A film by Radu Jude
2017, 83 minutes
No. 182

A work of startling power and originality, acclaimed director Radu Jude’s documentary-essay, The Dead Nation, examines the rise of anti-Semitism in Romania prior to and during World War II almost entirely through audio of diary entries belonging to a Jewish doctor and black-and-white photographs of provincial life in Romania between the years 1937 and 1944.

In December 1937, the election of an anti-Semitic nationalist as prime minister of Romania prompted Emil Dorian, a Jewish doctor, to start keeping a diary. His words, read here by Jude, chronicle in stark detail the escalating horrors of the coming years, from Jewish deportations to the introduction of the infamous yellow star to actual, brutal violence on the streets.

Running parallel to this audio are seemingly innocuous and contradictory images of everyday life. The recently discovered photographs – some in pristine condition, others in various stages of decomposition – belong to Costica Ascinte and his bustling photography studio, ‘Foto Splendid.’ They show happy, ordinary citizens – families, children, farmers with prize cattle, soldiers and their sweethearts – going about their daily lives; many staring pleasantly into the camera, some showing off the fascist salute.

Interspersed throughout the documentary are snippets of nationalist speeches, military songs and news reports of the time.

From the director of Aferim!, The Dead Nation is an extraordinary, urgent work; one that explores the individual experience against the enormity of history, while offering a vivid portrait of a divided time that speaks to the uncertainties of our own age.

Official Selection, Locarno Film Festival
Offical Selection, International Documentary Festival Amsterdam
Offical Selection, Vienna International Film Festival
Official Selection, New York Jewish Film Festival

"History comes alive… Striking in its aesthetic purity, with beautiful images placed in the context of scarcely conceivable horrors, the film is a multi-dimensional snapshot of history.. Quietly stunning… Jude has pulled off that rare feat of crafting a highly accessible but complex, ambiguous and significant work of cinematic art.” 
Hollywood Reporter

“Radu Jude weaves old photos, diary extracts and news reports into a meditative collage about Jewish persecution in WWII-era Romania. Scintillatingly well-chosen… the photos really are stunningly evocative... Jude lets the contrast between image and sound create its own tensions and provocations.” 

"Striking. Recommended." – Video Librarian