The Simplicity, Beauty of Village Life of Minorities Living
Erika Borsos | Gulf Coast of FL, USA | 10/18/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Jana Sevcikova was aged 26 and loved to hike the Banat Mountains of Romania when she came upon the hillside villages of a Czech minority, a group who immigrated from Bohemia in the early 1820s. She completed the first film in 1983, during the Ceaucescu regime, while she earned her degree at the Film Academy in Prague. Her impressions of the simple but difficult life of this group of people is fascinating and captivating. There is an artistic poetic beauty which shines throughout all the films. All the films were shot in black and white which makes it feel like a time capsule was opened to the modern world. This documentary series of three films about different minorities living in Romania is a great gift. The first reveals how a minority group from Bohemia managed to survive harsh realities in this part of the world. They learned to live in balance with nature, the changing political scenes of the country, World Wars I and II ... using their strong faith in God and hard work.
"Piemule", the first documentary was filmed in the early 1980s: the farming implements, wooden carts drawn by horses, and overall lifestyle of raising farm animals, cows, pigs, chickens, could be that of any Central or Eastern European country from the 1920s - '40s, with minor cultural variations. One views scenes of men plowing the fields on hillsides, the plow harnessed to one or two horses, as the women sow seeds ... One views cemeteries on barren hillsides. The background music is surreal, it is usually a hymn sung by a sincere plaintive elderly female vocalist or vocalists. There are interviews with various villagers who answer questions about their lives ... Jana stated in the question and answer session, an extra on this DVD, that the villagers never knew when they were being filmed, as the cameraman stayed constantly with her, she tapped him when she wanted the film to run. The viewer sees villagers grinding wheat using a mill, where the energy source is water-powered. Hay is cut and stacked by some ... One sees the graveyard, on a lonely hillside, with frost-covered wooden and iron crosses. The viewer is shown a wedding ceremony, where the bride and groom kneel before their parents, thanking them for raising them and asking forgiveness for their sins, as various guests wipe tears from their eyes. One views preparations for a huge wedding reception, with 10 - 12 chickens, along with huge pots of soup and lots of pastries. The bride and groom and guests dance to old style music in a large hall ... Different scenes are shown with various age groups, children reading in school, a teenage boy is interviewed about his life and interests, and several elderly people provide insights into their views about life. ... The film captures the essential elements of village life and depicts human dignity which is ever present amidst the difficult circumstances ...
In "Jakub" the second film, the filmmaker interviews many people who had known this man, a Rusin, who had survived World War II and the many political changes within the region. In his mid-70s, Jakub had died in 1992. The Rusins became Romanian citizens after World War I. Borders constantly changed for political reasons and the people who lived in bordering villages were deeply affected by this. During the Second World War, the Czech Relocation Committee recruited labor for Sudetenland in Western Bohemia which had once been part of Germany, Jakub Popovie was among the recruits ... Through the interviews, the film shows the impact of the many political changes and war on this one person who survived ... Through the different memories and recollections of friends, acquaitances and relatives, the viewer gets a changing picture, a kaleidescopic view of how various harsh realities impacted one man's life and from this one can extrapolate how it affected families and villages. The film maker had also visited a Rusin village on the border of Romania to see how the reminiscences compared to current folklife and culture in that part of the world. Jakub had killed many men during the war and this haunted his life forever afterwards, it affected his value system and how he lived ... Many villagers had relatives on the opposing side of the war, through no fault of theirs. Some who were soldiers who had said, they did not kill anyone but fired into the air rather than kill another human being ... Fear pervaded the lives of many who lived in Romania. Sudetenlanders had lived for generations in Romania and then were uprooted and had to return to Germany "voluntarily" but not really by their own choice. How one treated another human being under various conditions was the true measure of a man. It made a difference whether one lived in fear or with human dignity.
The final and last documentary, "Old Believers", shows the lifestyle of Russian Orthodox minority whose ancestors had escaped religious persecution in Russia from the 17th Century. At that time, Patriarch Nikon tried to unify the Russian and Greek Orthodox churches, by changing religious dogma and liturgy. The believers who remained true to the old traditions were persecuted. They escaped to places like Hong Kong, Australia, Alaska, Brazil and even Romania. It took five years to complete this film, although the filmmaker limited her documentary strictly to the Russian Orthodox who settled in Romania around the Danube delta. The viewer is exposed to the rich traditions and religious life of these people as well as other aspects of village life and the countryside. There is a lyrical poetical flow to the film which makes it an outstanding viewing experience. It is a magnificent documentary and testament to faith in God and how spiritual belief nourishes a community providing them the strength to deal with life in a very difficult part of the world. This trilogy of short films is most highly recommended for anyone interested in learning about different cultures. Erika Borsos [pepper flower]"