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MOLDOVA THROUGH THE EYES OF AN AMERICAN
Recently Moldova Film released a new movie called Bucharest Express, produced, directed and screen played by Chuck Ports, it is expected to raise a profit at box offices throughout Europe. Played at all major Chisinau theaters, it aroused strong criticism on the part of the Moldovan audience.
According to Ports who starred in the leading role of Bucharest Express - his express to stardom - it cost him approximately 100 thousand US dollars. Back in America he filmed two documentaries and since has spent a year teaching sociology in Chisinau. He was so affected by unrestrained crime, mafia dealings, poverty and an all together bleak future of the Moldovan people that he decided to film a movie he could show to the entire world to prove that after all America is a heaven on earth for everybody who lives there. Nobody tramples the rights of man in America, everybody receives fair and ample pay to cover at least minimum expenses. Rapists, mafia, bribery, prostitution and human trade exist only in Moldova that carries the strange name of Bekova in the movie.
There is no disagreeing that Ports raises serious social issues, which implies the need for an immediate program to resolve them. However instead of triggering a positive strive for improvement the most appalling of them through the producer's particular presentation they arouse laughter as well as indignation on the part of the audience. Chisinau does not appear in the movie at all as if it did not exist. Everything Ports shows are Soviet time scenes of the outskirts of the city with dilapidated houses, heaps of garbage and homeless bums. The picture is dark with the dirty streets of the capital where electricity has been turned off for debts, the people have no idea what hot water is, bathe in basins and are afraid to leave their homes after nine o'clock in the evening. Skinheads in black shirts run the mafia beating up or killing everybody who happens to cross the road in the wrong place. Shooting takes place even during the day because Chief Officer of the Department of Corruption Prevention has been bribed. The government is also linked to mafia and cannot do anything to fight female exploitation. Women are literally taken into slavery beyond the borders of the country to work as prostitutes. They are sold and resold to numerous clients.
On the verge of the 21st century human trade thrives in the mysterious city of Bekova. Official authorities have lost all control of the situation. However there are people that fight for justice. Among them is an independent journalist Vera Shevchenco that on her own initiative takes up an investigation of how girls get exported abroad and who operates the business. In the movie she meets several victims and records her conversations with them. A woman tells her the story of her own daughter that escaped sexual slavery but could not recuperate. This girl ended up in a mental institution while another went to plead out her forgiveness to a convent. Here Ports introduces two extremes: a mental hospital and a convent. But neither of the girls arouse real pity, their tragedy is not genially expressed if they can smile about the past. The audience remains uninvolved in the misery of an abused human being.
Journalist Vera Shevchenco was forced to work for the KGB in order to finish her degree at the state university during the Soviet times. After the Union collapsed Vera gains freedom and makes a lot of American friends. She meets Michael (Chuck Ports) who is angry at the level of corruption in Bekova. With his friend George he decides to publish an article in an international publication to let the world know of the New Dark Age in Bekova. They are forced to overcome many difficulties as well as the death of one of the workers that gathered information. His wife is terrified and pleads with Vera not to mention her name. Two cars of skinheads are after Vera. She is pursued, severely beaten and given the last warning to stop the investigation. As a courageous woman she worries more about Michael than herself. Mutual understanding between them turns into love when Michael spends the night in Vera's home.
It is only the three of them: Vera, Michael and George that are trying to defend Bekova and exterminate corruption. As the movie becomes more and more hard to watch the life of the main characters becomes unbearable. George's girlfriend from Bekova joins the fight and the number of "Power Rangers" increases. Vera's investigation continues as she manages to get into a drug storehouse. There the journalist discovers expired medication bottles with new labels glued on. The doctors in Bekova are not concerned with the health of their patients who get worse and die from bad medication. Money is all that matters to them.
In Bekova and its neighbor town Vasilkov where the Power Rangers go for a mini vacation there is a maximum rate of unemployment. Every factory and farm is shut down. Industry has come to a standstill and agriculture ceased to exist. Whatever period of the Moldovan history Ports was trying to depict it obviously appeared worse than any of the Turkish invasions. Moldovan sunflower fields are gone as well as the orchards, cornfields and vines because they are overgrown with weeds. Europe is probably going to consider this film a parody on some of Hollywood's futuristic movies.
At the press conference Chuck Ports acknowledged that Moldova has not only beautiful and picturesque landscapes but also plenty of beautiful and talented people. He even promised to tell everybody in New York how green Chisinau is. In other words Ports was nice for the press. Certainly his image of Moldova is a detestable one to be played around Europe but on the other hand how can something so out of date and unrealistic have any success at all? Of course after the new George Michael video Ports' work is going to look very pro-American but on the other hand how can a subjective idea like that expressed through a feeble commonplace plot cause anything more than a crowd of unhappy faces of those who had paid to see a real movie. Michael insists that artists have traded their talent for a bottle of vodka. Ragged mobs flood the streets of the city and culture is dead. A simple comparison of how Americans dress and how Moldovans dress would probably lead to the conclusion that a Moldovan can make a similar movie about America.
Bucharest Express is a movie about a totally degraded society with no morals or values. The actors strain too much for the viewer to appreciate the effort. It is easy to conclude that the film overall is a vain hypocritical attempt to strike the social keynote. Out of the 18 people present at the premiere few remained to watch the stupefying end when in the middle of the day George's girlfriend shoots the skinheads. Then the heroic crew gets on the train (Chisinau-Bender), which is supposed to take them home to their city. At this point the last people left the theater. Although the Moldovan viewer can appreciate a good motion picture this piece of filmmaking proved to be too much. The iterating "stupid Americans" phrase in the movie is a stereotypic approach to the Moldovan nation, which on the whole nurtures respect for Americans just as for all other people. Turn this around and next we will be having a movie with Americans shouting something like "Russians are all drunkards" off the big screen. That would probably cause a major political scandal if not war.
How could an American assume the responsibility of judging another nation? How could Ports, a representative of the country that professes to have no stereotypes and detests labeling create such an oversimplified false image of Moldova? The movie was practically booed in Chisinau and hopefully the European audience will realize that lack of talent has a direct influence on the work a person can produce. Unfortunately Chuck Ports does not understand that either because his hankering for success after several failures is so great or because he truly believes that he is conveying an important message whatever it may be. However Bucharest Express characterizes him not only as a producer but also as an American who has been totally oblivious of his nation's principles of expression when he created the film.
Valentina Lipina and Jeremy Fultz