Andrei Ujica’s masterful film essay on Romania’s despotic leader made its premiere at Cannes last year, and later appeared at Toronto, San Sebastian, Transilvania, and the New York Film Festival, among others.
Ujica combed through a thousand hours of archival footage of Ceausescu from Romania’s national film and television archives to create this hypnotic three hour composition. He lets the footage speak for itself rather than include narration or title cards: a reign of nearly 25-years as represented by public appearances of the dictator and his wife, greeting other world leaders, touring local industry, and being entertained at state events high in pomp and circumstance. The propaganda on display is quite remarkable, at times jaw-droppingly absurd, underscoring the way that media was manipulated to project an image of prosperity that hid the reality of harsh life in the Communist nation. The only exception to this highly-mediated version of the Ceausescus comes after they are forced to abdicate – the televised mock trial that swiftly led to their execution – itself a manipulation of sorts. Broken, defeated, they claim their innocence, staring at the unfeeling camera that they no longer control. Ujica’s film is unlike any other, and well worth your three hours.