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part of a small rebellion | by maryann johanson

behold the power of movies to bring down dictators

This is awesome. At The New York Times, documentary filmmaker Ilinca Calugareanu explains:

In 1985, Irina Margareta Nistor, a young translator at the national television station, met a mysterious entrepreneur. He was smuggling, copying and distributing movies on VHS tapes. This was the beginning of a working relationship that lasted more than a decade. In all, Ms. Nistor says she dubbed more than 3,000 different films. Thanks to her, Chuck Norris, Jean-Claude Van Damme and Bruce Lee became popular heroes in Romania.

Thanks to these illegal dubbed films, Romanians were introduced to the outside world and got a glimpse of what freedom looked and felt like. This had to have contributed to the revolution that would sweep the country in 1989 and toss out the Communists.

Here’s the film:

As I’ve said before, there’s no such thing as “just a movie.”

posted in:
easter eggs
  • althea

    Everybody should see this film. We think we know what it’s like to be repressed – some people claim we’re becoming a police state (the U.S., that is) – but we don’t. If we knew what a real police state was like to live in every single day, 24 hours a day, we’d give thanks for the freedom we have to protest anything we want, any time we want. Even when the system breaks down and *needs* protesting, we don’t wear the yoke of fear and repression that makes protest a life-threatening risk.

  • RogerBW

    Cue the MPAA attempting to prosecute them both retroactively in 5, 4, 3…

  • bronxbee

    might be some of us have been around long enough to have observed what a police state is like — and know that we don’t want to go down that rode. in order not to, we have to be vigilent… and vigilence isn’t always polite. just because we aren’t now a police state, doesn’t mean it might not happen.

  • Tonio Kruger

    Ironically, a lot of the movies shown in that clip were very unpopular with film critics back then and I suspect most would have never been made if the average liberal critic had had his or her way.

  • Tonio Kruger

    Of course, one can’t help but ask: if movies have the power to bring down dictators, why don’t they do it more often?

  • Even assuming it’s true that “liberal critics” want to censor filmmakers — which is a huge unfounded assumption — what makes you think the films that would have gotten made instead wouldn’t have also captured the imaginations of Romanians?

  • There’s good evidence that pop culture helped bring down the Berlin Wall, too.

  • LaSargenta

    Art in itself doesn’t bring down something (or build it up) alone…but if there is no art, or art is censored, another mode of thinking is taken away. Having access to expression (however it takes form) can lead to people to take something down. There are so many ways of this happening. Movies are one. So are songs…even, maybe, (slightly off-topic) one sung by Kylie Minogue http://www.towleroad.com/2014/02/gay-rights-triumph-in-ryan-james-yezaks-olympic-disco-anthem-video.html Appropriately “tacky” imagery — as one would expect for a song called “Your Disco Needs You”; but, some people know how to keep others safe from tear gas or organize a union drive and some write danceable anthemic songs. :-)

  • LaSargenta

    Cause the movie doesn’t do it by itself. It is people who do the bringing down, but the art helps the people.

  • Tonio Kruger

    I am not saying liberal critics wanted to censor these films. But I remember seeing enough bad reviews for, say, Flashdance in the liberal press that I have trouble pretending it would have greenlighted in a Hollywood run by liberal film critics. Moreover, it was not unknown for films with an anti-Russian message to be openly mocked by these same critics while films with a more pro-Russian message (for example, Letter to Brezhnev) received a better reception.

  • So you’re saying Hollywood isn’t run by liberals? Could you let all the right-wing gasbags know? :->

  • Tonio Kruger

    I suspect they would listen to me far less than they would listen to you. :->

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    Got any names on these critics?

  • But I’m a liberal feminazi. I don’t count. I’m not even a person to them.

  • Tonio Kruger

    Well, Roger Ebert, for one. Also Vincent Cansby and the various film critics for Rolling Stone and the Village Voice. For a start.

  • Tonio Kruger

    I doubt a Spanish-surnamed mackerel-snapper like myself would rank much higher in that crowd. :)

  • Tonio Kruger

    Perhaps it would be more diplomatic to point out how that video proves how even critically neglected movies can change hearts and minds every bit as much as big budget Oscar bait. After all, I can think of many movies that have helped change my life despite their not being the type of movies that get nominated for awards. And I’m not even Romanian.

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    It might be more diplomatic. It would also be grossly beside the point. You seem anxious to grind an ax here. One that you also seem to want to use to keep fighting the cold war, largely by conflating American liberalism with Soviet communism. It’s been 20 years, man, let it go.

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    I’ll give you Cansby, and the Village Voice. Maybe Rolling Stone, maybe. But I call bullshit on Ebert. You have to be pretty partisan (within the range of normal partisanship, yes, but still) to think that Ebert’s politics and/or his taste in films caused him to be pro-Communism.

  • Tonio Kruger

    I would not argue that Ebert was pro-Communist. Just that he was a bit pro-Russian. And not even pro-Russian in the way that a Lincoln Steffens or Walter Duranty was pro-Russian, but rather pro-Russian as being more sympathetic to value-neutral portrayals of the Soviet Union than, say, a conservative film critic like Bruce Bawer, whose review of Letter to Brezhnev, btw, provides an interesting contrast to Ebert’s review of the same film. (Both reviews available online through Google if one is interested.)

    However, your mileage obviously varies from mine and I’ve taken enough space on this site with this topic. Mea culpa. Mea maxima culpa.

  • Tonio Kruger

    I’ll try but as the son of a Polish-American woman who once lit candles on behalf of the Polish Solidarity Movement, it’s a little hard to pretend I don’t have personal reasons for being a bit obsessed with the topic — and yes, wanting to grind an ax or two.

    However, Lent is coming up so I’ll try to restrict my future comments on this forum to more recent topics.

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