Children of the Decree

Florin Iepan's startling docu "Children of the Decree" explores the plight of women under Romanian strongman Nicolae Ceaucescu's infamous Decree 770, which banned birth control and abortion. In his single-minded push to repopulate the nation with millions of little "new men" destined for greatness, Ceaucescu adopted ever more grotesque, Orwellian measures as a failing economy increased the Romanian women's already rooted resistance to having children. This feminist rallying cry and zingy piece of filmmaking should be assured a small-screen niche.
Present-day interviews with a TV personality and a fashion model, accompanied by kinescopes from their glitzy heydays, reveal the pain and paranoia they experienced because of their back-alley abortions, a practice which claimed tens of thousands of lives. The irony, never lost on filmmaker Iepan, is that during this period Romania was celebrated as the most liberal of the Warsaw Pact nations, hailed by the U.N. as a model of population growth and considered by the West as a friendly, potential break-away ally.

Only women over 40 and those who already spawned four offspring (and, unofficially, Gypsies, whose propagation was actively discouraged) were exempt from having children. In the years following the decree's passage in 1966, the birth rate doubled. Although a huge propaganda machine touted the beauty of motherhood, existing cultural biases encouraged men to disavow all post-coital responsibility, leaving the women to "take care of it" as best they could.

In the 80's, as the worsening economy made feeding extra mouths impossible, the undeclared war between women and the state escalated. Women suspected of interrupting their pregnancies were tortured or left untreated until they revealed who helped them. All gynecological procedures were spied on by prosecutors and by the militia, and girls in factories were frequently subject to spot exams. A wealth of black-and-white footage eloquently testifies to the relentless surveillance.

The children, on the other hand, were regarded as the future of the state. Nothing was too good for them and excellence was required in return. The Romanian educational system became one of the most advanced in the world, gymnast Nadia Comaneci and 5-year-old orchestra conductor Radu Postavaru serving as poster children for the new generation of wunderkind.

In speeches, poems and musical extravaganzas featuring hundreds of twirling umbrellas, beaming, fresh-faced young pioneers declared their love for Ceaucescu. Hidden in the country, however, were special orphanages for the less-than-perfect, where disabled youths died of cold and starvation or were eaten by rats. Iepan shows excerpts of the horrific footage taken by a German film crew that first exposed the infamy.

Meanwhile, the now-grown progeny of the decree, brought up to believe the world was their oyster, became increasingly disillusioned. The greatest irony revealed in Iepan's docu is that Ceaucescu created the instruments of his own downfall, a favored generation empowered with courage their parents lacked.

Tech credits are superlative, particularly in the ingenious use of visually striking clips to accompany pic's English-narrated soundtrack (many of the interviews are also conducted in English). Pic maintains a fascinating dialogue between past and present as figures in newsreels, propaganda pictures or cautionary fiction films reappear in color and with 20/20 hindsight.

A Westend Film & TV/Subcultura/Periscope production in co-production with ARTE and TVR, with the participation of WDR-TV (Ontario). Produced by Paul Pauweis, Florin Iepan. Executive producer, Razvan Georgescu. Directed by Florin Iepan.

With: Zina Dumitrescu, Delia Budeanu, Paula Ciupitu, Dr. Adrian Sangeorzan.
(English, Romanian dialogue.)

Camera (color/B&W, DV), Wolf Truchsess von Wetzhausen, Peter Reuther; editor, Wolfgang Lehmann; sound, Alfred Hull. Reviewed at Margaret Mead Film & Video Festival, New York, Nov. 12, 2005. Running time: 68 MIN.

  • RegisseurRazvan Georgescu, Florin Iepan
  • AutorRazvan Georgescu, Florin Iepan
  • KameraCarlos Fuchs, Peter Reuther, Wolf von Truchsess
  • SchauspielerDelia Budeanu, Paula Ciupitu, Zina Dumitrescu, Adrian Sangeorzan
  • MusikAlfred Hulf
  • produziert vonArte, ZDF, Westend Film+TV Produktion, Sub-Cult-Ura S.R.L.
  • LänderCanada Germany Romania
  • GenreDocumentary
  • Jahr2004
  • Länge68 min
  • ThemaAbbruch und Verhütung
  • SprachenGerman
  • SynchronisationenEnglish

  • Genre Documentary
  • Jahr 2004
  • Länge 68 min
  • Thema Abbruch und Verhütung
  • Länder Canada Germany Romania
Ähnliche Filme