Screen Reviews
Souvenirs of Bucovina: A Romanian Survival Guide

Souvenirs of Bucovina: A Romanian Survival Guide

directed by Robert Mugge & Diana Zelman

MVD Visual

Bucovina – located conveniently between Moldavia and Bessarabia, and just up the road from the Carpathian Mountains. You’ll want some Google Earth support with this show; it’s an area few people visit although it seems scenic and stable. Bucovina derives from a Germanic “Land of the Beech Trees” and is now split between Romania and the Ukraine. Shot in 2011, this project pre-dated most of the current Russian / Ukrainian battles so check here or here before you book.

But if the war ends, this film might otherwise induce you to visit. The land is agricultural with plenty of forests and goats, the people a mix of ethnicities who seem to get along better than most, and the food has that Eastern European solidity needed to get through tough winters. And you can always get vodka. Director Robert Mugge is best know for low-key rock and roll documentaries but here he travels with collaborator Dian Zelman in what seems to be a search for her roots. We see the famous “Painted Monasteries,” visit Czernowitz, once the largest Jewish settlement in the world. That’s the sad part, we hear the horrible tale of the wars and the holocaust and more details than might be comfortable.

Split into six sections we meet the people, explore their faiths, their dances, history, and customs. Plenty of English subtitles help, as to the string of translators they use as the local tongue goes from Romania to German to Russian to Romani. Once in a while someone goes on at length untranslated, I view that as judicious editing. This film is close to my heart, I grew up in a town that was full of little ethnic enclaves from this part of the world and even the people look familiar. This film isn’t so much Rick Steves as it is a more mature Rough Guide. It treats the locals and their rocky history with respect and love.

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