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[ 28th Nov 2002 ] the harm of charity | leave a comment |

Usually I don't write about the cinema. First of all, because once one or another "fresh meat" by Hollywood is released, there appear a lot of articles and reviews written by a whole army of reviewers. It's possible to find descriptions of the masterpieces in any language, but after you watch the majority of them the only conclusion can be a short one: "Effects are cool, but the scenario sucks". Fortunatelly, sometimes there are good exceptions to the norm in Hollywood. Anyway, if you're a movie fan, you must know better than me the addresses of sites of movie reviewers. I'm a fan of other things, like the Internet, modern computer technologies, beautiful ladies, digital photography, tequila and heavy metal music. But despite all of this, I was really impressed recently. After almost an accidental visit to a cinema a couple of weeks ago I was charmed. I just can't help sharing my impressions and to write about the Film. Especially knowning there are too few articles about it so far. Well, did you imagine it the other way? It's Romania. It's exotic.

To be frank, my initial feeling about Romanian cinema was pessimistic. It seemed to me like I should not expect any kind of strong debate or discussion even during the first hour after the show ends. On the contrary, my friends and I have been talking about this movie's topic for at least a week. So, the picture is called "Filantropica" and represents a very goot mix of a comedy and irony about modern Romania.

Everything genious is simple

In spite of the fact that there are a lot of things I like a lot here, Romania is not a real highly developed Western country or something. It's an East European post-communist country, thus its problems remind me of the modern Ukraine, Russia and other post-Soviet ones. In the other words, most of them have the same economic character. It's obvious that in a society where the government gives you everything - a job, an apartment, a woman and everything else you may need to efficiently build communism, not forgetting to limit your freedom to choose the place of living or expressing your dissatisfaction, when such a society changes quickly to a capitalist one like it happened on a big part of the Euro-Asian continent more than 10 years ago, a big layer of people appear. They're poor, miserable or just loafers. A lot of them are involved into a very simple but also profitable activities - begging. I say profitable because they're quite satisfied with it, for they usually don't think of trying another profession. In Romania there are beggars too. Thus, it became obvious that the script writer and the director of the movie in the same time, Nicolae "Nae" Caranfil found the story right on the street!

What it's about

So, the film title "Filantropica" refers to a charity organization the head of which is involved in writing texts for.. beggars. The favourite saying of Mr. Puiut (the Romanian translation is "a little chicken"), nickname Pepe, - "the stretched out hand that doesn't tell a story doesn't receive donations". Wise, isn't it? But let's keep in order. The movie has also got its main hero..

n. pl. phi-lan-thro-pies

1. The effort or inclination to increase the well-being of humankind, as by charitable aid or donations.
2. Love of humankind in general.
3. Something, such as an activity or institution, intended to promote human welfare.

[Late Latin philanthropia, from Greek, from philanthropos, humane, benevolent : phil-, philo-, philo- + anthrpos, man, mankind.]

.. whose name is Ovidiu Gorea and who works as a Romanian literature teacher at an elite (from what it was said there) school in Bucharest. Personally myself I dind't find anything elite there. For example, there was the "fuck the school" inscription on the entrance door in a room which appeared immediately after the voice off screen said "how can a typical door of a 12th form look like?". However, the elitism is proven by the contingent of the pupils. The most of them are boys and girls with celluar phones and a row of expensive cars, the doors of which open simultaneously when the lessons are over. The dream of 35-year-old Ovidiu is to become a famous writer. He has already written a novel and has 300 copies printed. Though only a few of them were sold. The book is called "Nobody dies for free" (Nimeni nu moare pe gratis).

The main actor in the film is played by Mircea Diaconu, a famous actor who looks like a real school teacher. Moreover, after a closer look at his biography we find out that the 53-year-old actor has experience in teaching at the university of art of the theatre and cinematography in Bucharest (UATC). An even more funny fact is that besides the stage, Mircea occupied himself in literature too, having written a lot of articles on theatrical and cinema art. As to the books, don't worry, he wrote books too. In 1985 he wrote "Scaunul de panza a actorului", in 1977 - a book of proza called "Sugubina", and in 1980 - "La noi cand vine iarna" ("In our places when the winter comes"). The first two were translated into Russian and German languages. All of these biographical facts just prove it was he was a perfect choice for the film director.

