East of Bucharest

At 12:08 a.m. on December 22, 1989, dictator Nicolae Ceauşescu departed from Bucharest, and his Communist rule ended in Romania. The question whetheer there a revolution outside Bucharest in a certain small town is posed in A fost sau n-a fost? (12:08 East of Bucharest), directed by Corneliu Porumboiu. The question is posed by Heraclitus-quoting Virgil Jderescu (played by Teodor Corban), the owner of a local television station who hosts an interview/call-in program on December 22. He rounds up Emanoil Piscoci (played by Mircea Andreescu), a single, retired man, and History Professor Tiberiu Manescu (played by Ion Sapdaru). When the program begins he poses the question to Manescu, who recounts a story that he and three other professors protested before 12:08 that is contradicted by several call-in viewers. Meanwhile, Piscoci tries to back up Manescu by finding holes in the stories of the call-in viewers. But if the point of the film is to ask Romanians whether they fought for the revolution and, more importantly, approve the consequences. Manescu and Piscoci steal the comic attention of filmviewers with their antics and verbalizations. Vitriolic if unnecessary expressions of opinion add to the spice. Clearly, some Romanians have thrived under capitalism, but little benefit is manifest in the film, which is clearly designed as a wake-up call for the country. MH
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