvester Stallone! Brian Bosworth! Well maybe not Bosworth (sorry Stone Cold fans!). These were our heroes as kids. Well if you grew up in Romania in the 80s you wouldn’t have this wonderful memory. You see, these kinds of films were banned by the communist Romanian government led by world class asshole Nicolae Ceaucescu. Where would you get your cool movie fix?
Chuck Norris Vs Communism is the fascinating story of one women who introduced Romania to the best movies us westerners were all enjoying in our cinemas and our homes. Her name is Irina Nistor and this documentary chronicles her life as an underground movie dubber. Nistor translated and dubbed thousands of VHSs smuggled into the country. Ordinary Romanians would buy these tapes and gather at eachothers homes to watch the antics of Chuck Norris in ‘Missing in Action’ or Patrick Swayze in ‘Dirty Dancing’.
Director Ilinca Calugareanu mixes interviews with recreated scenes of Nistor’s work. Romanian citizens from that time talk with fondness about nights spent watching films that provided a window to a world with fancy cars and fully stocked shops. You can see why Ceaucescu would want this kind of thing suppressed, so Nistor’s work was incredibly risky but highly important. The subjects reminisce about the movies and about how they could escape to a better world where the good guys won and the villains got their comeuppance.
The movie is a look at a time and place that is so alien to us that it makes us realise that we took experiences like Top Gun and Bloodsport for granted. Even just to think that this was all happening only a couple of decades ago is a sobering thought. There’s a line in the movie that states that Irina Nistor’s voice was the most heard voice after Ceaucescu himself. These guys grew up with her voice as the soundtrack to all of their favourite films and they speak about it with genuine love and respect.
It’s such a great story that it’s essential viewing for anyone interested in stories of the power of film to influence lives. If you’re wanting an intricate detailing of the entire operation or the politics behind it all you might be disappointed. This is more about how Nistor’s work affected the common man, how it brought hope into their lives, how it allowed them to glimpse a place a world away from the grim existence of the Ceacescu dictatorship. It’s a film about film for film lovers and doesn’t need huge explosions or Chuck Norris biting a rat to death to make it a great movie but it throws these things in anyway. Recommended.
What’s your favourite Chuck Norris movie? Are you a communist? If you answer yes then Chuck would like a word with you.
Chuck Norris Vs Communism will be released this September to theatres all over the UK. Look out for an interview with director Ilinca Calugareanu and her producer/sister Mara Idina coming very soon!