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Kapitalism: Our Secret Recipe cover photo

Kapitalism: Our Secret Recipe 2010

Recommended

Distributed by Icarus Films, 32 Court St., 21st Floor, Brooklyn, NY 11201; 800-876-1710
Produced by ARTE G.E.I.E, HiFilm Productions, Seppia Production, Neon Rouge Productions, Radio Television Belge Francophone
Directed by Alexandru Solomon
DVD , color, 88 min.



Jr. High - General Adult
Romania, Post-Soviet Union Economies, Economics

Date Entered: 01/11/2013

Reviewed by Christopher Lewis, American University Library, American University

The filmmaker begins this story of the Romanian oligarchy by imagining how Romania would appear to deposed (and executed) dictator Nicolae Ceausescu were he to miraculously return. The premise of the film is that despite the glitzy advertising–laden landscape and creation of a parliamentary government, Romania’s brand of capitalism is every bit as corrupt as the old regime. The inside story is told through visits with four billionaires who gained their riches by picking up the pieces after the collapse of the Ceausescu regime. The oligarchs include Dan Voiculescu, the vice-president of the Senate and a fertilizer magnate; Ioan Niculae, the owner of chemical plants; Dinu Patriciu, an architect cum real estate and petroleum magnate; and George Becali, a football club owner/real estate magnate who was recently elected to the European Parliament while awaiting trial for the confinement and torture of men who stole his limo.

After the collapse of the Ceausescu government, state-owned industries transferred to private hands and those standing ready were the businessmen who had worked for the state-owned foreign trade companies. These men understood capitalism and when the communist system collapsed they were able to take advantage of the situation. They were connected and respected and their negotiating savvy gave them an advantage over the government officials for whom this was unknown territory.

According to the film, Romania has the smallest GDP of the former communist countries but the largest number of great fortunes. Its infrastructure is deteriorating and is ranked 110th globally just ahead of Zambia, a country with an economy one tenth the size of Romania’s economy. The country is clearly suffering.

More candid assessments of the transition to capitalism are provided by two entrepreneurs who have found modest success despite the system. George Padure is the owner of big-box electronics stores but his ambitions to develop property are muted by shakedown tactics. Dan Diaconescu found success as the founder of OTV, a channel specializing in crime news and salacious Jerry Springer-like talk shows. Though OTV’s coverage of corruption arrests makes for good TV, the truth is the cases usually get dismissed. Sadly Mr. Diaconescu’s success seems to be based on the population’s need for a diversion from its misery. He makes the wry observation that if Mr. Ceausescu had employed OTV’s brand of communication, he might still be in power. He describes Romania as being a sleepy country after those who cared about its future, as many as four million, left. Remaining are the well-off, the poor, and the resigned. The tone of the film is bemused hopelessness. The names have changed but the system is still corrupt.

A similar treatment of Russian oligarchs would probably be of greater interest though this documentary has value. It’s recommended for academic libraries especially those with a focus on economics, Eastern Europe, and political science.