The main hero isn't doing well: recently he separated with the girl-friend of the last two years, who was a teacher too and her only interest was other people's children, according to the voice off screen. Ovidiu also failed to get respect from his students, for they call him not even by his real name, but rather with the disdainful "teachy" ("proful"). After a brief story of his life the hero concludes: "In general, my life then was cacao" (this is a literal translation, in Romanian cacao is used as a more decent replacement for, I'm sorry, "shit"). During that time, absolutely unexpected, Diana appears in his life. She is a tall blonde with impressive boobs and a charming smile. She came to his school having introduced herself as a sister of Robert, who was the lycee's main hooligan. The teacher had been wanting to speak with his parents for quite a time. Because of Diana he decided to sell all the copies of his own literature masterpiece so that to have an opportunity to spend time with her somewhere at a restaurant or a club.

About Diana, there is a very interesting effect included into the film. It's a commercial where the blonde is filmed. It's about a toothpaste. On a tennis-court a school-aged boy is talking with the nice lady. "At your place or at mine?", - she asks unmistakable, smiling, and the commercial's motto concludes: "Domident" - anywhere". In order to prove the paste quality the boy gnaws a racket with his teeth.

The sexy blonde

To be sincere, before I watched the movie, I'd been having more liking for brunette ladies than blond ones. Because of their refinement, maybe. Or due to not being stained with the current beauty trends, I am not sure the reason. Nevertheless, the actress who played Diana managed to change my opinion about blondes radically. Her name is Viorica Voda and unfortunatelly, I haven't managed to find any nude pics with her on the Internet. I'd like to take a look very much, for I'm sure there is something to see. It would be ok if only the nude pics were the only difficult to find thing about her, but it's not the whole story. Even the best search engine of the web, -, could only find Viorica's name mentioned 45 times on the whole Internet. I want to believe it's just because Viorica is a debutante on the screen. Yes, it is so, and "Fialntropica" is the first movie she played in, and I consider it as a very successful start of a career. Now just believe me that in no more than five years this talanted actress with become an idol. And a sex-symbol, because even in the very "Filantropica" movie there were several scenes that won't leave unmoved men with healthy sex drives.

Now about what I really like about Hollywood. The point is that the guys there know for sure how to earn more money making movies. Just after a film is released (no matter of what a kind, either it's a good one or a one with special effects) the following sites are opened: a) of the movie itself -, b) the film director's (if doesn't exist yet) - www.the.director', c) of eeach one of the actors crew (if they're debutants and don't have their own sites yet), d) an official fan-club that leads to creating of a horde of unofficial ones made by enthusiasts. The fan sites are then united into web rings, etc. As to us, the East Europeans, we'll write a bit in magazines and news-papers, will talk a bit at home and in the street, and.. that's right, we'll forget. Really, what the hell do you need that Internet for? A news-paper is printed in 50 thousand copies, while the Internet has only about 700 millions users. Because of this, outside our countries they don't know anything about our current cultural events, movies, etc., and we ourselves treat our culture with disrespect. So, guys, so far we'll have to admire Viorica only on the movie screen captures.

The Girls In Our Times Love Till The Last Cent

The scene of the first meeting of Ovidiu and Diana outside the lycee makes the audience laugh every five minutes. Once he got up and ranout the restaurant having not paid his bill, also he proposed to the fashionable lady to go in the subway to a club. In the club itself there were two shocking things waiting for him.. First, the crowd was his students' age, and the prices were the second thing. A competition looked nice, the one with an orange held tight between the partners' bodies during the dance. I really don't know who was the first to invent this element in the movies. My first association was the "Pulp fiction", but I still doubt that Tarantino was the pioneer, just memorized it this way. In "Filantropica", in spite of the confused teacher, the dance looked very nice and hot. The party was over quickly for Ovidiu, for he didn't have money anymore. He commented on it the following way: "After that I had to run out of the prestigious club. The reason was obvious - a tooth ache".

Having finally decided to earn money and to conquer Diana, the main hero starts to act resolutely to sell his literary work. He went to the place where the writers elite used to gather, to one of the Bucharest's pubs. The off-screen voice was telling that they were "poets of the Gold age, grown on the Soviet vodka and Romanian wine, but we've got what we've got". Really, what we saw was a cesspit where nothing changed during the recent 13 post-communism years: fairly aged guys with a serious look are sitting there drinking vodka and beer, eating suspicious looking sausages. Ovidiu gave the book to the main literator as a gift and then proposed others to buy it for a small price if they're interested. Then he immediately gets thrown away from the "palace of the art" for his prodigious impudence. How dare he propose writers buy a newbie's book!

