×

Kapitalism — Our Improved Formula

An eye-opening look at the Balkan nation's millionaires.

With:
With: Dan Voiculescu, Ion Niculae, George Copos, George Padure, Dan Diaconescu, Dinu Patriciu, George Becali. Narrator: Alexandru Solomon. (Romanian, English dialogue)

Docu helmer Alexandru Solomon (“Cold Waves”) is the most prominent of Romania’s quiet crusaders, a muckraker who understands that disgust is sometimes better conveyed through intelligent irony rather than bombast. “Kapitalism — Our Improved Formula” is his best pic yet, an eye-opening look at the Balkan nation’s millionaires and the ways they’ve co-opted the corruption put in place by former dictator Nicolae Ceausescu. Docu hit local screens in late April and has hung on through June; nonfiction sidebars and ancillary should help spread the word, while a shortened 52 minute version could see Euro smallscreen play.

In olden days, robber barons paid off politicians rather than enter politics themselves, but now the “heroes of triumphant capitalism” understand that combining the two is far more efficient. This alone explains why no one involved in the 462 corruption cases on the books in Romania has ever been sentenced. Solomon traces the current broken system back to the 1989 revolution, when a nation relieved at finally overthrowing an oppressive regime didn’t bother questioning the backgrounds of the people rising to the top.

Popular on Variety

In an enormously effective bit of fantasy, the helmer imagines Ceausescu returning to present-day Romania, at first horrified at the rampant consumerism screaming from every corner of Bucharest. But as various scions of industry are interviewed, some remarkably smug in their impenetrable wealth and power, the dictator’s ghost realizes his system of protection and corruption is still firmly in place, controlled by men whose links to the old Securitate (the Dept. of State Security) aren’t difficult to trace.

Not that they want their past dug up. Mogul Dan Voiculescu, vice president of the Senate, successfully had the courts disband a committee investigating Securitate files. Approximately $2 billion went missing in offshore accounts when Ceausescu fell, and though Solomon doesn’t blatantly spell out where the money wound up, he makes it clear that much of the industrialists’ wealth can be connected to the former regime’s illegitimate holdings. A statistic at the end is especially telling: Romania has the smallest GDP of all the former Soviet bloc nations, yet the highest concentration of millionaires.

There’s an astonishingly uniform arrogance coming from these guys, born from the knowledge that they are, ultimately, untouchable thanks to a system they’ve ensured keeps them out of jail. Oil baron Dinu Patriciu blatantly says you can’t be successful unless you steal, and TV magnate Dan Diaconescu casually remarks that if his brand of mindless talkshow existed during Ceausescu’s time, the dictator would still be in place.

Solomon incorporates amusing stop-motion animation with Lego figures and Play-Doh along with slyly juxtaposed historical footage that add knowing chuckles while powerfully driving home his message of monumental fiscal manipulation. Lensing appropriately captures not just the men but their overblown lifestyles, while shots of giant billboards covering crumbling apartment blocks form a nice metaphor.

Kapitalism -- Our Improved Formula

Romania-France-Belgium

Production: A Hi Film, Seppia, Arte, RTBF, Neon Rouge Prod. productions, with the participation of Televiziuna Romana, HBO Romania. (International sales: Cat & Docs, Paris.) Produced by Ada Solomon, Pascaline Geoffroy, Cedric Bonin. Co-producer, Aurelien Bodinaux. Directed, written by Alexandru Solomon.

Crew: Camera (color, HD), Andrei Butica; editor, Sophie Reiter; music, Mircea Florian; sound (DTS Stereo), Marin Cazacu, Helene Ducret, Titi Fleancu, Franck Rivolet, Stephane Larrat; animation, Serban Jipa, Andrea Sandulescu, Bogdan Slavescu, Daniel Paun. Reviewed on DVD, Transylvania, June 2, 2010. (In Transylvania Film Festival -- Romanian Days.) Running time: 76 MIN.

With: With: Dan Voiculescu, Ion Niculae, George Copos, George Padure, Dan Diaconescu, Dinu Patriciu, George Becali. Narrator: Alexandru Solomon. (Romanian, English dialogue)

More Film

  • Rachel Brosnahan25th Annual Screen Actors Guild

    Film News Roundup: Rachel Brosnahan Starring in Sci-Fi Movie 'Distant'

    In today’s film news roundup, Rachel Brosnahan will try science-fiction, documentaries about Herb Alpert and Sasha Joseph Neulinger find homes, and Cameron Boyce’s “Runt” gets a premiere. CASTING Rachel Brosnahan will star with Anthony Ramos in Amblin Partners’ upcoming comedic sci-fi film “Distant.” Popular on Variety Will Speck and Josh Gordon will direct from Spenser [...]

  • Aldis Hodge Regina King

    Aldis Hodge Gushes Over Working With First-Time Film Director Regina King

    Regina King is on a roll. After winning an Oscar for “If Beale Street Could Talk” and starring as masked vigilante Sister Knight in HBO’s “Watchmen,” King is gearing up to make her film directing debut with “One Night in Miami.” Adapted by Kemp Powers from his play of the same name, the film dramatizes a [...]

  • Jon Berg

    Netflix Developing Female-Fronted Comedy Film With Jon Berg (EXCLUSIVE)

    Netflix is developing an untitled female-led comedy with producer Jon Berg, the former Warner Bros.’ co-president of production. The writing team of Jordan Roter (“The Tear Down,” “Camp Rules”) and Monica Corcoran Harel (New York Times, Marie Claire) has been attached to write the project. Netflix is keeping the logline under wraps. The project will [...]

  • Bob Chapek Disney CEO

    Why Wall Street Is Unhappy (for Now) With Disney's CEO Change

    We all knew the end was coming. Bob Iger had promised, time and again, that the end was coming. But the rather abrupt announcement Tuesday afternoon that he would relinquish his longtime role as CEO of the Walt Disney Co. — and that theme parks head Bob Chapek would succeed him at the top of [...]

  • Dau

    'DAU. Natasha': Film Review

    There’s a school of critical thought that believes no contextual details or backstory to a film — be they to do with its source material, the circumstances of its production, or its makers’ motivation — should be examined or factored into a review of it, that the final product up on the screen is the [...]

  • The Invisible Man Movie

    Box Office: 'The Invisible Man' Eyes $20 Million-Plus Debut

    With “The Invisible Man,” a terrifying thriller starring Elisabeth Moss, Universal is attempting to revive the cinematic prospects for its classic monster properties. After “The Mummy” with Tom Cruise flamed out theaters in 2017, the studio scraped its plans to form an interconnected Dark Universe and instead retooled its vision to create standalone stories unique [...]

  • Dau

    'Dau' Director Defends Controversial Russian Competition Film: 'It's Not Hollywood'

    “Dau. Natasha,” the Russian art project-turned-movie franchise competing at the Berlinale, has triggered headlines in the local and international press over the years due to its epic scale, scenes of graphic violence and anecdotes of an allegedly oppressive work environment for women. Hours before the film’s premiere at a presser on Wednesday, Ilya Khrzhanovsky, who [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content