Germany, UK, Romania 2015 | 83 Minutes | A film by Ilinca Calugareanu

In 1980s Romania, thousands of Western films smashed through the Iron Curtain opening a window into the free world for those who dared to look. A black-market VHS racketeer and a courageous female translator brought the magic of film to the people and sparked a revolution.


    Communist Romania – 1980s. Culturally isolated, ideologically censored; all images of life outside the Iron Curtain are cut off and TV is reduced to a couple of hours of propaganda bulletins each day. From the drab concrete housing blocks to the food ration queues, an overwhelming fear of state surveillance had prevented the people from stepping out of line. But there was one window into the free world available to anyone who dared to look.

    In the mid-1980s, thousands of Hollywood films were smuggled into the country through a well-oiled operation that swelled and swelled until it reached millions across Romania. The films were dubbed by one courageous female translator whose distinct voice captivated the whole nation and became a symbol of freedom.

    The fearless stories of action heroes like Chuck Norris and Jean-Claude Van Damme captured every child’s imagination, but it was the lavish settings and backdrops that mesmerised this unique audience. For the first time, people saw what had been denied to them: supermarkets stacked full of food, the trappings of wealth, the latest fashions, supercars, and most of all, freedom.


    linca Calugareanu is a London-based Romanian documentary filmmaker. She studied documentary filmmaking at Manchester’s Granada Centre for Visual Anthropology. Her short films have been screened in festivals around the world. Calugareanu’s credits include THE WRITING ON THE WALL (2006, Romania) and ENDGAMES (2008, UK), distributed by the Royal Anthropological Institute. She has also been working as an editor for fiction and documentary shorts and features for the past 5 years. She has a background in anthropology with a focus on communist and post-communist Romania, which gives her a unique perspective on the story of the VHS phenomenon.


    Ilinca Calugareanu

    Jose Ruiz

    Per K. Kirkegaard

    Anne Nikitin
    Rob Manning

    Brett Ratner
    Mara Adina

    Stefan Kloos
    Monica Lãzurean-Gorgan
    Abbas Nokhasteh

    Executive Producer
    Nicole Stott
    John Battsek
    Dan Cogan
    James Packer
    Jenny Raskin
    Andrew Ruhemann

    Vernon Films Production in collaboration with Passion Pictures
    Ratpac Documentary Films & Impact Partners

    Kloos & Co. Medien & WDR in collaboration with ARTE
    HBO Romania
    4 Proof Film


    World Premiere
    Sundance Film Festival 2015, USA

    Further Festivals (Selection)
    Hot Docs International Documentary Festival 2015, Toronto, Canada
    Edinburgh International Film Festival 2015, UK
    Los Angeles Film Festival 2015, USA
    Stockholm International Film Festival 2015, Sweden
    Seattle International Film Festival 2015, USA
    Nantucket Film Festival 2015, USA