June 22, 2021
Radu Ciorniciuc directs a beautifully measured portrait of a Romanian family forcibly removed from their wilderness home
Acasă, My Home review – paradise lost for off-grid family forcibly sent back to the city

There’s a strong streak of paradise-lost romanticism in this Romanian documentary, directed by undercover reporter Radu Ciorniciuc and filmed over several years. At first it looks like a straightforward parable about rebellious free spirits pushed out of their natural idyll by interfering bureaucrats and consigned to misery in the city, but as events progress things (perhaps inevitably) become more complex, with contending pressures and motivations that emerge as time passes. The ostensible subject is Gica Enache, a former lab assistant who, for reasons that are not entirely clear, moved his family into an overgrown wasteland on the edge of Bucharest, abandoned after the collapse of Ceaușescu’s government, an area that has since become the Văcărești nature park.
Enache’s kids – nine of them seen here, though at one point someone says there are 20 – run wild: catching fish, chasing birds, messing about with dogs. (In some ways, it’s the dream off-grid lifestyle for device-addled western parenting.) But when the authorities finally take notice of the wilderness and send in the park rangers, the family is forcibly removed from their shack and sent to live in the big city next door. Gica, the paterfamilias, has a bolshie side that presents (at first) as a kind of admirably doomed anti-authoritarianism; but at night, it turns into sinister, booze-fuelled rantings. (Civil society also comes in helpful when he has to get treatment for his diabetes.) Adjustment to city life is painful: the children are basically illiterate, there are repeated brushes with the law (including a disturbing scene where one of the kids is basically assaulted on camera by a policeman), and much of the younger kids’ time appears to be spent dumpster diving for plastic bottles.
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