If you lived in Romania in the 1980s and happened to catch a government sanctioned screening of a foreign film or TV show, your viewing experience would have been much different than someone watching in the West. Anything deemed western was cut: scenes with swimming pools, depictions of too much food, marital infidelity, freedom of religion. Even kisses could only last for three seconds on screen. The 80s were some of the harshest years for communism in Romania and the dictator Nicolae Ceausescu was considered one of the most brutal in the soviet bloc. The secret police kept tight control over all aspects of Romanian life and cinema was no exception.
Despite the government stranglehold on media, there was another way to see movies. In the 1980s a shadowy entrepreneur began importing black-market VHS tapes into Romania and he hired a female translator to dub all his movies into Romanian. As they circulated around the country, underground screenings popped up all over. Families, friends, and neighbors would get together at night to binge watch films like Rocky, Delta Force and The Godfather.
In the new documentary Chuck Norris vs. Communism Illinca Calugareanu tells the story of these secret screenings and the translator and VHS smuggler who made them possible. Illinca grew up in Romania and in her film she talks to other Romanians about how movies offered a window to the outside world and gave them hope for change in their own country.
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