For this weekly recommendation I’m going to try something new. I’m going to recommend a Romanian movie. And it’s not because I’m a patriot or I like Romanian cinema. I actually find it very boring and dull. I feel it lacks imagination and heart. But this movie isn’t about something being funny or fast paced. It’s about a feeling. Of despair, of hope and of a better life.
It’s the story of Andrew( Andrei in Romanian) who is a taxi driver in Bucharest, in 1988. For those who are not familiar with Romanian History, it was the worst period of the communist regime. Former dictator Nicolae Ceausescu was trying to make savings for the country so the people had electricity, heat and TV only a couple hours a day. Not to mention that you had to spend hours in line at the market for a bottle of milk or bread. Meat was in the market only for the holidays. So one day Andrew and his father are taken to the US embassy in Bucharest were they find out that Andrews uncle who escaped the country 20 years ago had died and had left them a lot of land in Hawaii worth 3 million USD. From that moment, Andrew tries to obtain a passport so that he can go to Yugoslavia, where he could claim his inheritance. If he would try to claim it in Romania, the government would just take it away, since private property was a myth in those times. But as Andrew tries to make ends meet and make the life of his family better, by doing small contraband through his connections, he is being watched by the deadly Securitate, the Romanian secret police…
The term of Hawaii is masterfully used in the movie, as being the total opposite of what life used to be in Romania during those times. It shows a depressed population, resigned in their life, without freedom, where you had to be careful with everything you said and did. Where the Securitate had more than 11000 employers and more than half a million informants and where anything you said against the Communist Party would earn you a place in jail. Where people were happy to receive some pork meat for the holiday. Where a little girls only wish for her birthday was to receive a chocolate cake with bananas. That was Romania in 1988. So this is why the tittle Hawaii is so important. Because it represents everything the Romanians wanted during those times and is the total opposite of that reality. Hawaii represents summer, warmth, freedom, prosperity.
One of the most powerful scenes in the movie is when both Andrew and his father are in the US Embassy and are asked if they would like coffee or something to eat. They answer with extreme wonder : “Is it real coffee? Is that real Coca Cola?”, because these things could not be found anywhere else.
Although the director is Spanish, he is very well documented in Romanian history and delivers a masterfully sad picture of the era. The lead actors, both Andrew and his father portray characters who cannot find their place in that society, always feeling like they cannot breath. They wish for a better life, a life of freedom, but are condemned to live of fear. Another great character is Andrews sister, who is resigned woman, always saying:” We get what we need. It is honest and it is just”. I think she represents the greatest crime that the communist regime did to Romania: they created people who cannot adapt anymore to a different way of life and who do not even dare to dream and hope anymore.
So taking into consideration that today is the Romanian National Day, I would truly like to recommend this amazing movie that can take you on an epic journey to a different age and that will make you cherish the freedom that you have more than anything else.