Bucharest, the capital of Romania, is a city of about 2 million. And yet, for 18 years, the Enache family (father, mother, and nine children) managed to live a rural existence on an island in the Bucharest Delta, just outside the city. They sleep in a hut, catch frogs and fish (and one very reluctant swan), and generally live a life within rather than in opposition to their natural surroundings, one quite different from that of the residents of the hulking urban apartment blocks that can be seen in the distance.
Not that the Enache clan is opposed to incorporating the benefits of civilization into their prelapsarian paradise when convenient. They carry water in plastic bottles, wear modern manufactured clothing, and their hut seems to have been both constructed out of and furnished with the detritus of civilization. The father smokes cigarettes and his wife both use cell phones, the latter of which delivers the message that not all is well in this leafy paradize. When an official from Child Protective Services pays a call, the children disappear into the tall grass, following an apparently well-known path to a second hut, where they stay out of sight until night falls.
Radu Ciorniciuc’s documentary Acasa, My Home begins completely immersed in the delta environment. Then, about 12 minutes in, the camera pulls away from the Enache enclave. As it rises higher and higher in the sky, the vast green expanse surrounding their home is revealed. Then the camera tilts, and we can see, just beyond a concrete embankment that’s not so very far away, the urban expanse that is Bucharest proper. This view offers a hint of what is to come, as the family learns that the area where they live is going to be converted to a nature reserve, and those plans don’t include them continuing to live there. Over the three years of shooting this film, the encroachment of the city, and of officialdom, increases, and eventually they have to pack up and move to the city.
We learn more about the Enache family in the second two-thirds of the film, particularly after they are forced to give up their isolated lifestyle and learn to live in the city. Not all is good—there seems to be some mental illness involved in the choice to live apart from the modern world, for instance, and no one is keen on following rules that seem arbitrary, as many laws may seem to be—but there’s also plenty of good news. In particular, the younger children thrive in school, and you can feel their lives opening up to new possibilities that likely would never have been available to them had they continued living on the Delta.
Acasa, My Home is a film that shows far more than it tells, but since Ciorniciuc shoots it from the perspective of the Enache family, it’s natural for the viewer to take their side. He’s fair regarding people in the outside world—like fingers of a hand, they are not all alike—so while some are mean or self-serving, others are respectful, helpful, and sympathetic to the family’s struggles to adjust to a world quite different from the one they lived in for almost two decades. | Sarah Boslaugh
Acasa, My Home is distributed on DVD and Blu-Ray by Kino Lorber, and streaming on KinoNow. Extras on the disc include deleted scenes (12 min.) and the trailer for this and one other film. The dialogue is in Romanian with English subtitles.