Scott Simon from NPR talks to Romanian director Radu Ciorniciuc about his documentary ACASA, MY HOME. It’s about a family who lives in an abandoned urban landfill.
SCOTT SIMON, HOST:
The new documentary “Acasa, My Home” begins with a scene of otters, geese, fish and children who all share a lagoon. The camera pulls back and you see that you are also in the middle of a city with tall steel buildings and highways. The children are always on the lookout for well-meaning childcare bureaucrats.
The life of these nine children of the Enache family, who live in an abandoned urban garbage dump on the outskirts of the Romanian capital, which is becoming a protected ecosystem, is the focus of this film. It is celebrated for its cinematography at Sundance and can now be streamed online.
Radu Ciorniciuc is the director and he’s joining us now. Thank you for being with us.
RADU CIORNICIUC: Thank you for having me here.
SIMON: Boy, what a movie. How did this big family come to live there?
CIORNICIUC: It happened 20 years ago when Gica Enache, the head of the family, the father of nine children …
CIORNICIUC: … After spending several months in prison and being fired from his old job as an assistant to a laboratory chemist, he decided that this world was not the most suitable for him. So he decided to move his family to the middle of this deserted piece of land near the center of Bucharest. And there he stayed for the next 20 years in the hope that his loved ones would be protected by the things that hurt him and prompted him to make that decision.
SIMON: Yeah. I have to tell you, it’s hard to like the father, Mr. Enache.
CIORNICIUC: It is not easy to like him. I mean, it took me a couple of years to hug him as a human rather than a black and white character. It is…
CIORNICIUC: He made some choices that I didn’t think were fair, especially those related to the children.
SIMON: How what? Tell us what it looked like.
CIORNICIUC: Well, like isolating your children from proper education …
CIORNICIUC: … from the right healthcare. I mean, after these kids moved to town, they first discovered running or hot water …
CIORNICIUC: … Or all the things that we consider to be the foundations of our modern life, they just discovered when their father isolated them from the world. And it wasn’t until I became a father that I understood that there are so few or no things you wouldn’t do to protect your loved ones from the things you know hurt, you know? He died a few months ago.
SIMON: I see, yes.
CIORNICIUC: So deep down he was a very sensitive person. And the way he was treated by society in those gray years of the 90s must have been terrible.
SIMON: In general, do you think that the children were happy?
CIORNICIUC: Oh man. That’s a – it’s not an easy question. I think they were just as happy as we were when we were kids, when we just had to meet our basic needs to have enough space to just enjoy the world and discover it and so on. So it – and I think they were happy. Obviously, after moving into town, they became more and more unhappy.
SIMON: It’s also interesting in the film – when I speak for myself – you don’t realize that the family is Roma until the children start hearing yelling at them when they are bullied.
CIORNICIUC: Because that’s when you heard it for the first time …
CIORNICIUC: … the younger ones. And I speak of full anger against them just because they have darker skin …
CIORNICIUC: … and talk a little differently. It was a shock to us because I mean we live in this country and we are aware of the reality that some of the minorities living here are facing. But we never knew – it’s so right on the surface on your face.
SIMON: You find out that Gica has died. Can you tell us how the family is doing now?
CIORNICIUC: Integration sometimes happens across generations, especially with people who come from minorities who have been abused and discriminated against for centuries. But at that point in time we even built this so-called social project, Acasa, during filming, on which we built a platform and invited many volunteers, but also doctors and educators, social assistants, psychologists, etc. And we have provided all kinds of services and resources for the family in ways that are appropriate to their particular social situation.
SIMON: It’s a peculiar way of putting it. Absolutely extraordinary …
SIMON: … and unprecedented, isn’t it?
CIORNICIUC: That is it. And from a social point of view, any authority from any country would have been overwhelmed with their social case. At the moment the family has their own piece of land and a house. All children go to school. I would say that given their background, they are very well integrated. So I would say while they still have a lot of problems I think they got off to a really good start. And they worked really hard for it.
SIMON: Radu Ciorniciuc is the director of “Acasa, My Home”. You can now stream it online. Thank you for being with us.
CIORNICIUC: Thank you, Scott. Take care of yourself.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
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