The "Filantropica" Organization And Its Boss

However, the visit to the pub didn't go without result. Upon exiting he met a guy with the look of a complete drunkard who said that he was the North railway station poet (Gara de Nord in Bucharest). The poet said he was ready to tell poetry for 50 gramms. Hopeless, Ovidiu decided to talk with him. After several short and absolutely senseless rhymes the alcoholic showed his interest in Ovidiu's book and wanted to buy it. How surprised was the main hero to see the purse full of money that the guy took out. "Wanna earn a lot?" - he asked - "Go to Mr. Puiut - the greatest men of all I ever knew!".

So, we can see a semi-basement where on a door it's written "the "Filantropica" organization". It gets opened by a secretary. In on of the rooms there is the boss talking on the phone. Then a partner comes to him and says that he's brought a "new batch". The following dialog happens: "How much are you going to give?" - "Twenty percents from each of theirs' earnings", - the partner answers. "You know, I wouldn't even talk with you for such a money, but what can I do? I've got the soul of my mother". Then, there is a queue of beggars lined up behind the window, and Pepe starts the "casting"..

An old woman comes to the window and "the greatest man" immediately starts dictating to his secretary: "Dress her in a wedding dress and then bring in front for a church with a paper saying "My fiance died in the day of our wedding", - "The next!". An old man comes. Pepe says: "Made films with Serge. Serge is now a famous film director and a senator, and myself I'm ill and unemployed". Then a child appears. "The kid.. he'll be singing a doleful song, a bit later I'll give the text", etc. A very funny scene. The only thing I didn't like was the text for one of the old guys. It was about Stalingrad, the guy was supposed to say that his eyes and his leg remained in Stalingrad. In my humble opinion, it's not nice to make fun of such things.

Watching such things scared Ovidiu and he said he definitely came to a wrong address and that he doubted Pepe could help him. The latter proposed him not to hurry and invited to take a walk in his own "Mercedes" disussing the idea he had for the teacher during the ride. In the car they were passing along the streets and, proud like Pigmalion, mister Puiut was showing implementations of his own ideas. First they saw an old violinist sitting on the stairs of some kind of a building. "Here", - Pepe said, - "the violinist doesn't pay because of the disperation and sadness. The guy has never even played on the instrument, and myself I tought him to hold the fiddle on his knees". The second scene was a bank entrance. A well-dressed young guy comes to a solid man who was leaving the building. He asked to borrow from him 50 thousand leis (less than $2), because the ATM was broken and he needed money to pay the taxi. "Here", - the man said, and gave him the money. Of course the latter refused to exchange contact information so that the guy could give the money back, adding "Come on, we're humans after all". That was exactly the reaction the beggar was expecting. In spite of the fact that he has only 50 thousand from every "client", his summary earning is quite a sum. Like in the joke about a guy who was judged for a murder of an old woman. The judge asked: "What did you commit the murder for? The old lady had only 10 cents in her purse?", but the guy answered: "Well.. Count yourself. Tens ladies are a dollar!".

When the trip was over, Pepe proposed a "job" to the main hero, and then gave him some time to think about it. "I wonder if you really think I'll be begging?", - he exclaimed. "Yes, but you won't ask anyone for money". Having thought for some time (mainly about money to get Diana), Ovidiu called back.

Creative Work For a Teacher

The job proposed by Puiut was the following. Ovidiu together with the "Filantropica" secretary were playing a role of a married couple on their 10th anniversary. They had to go to expensive restaurants and when a waiter brought the bill. As soon as they had it, they started moaning about its being enormous and the prices unacceptable. His partner, Miruna, started crying and Ovidiu quarreling: "Where did you see it this way? We live in Romania, why do you have such high prices? Do you really believe a normal man living for his very salary can afford such a bill?". Etc. This way, they used to make other visitors of the place feel pity and the most rich of them paid their bill. Of course, it was discussed with the waiter before, and he added dishes which were not ordered. Usually during all their time in the restaurant the "couple" was just drinking coffee. The rich guys gave their money, but "Filantropica" and Ovidiu were getting rich, having visited about ten restaurants during an evening. The main hero looked like a real low salary man, due to his appearance and intelligence. That part of the film was funny especially because of the "workers'" attitude for their work and the equipment that consisted of a pair of wedding rings and a bunch of flowers.

