I just watched Chuck Norris versus Communism. The title did not give me any idea of what this film is about. I only saw that it was a documentary when I happened to walk in while my husband was in the middle of it. It doesn’t star Chuck Norris. It stars Romania.
This film intersperses reenactments of the Romanian black market of VHS movies with live interviews of Romanians who lived during the communist regime of 1967 to 1989. The way the Romanians talk about how the films affected them, and the fondness with which they share their memories of watching the videos captured my interest, and I’m not one to sit and enjoy a lot of movies or TV. The film takes all of this and manages to be light hearted, mysterious, and philosophical.
After the film, I needed to look up some things about Romania. I remember hearing about it in the news at the time, but the film did a better job than the news had done of making these people real. I found this interview with the man who executed Nicolae and Elena Ceausescu, the oppressive dictators who ruled with brutality. I found a short article summarizing what happened to the couple’s three children. There are also now two grandchildren who understandably keep “a low profile.”
There are clips of Chuck Norris in the film, as there are of Rocky, various other tough guys, horror movies, and romances. What is most fun to hear is how the Romanians reacted to such films, how they were inspired by them, how they made them want to be heroes. Movies and hollywood get a bad rap, and sometimes it is deserved, but in the grey world of communist Romania, the affect of all the films was to show the prosperity of non-communist America. Chuck Norris jokes take on a new sense of truth and justice when seen from this Romanian perspective.
You might think a documentary about black market of video taped movies would be boring. It is not. It shows just how unnecessarily exciting selling and watching movies can be with such extreme government ‘regulation for the good of the people’. This is not the sort of excitement in their lives most people want. If you want to learn some real life economics and about how completely corrupt of this type of government becomes, this is a movie for the whole family.
(We watched it on Netflix. It does not appear to be available on DVD yet.)