Chuck Norris vs Communism
January 4, 10 pm

Chuck Norris vs Communism

  • BY Ilinca Calugareanu | IN Cinema
    Premiered January 4, 2016

About the Film

In communist Romania, thousands of Western films on bootleg VHS tapes — mostly Hollywood action movies  — were smuggled behind the Iron Curtain, opening a window into the free world. MORE

Under President Nicolae Ceaușescu, Romania was culturally isolated and ideologically censored. Images of life outside its borders were cut off and TV was reduced to propaganda bulletins. From the drab concrete housing blocks to the food ration lines, the threat of surveillance prevented people from stepping out of line.

But in the mid-1980s, under the nose of the Securitate, Ceaușescu’s secret police, thousands of Hollywood films were smuggled into the country by an underground operative named Zamfir, and they were all covertly dubbed by Irina Nistor, a courageous translator whose distinct voice captivated the nation and became a symbol of freedom.

As we see through evocative re-creations in Chuck Norris vs Communism, a network of secret screening rooms sprung up across Romania as families, friends, and neighbors gathered to watch action heroes like Norris, Van Damme, and Stallone, along with romantic comedies, dramas, and Hollywood epics. While the stories captured the imagination, it was the lavish settings and backdrops that mesmerized the audience. The films offered Romanians glimpses of the abundant West, which prompted the regime to clamp down on the clandestine screenings, casting an atmosphere of ever-present danger and suspicion.

Ilinca Calugareanu’s film brings us to a time and place when films that were made for entertainment also helped spark the coming revolution.

The Filmmaker

Ilinca Calugareanu, a London-based Romanian filmmaker, studied documentary filmmaking at Manchester’s Granada Centre for Visual Anthropology. Her short films have been screened in festivals around the world. Calugareanu’s credits include The Writing on the Wall (2006, Romania) and Endgames (2008, UK). She has also worked as an editor on fiction and documentary shorts and features for the past five years. She has a background in anthropology with a focus on communist and post-communist Romania, which gives her a unique perspective on the story of the VHS phenomenon.

Mara Adina (producer) started her career as a production manager and then line producer at Kuwait National Television (KTV), and also produced with several Middle Eastern production companies during her stay there. On her return to the UK, she established Vernon Films, an independent production company based in London. In 2014 she released Counterpart, the first English-language film directed by two-time BAFTA-winning director and Golden Bear nominee Adrian Sitaru. LESS

Film Credits

Written and Directed by
Ilinca Calugareanu

Produced by
Mara Adina
Brett Ratner

Per K. Kirkegaard

Executive Producers
John Battsek
Nicole Stott
Dan Cogan
Jenny Raskin
James Packer
Andrew Ruhemann

Executive Producer HBO Europe
Hanka Kastelicová

Executive Producers HBO Romania
Carmen Harabagiu
Aurelian Nica

Abbas Nokhasteh
Monica Lazurean-gorgan
Stefan Kloos

Director of Photography
Jose Ruiz

Anne Nikitin
Rob Manning

Supervising Sound and SFX Editor
Jay Price

Documentary Unit

Irina Nistor
Teodor Zamfir
Mircea Cojocaru

(In Order of Appearance)
Vlad Craioveanu
Mihai Dobrovolschi
Adrian Sitaru
Paul Stefanescu
Alexandru Eremia
Dan Alexandru
Mihnea Mihalache
Mariana Comanaru
Voichita Toader
Tudor Caranfil
Marius Lazar
Constantin Fugasin
Ioan Gyuri Pascu
Silviu Prigoana
Emilian Urse
Stefan Tiron
Claudiu-Marian Stefanescu
Lavinia Stefan
Simion Barbu
Bogdan Tudor
Maria-Ramona Vitan
Ovidiu Vitan
Valerica Ivan
Radu Gabriel
Doru Ana
Liviu Man
Sabin-Alexandru Ripan
Cristian Grindean
Daniel Motoran
Cristi Luca
Marius Chivu
Cosmin Manolache
Vasile Dihel
Isidor Martinca
Ion Solomon

