In a sprawling and hazardous central European landfill populated by disenfranchised Roma (read Gypsies) and other have-nots, a young man returning to claim the body of his father finds himself drawn once more to this clannish outsider way of life in coarse ensembler “Dallas Among Us.” Unfortunately confusing social commentary with predictable melodrama, pic veers away from verite in favor of overheated interpersonal conflicts, effectively blunting the impact of each. Berth repping Hungary in Berlin fest’s socially-conscious Panorama section affords pic a conspicuous international soapbox, but theatrical prospects outside Europe seem distant. Pic bows March 24 in Hungary.
The title comes from the popular 1980s American television program, snippets of which play on scavenged vids in the grocery-cum-bar at the center of the action that also bears the city’s name. Arriving in a fresh coat and tie to attend to family affairs, English teacher Radu (Zsolt Bogdan) is clearly reluctant to be back in the squalor in which he was raised. Sure enough, within minutes he’s already run his car off the road and had much of it pilfered by the teeming mob around him.
Slowly, Radu is drawn back into the hubbub of the dump and the various intrigues amongst its denizens. He immediately strikes long-cooled sparks with former squeeze Oana (Dorka Gryllus), who tries in vain to protect herself and her young son Petru (Bence Manyoki) from the boy’s drunken and violent father, Janku (Oszkar Nyari).
Meanwhile Oana’s father Dragomir (Miklos B. Szekely) involves Radu in the simmering ongoing conflict between the citizenry and the local ringleader of the corrupt garbage crew, inevitably nicknamed J.R. (Radu Amzulescu). Tensions escalate, his g.f. shows up from the city, and Janku eventually confronts Oana with tragic results.
Pic’s somewhat slender link to “Dallas,” while never explicitly explained, seems an obviously ironic reference to the lavish lifestyle on display in the program versus the consumer detritus of the dump. While a clever idea on paper, Transylvanian-born helmer Robert Adrian Pejo-who writes eloquently and urgently in pic’s presskit about grappling with the ongoing Roma dilemma-becomes more interested in the simmering passions of the volatile love triangle and J.R.’s gangsterish machinations than any efforts of the residents to better their lives.
Intense and soulful young thesp Gryllus copped the Hungarian Film Week’s best actress award for her smoldering perf, which is the best thing in the picture.
Tech package is seamless, with soundman Gabor Balazs’s fine mix also winning a prize in Budapest.