Acasa - My Home (2020)

Genres - Culture & Society  |   Sub-Genres - Docudrama, Social Issues  |   Release Date - Jan 15, 2021 (USA - Limited)  |   Run Time - 86 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - NR
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Review by Jules Fox

Acasa, My Home is a heartfelt documentary about an incredibly poor family living just outside of a major European city. When the land they live off becomes a nature preserve, the vagabonds must leave their primitive hut to rejoin society in government housing and deal with their ineptitude at fitting into a modern society that they have shunned for so long.

The Enache family consists of a mom, a dad, and nine children of varying ages. They live off the land on the outskirts of Bucharest, the capital and largest city of Romania. Yet somehow, they have no possessions, except their hut, the pigs, chickens and dogs that they live with, and the food they manage to fish by hand out of the reservoir.

This life of freedom comes with a cost. The children are provided merely the basic essentials like food and water, but they have no formal education or access to medical care. Despite the family's ability to live secluded lives and avoid the authorities, their world outside the city comes to an end when the reservoir and the land where they reside in is to be converted into a nature preserve.

The entire family is forced to move to the city to cohabitate in a crammed government provided home. The children must learn to adapt to a completely new existence when they realize that they're all at a huge disadvantage in not being able to read or write. But while the kids are young and adaptable, the parents soon discover that their age prevents them from forging a new path for themselves.

With haircuts, shoes, school, a girlfriend, and other things formerly unimaginable, the Enaches seem to have everything that society tells them they should need to lead a happy life. But therein lies the problem: the father, Gica, sees everything about society as a step in the wrong direction and a threat to his family's freedom. The social workers, on the other hand, see Gica as a dangerous threat to the safety of his wife and children.

Directed by investigative journalist Radu Ciorniciuc, there is a dispassionate nature to the camerawork that feels noninvasive into the lives of these families. Without trying to force a point, he manages to capture a moment in time that is both beautiful and heartbreaking. Allowing the story to emerge solely from the actions and interactions of the Enache family is a skill in and of itself, with which most film directors would struggle.

The film is not contained in a neat package where everything works out for everyone. As a documentary, it manages to raise questions while at the same time offering a slice of life that's significantly different than the norm. No perspective is fundamentally correct, and Ciorniciuc manages to deftly navigate questions of what is right and wrong.

In the end Acasa, My Home paints a striking picture of how it would be possible and desirable to live outside of the constructs of our modern society. Wistfully engaging in the joys of childhood and living a life of freedom versus trying to hack it in a city where the cards are all stacked against them, there is joy and pain to be found everywhere in this world. It's worth a watch if only to see a vivid portrayal of a life very different from anything familiar to most civilized societies.