Having entered to the "beggars mafia", by Saturday, when he wanted to take Diana somewhere, Ovidiu had an expensive car, a lot of money and could afford a visit to a cool restaurant with the friends of the lady, who are similar to the "gold youth" type. The restaurant was located somewhere at a side of a lake or something. Possibly it was Herastrau I wrote about in the story about my visit to Bucharest. All the further events for Ovidiu get tightened into a vicious circle. On the way there occur quite unexpected things, like the main hero appearing on the TV program where he'd demonstrate a tram ticket, adding he's a usual man living for his low salary.

The second debutant in the film was the fake spouse of Ovidiu, Miruna performed by Mara Nicolescu. About her I could find nothing interesting on the Net. Judging from old theatre schedules the actress was working on the scenes of Brasov, a nice city in the Carpathians. Hopefully one day we'll see her personal site, maybe even with some nude pics ;)

The Shadow Man

Despite the fact that in the beginning it looks like whole the chain of events along with the decisions made by the main hero are accidental, slowly it comes out that everything is made up by a genious puppet master. The majority of the characters starting from the railway poet and till Diana appear to be sent. The masterbrain is already known to you, it's Pepe. Finally it appears that everything was planned before and then implemented into life by this man, the mixture of a businessman, an actor and a psyhologist. A very charismatic role, which combines an outstanding intellect and the absence of principles, along with a great passion for money.

The role of Pepe was performed by Gheorge Dinica, the artist who usually plays negative characters with a bit of vulgarity in behaviour and the way he talks. Being born in Bucharest in 1934 he's probably the oldest and wisest actor in the cast. The list of movies in which the actor performed can hardly be included in this note, so I won't give it here. In "Filantropica" his character laughs and says in a Romanian typical manner "Better let's sing rather than to swear" and personally follows up the implementations of all of his genious scenarios.


As I already said, the writing and direction of the film were by the same man, whose name is Nicolae Caranfil. Being quite young for a famous director (born in Bucharest in 1960), he has been living between Romania and France for quite a while. Plus, Nicolae won one of the Hollywood festivals, so he can already be considered a world class master. Apart from directing, his experience includes things such as acting and journalism: in different times he played roles in a theatre and wrote articles for news-papers and magazines. "Filantropica" proves not only that the maestro didn't forget his Homeland, but he is also aware of the current trends in its society. For example, the film makes fun of the so-called "gold youth", which in spite of being a part of the student population, doesn't even know what they study or how much tickets for public transportation cost. Also, the beggars appear to be not as pitiful as the impression they're trying to make.


I bet a lot of you know or at least guessed that begging is quite a profitable business. Once I heard that in Kharkov a small gipsy begging on a market or in the subway "earns" about $300/mo which was my approximate salary there working as a programmer. Strange though it may seem, it sounds probable. Also, it's almost impossible to make me feel pity for someone because of his modest clothing and sad face, especially if a beggar's age is suitable for working. "Go to work" - the only thing I can say in case if such a person is too insensitive. The "Filantropica" movie definitely removes all doubts about the "business", undermining its grounds. Many of the people who saw it now say that they don't give money to beggars anymore. This means, that besides being a comedy, the film's also got a huge social message. The apotheosis can be observed in the last scene where the genious puppet master Pepe is lauging and says "Do you feel pity for them? They take your money!"

I heard that the picture was nominated in France, the "second Homeland" of its director, and these days is being launched somewhere in the States, though my own humble opinion is that it will be difficult to understand for the people from there. The reason is that it's East European cultural property and it's all about the different realities of life we have here. So I think the distributors must consider other geografical directions to work with. Hopefully, one day the film will come to Russia and other post-Soviet cinemas. I'm sure it has a great chance to be understood and to gain popularity there. Because it is new (released this year in March), it's quite possible to be presented soon in our places.

Related Links

There is only one, in fact. The only place in the Internet where it's possible to read something about "Filantropica" in Romanian. It's the page of the movie from the site. A little bit about the director, a bit about the actors.. A couple of words about everything. The screenshots were taken from the same place.

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