Drama Unit

Lead Cast

Ana Maria Moldovan: Irina
Dan Chiorean: Zamfir
Valentin Oncu: Mircea
Cristian Stanca: Orzan
Petre Bacioiu: Petrulea
Elena Ivanca: Mrs Cristea
Florin Mircea Jr.: Mihaies
Gajzago Andrei: Ionescu
Ileana Negru: Mrs Urse
Catalin Herlo: Sterie
Miron Maxim: Border Officer Petre
Cristian But: Dihel
Attila Veres: Mihai
Matei Rotaru: Marian
Andrea Kali: Otilia
Tudor Mesesan: Bogdan
Paul Socol: Barbu
Vlad Corb: Cristi
David Stefan Potra: Radu
Oana Petrea: Lavinia
Robert Kocsis: Traian
Vlad Calugareanu: Paul
Nicu Mihoc: Officer Grozavescu
Liviu Topuzu: Attorney General Ionescu
Cosmin Milchis: Dragomir

1st Assistant Director
Adriana Racasan

Production Manager
Anca Chis

Sound Recordist
Xan Marquez

Steadicam Operator
Attila Pfeffer

Focus Puller
Vlassis Skoulis

Gaffer Alex
James Brown

Best Boy
Ciprian Stroiny

Key Grip
Catalin Stoica

Costume Designers
Catalin Valean

Make-Up Provided by
Elite Academy S.c.
Benyamin Company S.r.l.

Production Designers
Daniela Calugareanu

Commissioning Editor WDR/Arte
Sabine Rollberg

Production Executive for Passion Pictures
George Chignell

Assistant Producer
Dara Carroll

Associate Producer
Maria Tzika

Production Accountant
Ken Dias, NLPCA.

Legal Services
On Demand Lawyers

Legal Advisors
Smith & Dehn Llp

Ilinca Calugareanu

Dialogue Editor
Richard Fordham

Sound Effects Editors
Helen Dickson

Re-Recording Mixers
Graham Daniel
Adam Daniel

Peter Lynch

Online Editor
Adam Grant

Picture Post-Production Producer
Chris Rayner

VFX Artists
Dean Wyles
Jason Farrow

Strange Beast

Archival Materials
Paul Cozighian

Music Orchestrator
Tom Kilworth

Solo Cello
Peter Gregson

Clare Robson
Josh Batty

Neyire Ashworth
Mark Crooks

Jess Mogridge

Colin Skinner

John Horler

Score Mixer
Joe Rubel

London Recording Engineer
Pete North

Recorded at Diving Duck Recordings

Orchestra Live Recordings
Kamerata Kronstadt Brasov

Romania Conductor
Cristian Orosanu

Romania Recordings Engineer
Liviu Elekes

Additional Music

"Fara Sa Vrei"
Written and Performed by Margareta Paslaru
Recorded Live at Mamaia Festival, 1975
With Orchestra Radioteleviziunii, Conductor Sile Dinicu
From Margareta Paslaru's Personal Archive

Written and Performed by Margareta Paslaru
From Bucuria De A Canta, 2008
Fundaţia Radio România, Editura Casa Radio

Special Thanks

To the owners of all of the films and photos that made this film possible.

Production Support Provided by
Dok.Incubator Workshop 2013

Funding Provided by
Sundance Institute Documentary Film Program

This program was produced by Vernon Films Limited who is solely responsible for its content.

© 2015 Vernon Films Ltd., All Rights Reserved.

Did you or anyone in your family ever live through a repressive regime like Ceaușescu’s Romania? What are your own memories of ‘80s movies and how would you see those films if they were your first exposure to Western culture?


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Did you or anyone in your family ever live through a repressive regime like Ceaușescu’s Romania? What are your own memories of ‘80s movies and how would you see those films if they were your first exposure to Western culture?