Place a frog in hot water, and it’ll jump out. But place it in cool water and gradually turn up the heat, the frog will slowly boil to death - missing its right moment to escape. Romania 1968: Mihai (27) a talented architect oblivious to political ideologies, starts to question the system after a small incident jeopardizes his family’s long-planned first trip to East Germany. Mihai must betray a friend to be allowed to travel. He sets off together with his idealistic younger brother Doru and his father Tudor, who, discriminated by the communist regime, gave up fighting long ago. Their trip ends as the Soviets invade Prague. The trio can’t return home: the way through Czechoslovakia is blocked. Totally unexpected the Iron Curtain lifts: they’re offered a two-day transit visa through the West - 48 hours, which could change their lives. Mihai wants to stay, but Doru insists on returning. Tudor agrees to follow his younger son home. Mihai is unprepared for this abrupt life-changing opportunity. Grappling with this decision, he finally chooses his family over his personal freedom, hoping to be aware of the moment when the water begins to boil and it’s time to get out of Romania.
When my father was 18, he went on his first trip through Eastern Europe with his parents. Due to the political incidents of the summer of ‘68, he found himself - together with 51 other Romanian families - in an East German military camp. After finally receiving a transit visa to travel back through the West - an unimaginable act during the Cold War - they realized that the next days could change their entire future. Having just 48 hours to question their lives, all three experienced the toughest moment they have ever faced as a family. At last, my father decided to return home, truly believing his country would follow a different path than the Soviet hard line. In August 1968 Ceausescu harshly criticized the invasion of the Warsaw Pact and was celebrated for his courage by all the Western countries. Even though signs of deterioration lingered in the air, my father was sure things would get better. “After all, it’s not that bad!” – people kept on repeating like a mantra. But bad was just the beginning. It got worse. And my father was never allowed to enter the West again until 1989, after the fall of Ceausescu, when he immediately immigrated to Germany with my mother and me. I grew up with this story, having heard it many times. Today, I find it very easy to say: How could he? How could all 51 families return home after having tasted freedom? But nothing is ever that simple. Like the Russian tanks that ran over Prague, the characters in Romanian Spring are run over by a random incident with the power to change the course of their entire lives. They fight amongst themselves and struggle to make the right decision. But what is right and what is wrong? Is staying in the West the right decision if you know that you might never see your family again and might even endanger them, by marking them as the family of a traitor? Even though this is a historical plot, the main theme is very contemporary. It’s easier to adapt than to rebel. It’s easier to hope for a second chance than to be strong enough to grab the first opportunity. We are all slow-boiling frogs. Still the question remains: Can we change things before our time’s up? I hope so - otherwise life doesn’t make much sense. I see Romanian Spring as a tragicomic story, filled with very human characters and intimate moments. A twist of history provides a once in a lifetime chance to make an irreversible decision, which creates a cinematic situation, sometimes dramatic and heartbreaking, sometimes so absurd it’s almost funny.
- RAZOR FILM PRODUKTION
Anca M. Lăzărescu was born in Timisoara, Romania, in 1979. She moved to Germany with her parents in 1990. Her doc THE SECRET OF DEVA won prizes including the Best New Talent Award at the Sehsüchte student film fest 2007. She graduated from Munich film school HFF 2011 with short SILENT RIVER, which was invited to over 300 festivals and won 82 international awards. THAT TRIP WE TOOK WITH DAD is her debut feature. It was selected at Munich FF. She is a member of the Romanian and European Film Academies.