Thursday, April 21, 2005

Dici che questo lo trovo?

The Great Communist Bank Robbery: In 1959 there was robbery at the Romanian National Bank in Bucharest. This was bizarre since the local currency (the Lei) could only be spent inside Romania, and bank robberies, along with most other kinds of crimes, were presumed not to happen in a socialist utopia.

The Romanian police scoured the country and ultimately arrested six people who they declared to be guilty. After confessing, the robbers agreed to re-enact their crime. An hour-long film was made in which they duly played themselves. There is some evidence that they thought that by so doing they would be spared a death sentence. But after the trial, also filmed, they were shot. A month later, the film “Reconstitution” was released and became a sensation throughout the country.

The documentary by Alexandru Solomon, co-produced by ARTE, France 2, BBC, told this very original and strange story. The development process took three years and negotiation with the partners took another year. [1]

In the last few years, there have been two documentary films about the crime. The first is "Reconstruction", by Irene Lusztig. Ms. Lusztig is Romanian-American, and the granddaughter of the sole survivor of the gang, the woman who was "let off" with a life sentence. The movie is her grandmother's story. Apparently it's quite something.

The second film, "The Great Communist Bank Robbery", came out just last year. It's about the crime, the investigation, the trials and the film. Apparently it includes interviews with former cellmates of the bank robbers, the cameraman for the "documentary" film, ordinary Romanians who saw the film in theaters... It's been shown in over twenty countries already, and has picked up rave reviews at international film festivals.

But it doesn't seem to be very popular here in Romania. I've asked half a dozen people about it -- colleagues, educated and literate Bucharesters -- and gotten back nothing but shrugs. Nobody knows about the old bank robbery, and nobody knows about the films about the bank robbery. [12]