Filmmaker Radu Ciorniciuc’s debut feature documentary Acasa, My Home, chronicles the unusual lifestyle and drastic life change of the Enache family, composed of nine children and their two parents. The eleven live in the Bucharest Delta, an abandoned water reservoir on the immediate outskirts of a sprawling city. The Enaches have spent the last eighteen years relatively outside of society; fishing for their own food, hiding from child services, and living in a hut of their own construction on the shores of the lake. With the formerly abandoned land on the brink of conversion into a national park, the Enache family find themselves displaced and forced into a new life in the city.
The film is structured in a series of clips of the Enache family’s life and activities, the narrative coming strictly from the composition of the footage itself. This absence of a narrator or a commentary does give the film a minimalistic and voyeuristic sense that the viewer is watching someone else’s home movies, or lurking in an unseen corner of their daily lives. The stunning cinematography and editing convert the disparate glimpses into an intimate and cohesive tale of the interruption of a family’s history to make way for the inevitable future. We accompany the Enache children as they adjust to school, technology, and running water. We join the parents as they navigate police, child services, and social conflict.
Acasa, My Home does not shy away from the raw struggles that accompany the culture clash the Enaches face in their relocation from wilderness to urban life. The film lays bare the family’s ups and downs, highlighting their difficulty in adjusting to aspects of modern life we tend to take for granted. The children and parents alike struggle to acclimate to a set of societal expectations that they either were born and raised outside of or consciously rejected, respectively. Ciorniciuc’s filmmaking does nothing to sugarcoat the family’s choices and their consequences or those of the authorities that repeatedly step in to wrangle them, allowing a stark portrait of conflicting values and lifestyles.
Portions of Acasa, My Home are uncomfortably gritty, but with the discomfort comes purpose. The film challenges the viewer to experience head-on the type of anxiety that accompanies a completely foreign experience. Like the Enaches’ life in the Bucharest Delta is incredibly alien to viewers and to the authorities that relocate the family to the city, urban life is almost inaccessibly unfamiliar to the family. The story that emerges in unique threads for all subjects of the documentary is overarchingly one of struggle; of conflict and adaptation and sacrifice and coping out of necessity. A difficult but worthwhile experience, this film requires the viewer to engage with the subjects and do the work of understanding what Ciorniciuc shows us, but refuses to explain for us. Acasa, My Home is in turns fascinating and challenging, intriguing and heartbreaking. The film leaves viewers feeling a sympathetic nostalgic pang, and portends an uncertain future for its subjects.