Hyperscreams of Cyberscreens

in 43rd Moscow International Film Festival

by Karen Avetisyan

The recent Berlinale Golden Bear for Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn (Babardeala cu bucluc sau porno balamu, 2021) by Radu Jude became the first big festival grand prix of the pandemic and anti-festival year of 2021. Almost a month later, another Romanian film #dogpoopgirl (2021) by Andrei Hutuleac became a triumphant of the next big forum – 43rd Moscow Film Festival.

Although festivals do not exceptionally impress within the pandemic calendar, films themselves continue to be in an intelligible dialogue with each other. Therefore the above mentioned duo has much more in common than just both parts being Romanian or A-.class festival winners.

The pandemic year brought with it the new trends, topics running like a red thread from one to another, such as cyberbullying, which of course is not a new phenomenon (E.g. Catfish in 2010, or Unfriended in 2015 etc.), but the offline-online tap made them more visible and more sensitive.

Thus, two Romanian prize winners, having less in common, conducted two different studies of online bullying, that besides being equally worthy for their respective awards, are also worth juxtapositioning.

#dogpoopgirl tells the story of one of the first cases of cyberbullying. In 2005, the owner refused to clean up after her dog that went to the toilet on the Seoul subway. This was caught on camera and led to a massive online scandal. The incident the film is based upon happened in South Korea 15 years ago when it was still a rare case of cyberbullying, now – a sad new reality that Hutuleac translates into his native Romanian context, representing the dark sides of civil society;s social institutions with amazing wit.

The tragic story of a hunted woman and cyber harassment reaches the satirical climax at the end when there is a monument to a man who took the poop, calling on in his speech: “Always pick up the shit!”

In Jude’s film a married couple – a teacher and her husband – have filmed themselves making love and upon conducting repairs on their computer, a technician discovers the saved video as “homemade porn”, and then uploads it to the internet.

The film has three chapters. In the first part he talks about how the very “porn” was filmed and how it got on the Internet. In the second part it becomes a smart and sarcastic historical political collage on the communist and post-communist history of Romania which may remind you either of Makavejev, Goddard or of Monty Python. In the third part, we see the trial organized by the parents of the schoolchildren gradually transforming into a “parental tribunal”.

The two films are also united by black humor and love for new forms. In Jude’s Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn the second act of the picture is literally a collection of memes and an audiovisual dictionary. In #dogpoopgirl Hutuleac often switches from one format to another: the classic narrative is interrupted by news stories, live broadcasts on Instagram and a very funny  Youtube video.

Cinematic references and observations of cyberbullying have already gone beyond the genre of rough anecdotes, thrilling screenlife pieces or documentaries on black holes of digital spaces, instead they have become a starting point for analyzing sanctimony, hypocrisy in global state of modern civilization.

Above all as a cherry on top, Radu Jude succeeded in providing a very striking cinematic metaphor suddenly remembering the myth of Perseus, who defeated Medusa the Gorgon. As we know, it was impossible to look the monster in the eyes – even the bravest warrior would turn to stone. But the goddess of war Athena handed Perseus a polished copper shield, whose reflection did not paralyze the hero and allowed him to fight. The monster has lost. Moral of the story: we do not want and are not ready to see the truth as it is, so we need reflections and mirrors to fight the monsters that are stronger than us.

Karen Avetisyan
Edited by Savina Petkova