Great story, especially with all of the violence in Kiev and Venezuela right now.
I was raised in Romania in the 1980s, under a Communist regime that, among countless repressions, reduced television to two hours a day of dull propaganda, traditional music, patriotic poems and censored films. One day when I was 6, my parents found a way to borrow a VCR. They invited their friends, and all night they watched grainy VHS tapes of Hollywood B-movies. I remember the films, but more so I remember how I felt when I stepped into the living room — like walking into a secret, magical and free world.
All the dialogue on these movies was dubbed into Romanian in a husky, high-pitched woman’s voice. Throughout my childhood, these films provided a glimpse into the forbidden West, resplendent with blue jeans, Coke and skyscrapers. As Hollywood movies became ubiquitous through the black market, this voice became one of the most recognizable in Romania. Yet no one knew who she was.
After the 1989 revolution I learned the true story, which I present here in this Op-Doc video. In 1985, Irina Margareta Nistor, a young translator at the national television station, met a mysterious entrepreneur. He was smuggling, copying and distributing movies on VHS tapes. This was the beginning of a working relationship that lasted more than a decade. In all, Ms. Nistor says she dubbed more than 3,000 different films. Thanks to her, Chuck Norris, Jean-Claude Van Damme and Bruce Lee became popular heroes in Romania.
In a time when the Romanian state controlled every aspect of its citizens’ lives — including food, heat, transportation and information — people found a way to escape and resist the state’s far-reaching hand, through the power of movies.
There’s a more in-depth video at the link. All of it a good reminder of just how much we take for granted here.