You are Ceausescu to Me is a documentary film directed by Sebastian Mihailescu. In late 2021, the production scooped two notable awards, the Best Central and East European Documentary and the Best Photography Award. The latter distinction went to the film's director of photography, Barbu Balasoiu. The distinctions were awarded as part of the Ji.hlava International Documentary Film Festival. Sebastian Mihailescu's documentary also scooped the New Talent Award as part of the DocLisboa festival.
The Best Central and East European Documentary Award went to Sebastian Mihailescu's film because, according to the judging panel, the film succeeded to recreate, in a playful manner, Romanian history through the method of reconstruction, at once analysing the characters of the reconstruction in a narrative based on self-reflection. You are Ceausescu to me is an experimental mix of a documentary and a feature film which seeks to find the motivation underlying the actions of young Nicolae Ceausescu, the last Romanian dictator, the head of state for then the Socialist Republic of Romania from 1967 to the collapse of the communist regime on December 22nd, 1989. In Sebastian Mihailescu's experimental film, youngsters aged between 15 and 22, coming from various walks of life, take part in auditions for the part of young Nicolae Ceausescu, in the 1930s. Pictures are taken of the teenagers as if they were part of archive photographs, turning into fiction a series of official documentaries and taking mutual action. They relate to Nicolae Ceausescu just as if they related to a fictional character, with no preconceptions, appropriating his personality traits according to their passion, via the clichés of commercial cinematography.
The director of You are Ceausescu to me, Sebastian Mihailescu, speaks about his own experimental documentary film.
"Let me just tell you that the character of my documentary does not have that much to do with the historical character Nicolae Ceausescu. The real Nicolae Ceausescu served as a pretext for me, in that I opted for using a character which is at once a caricature and an iconic character, it is iconic in much the same way as, let's say, Chinese communist leader Mao Zedong was, as a result of Andy Warhol's portraits, a character whom today everybody is willing to share their views on, even though those people don't know that much about him or they haven't lived during the communist regime. I kind of struck it lucky because, as I was working with a historian, I had access to young Nicolae Ceausescu's personal file, a file that was kept by then the Homeland Security, Siguranta Statului, the intelligence service that was operational in Romania under that name until November 13, 1940. When the idea crossed my mind to make the film, I was not familiar with that file. I thought I would make a film about Nicolae Ceausescu, and I would present him as an iconic character, as I've said before, a character all of us pretend we know but whom we don't know that much, actually. I was wondering who might play his part and I was unable to clearly figure out who that particular actor might be for the role. So the idea crossed my mind, that of a collective portrait, and I picked up that part of Ceausescu's life before 1945, that particular timeframe when he was an underground communist fighter and he did time in prison, since that period of time seemed more offering to me. I thought that period of time was more generous for my film, all the more so as there are no archive films where the young Ceausescu could be found, back then he was not as important as he would be later. The challenge was for me to recreate or create a series of shots that did not exist, and launch the question whether, in a film starting off from that idea, an inkling of truth could be found. So I thought that, for the casting sessions I would held so that I could pick those actors with the same age as that of then the young Ceausescu, I might stand a chance to get closer to the truth. And that is how I held my casting, I was looking for youngsters coming from various walks of life, educated, less educated, school dropouts just like Ceausescu himself used to be, a school dropout after the first four primary-school grades, but also people who furthered their education. Through that casting I checked whether my attempt to find the young Ceausescu would be successful, also trying to detect what the seeds might be, of the future dictator, the seeds of evil, that is, to discover how and when a man changes, or what lies behind a man who was so controversial."
The film cast and crew includes professional as well as amateur actors such as Denis Duma, Dan Hudici, Ionuț Amador Motoi, Mario Sandrino Rădulescu, Mihai Topalov, Cristiana-Alexandra Gheorghe, Cristina Parancea, Alin Ilie Grigore, Zhang Florin-Zhiyuan. Claudiu Mitcu, Ioachim Stroe and Robert Fița are the producers of the film. The documentary is produced by Wearebasca, with the support of the National Center of Cinematography jointly with the Romanian Television Corporation. Born in 1983, Sebastian Mihăilescu earned his BA from the I.L.Caragiale National Drama and Film University in Bucharest, class of 2013. His graduation production is a short-reel film titled Old, Luxurious Flat, located in an Ultra-Central, Desirable Neighborhood. Sebastian Mihailescu & Andrei Epure wrote the screenplay. HiFilm are the producers. The film was premiered as part of the International Locarno Film Festival, in 2016, in the Pardi di Domani Competition section.
(Translation by Eugen Nasta)