Uppercase Print

Radu Jude

IndieLisboa 2020 •

Romania, Documentary, 128′

The starting point of Uppercase Print is the true story of some graffities that appeared in 1981, in the wall of the Communist Party headquarters, in the city of Botoșani. There was a subsequent investigation to find the author of these subversive messages towards the regime of Ceaușescu. Based on a play by Gianina Cărbunariu about this case, but also archive videos, Jude questions the moulding of individuals in dictatorship times.

In a large number of films that followed one another, but are not alike, Radu Jude builds one of the most harrowing and exciting oeuvres in contemporary Romanian cinema. However, what does the picaresque farce Aferim! has in common with the literary surrealism of Scarred Hearts and the historical staging in the game of mirrors I Do Not Care If We Go Down in History as Barbarians? Undoubtedly, more than it seems: first, a discreet but sharp irony and, above all, an uncompromising look at the tacit history of his country – no matter the period and genre of this cinema. There are two types of images in Uppercase Print. First, black and white archival images from the 1980s under Ceausescu. Exciting and frightening images of smiling propaganda, where robotic voices echo dictatorship slogans with fanfare. Other images date from today, in a studio with bright neon lights in vivid colors. Facing the camera, actors recite (more than repeat) the reports written by the communist militias. Disproportionately numerous and detailed descriptions, all related to the same incident: a simple revolutionary slogan written in capital letters (hence the title) by a Romanian high school student in the 1980s. The news is simple, the graffiti author was quickly identified, but the fascist administrative machine’s approach is terrifying because it is relentless by the force of repetition. The investigation is endless, like a gigantic monster that cannot be killed. Uppercase Print alternates between these two families of images, between these two nervous tales with cold monotone voices that give us the shivers: the anecdotal and the national, the hidden history and the propaganda, the superficial smile and the madness behind the scenes of yesterday and today. (Mickael Gaspar)