M/A/D | Music/Art/Design
The Romanian mining town of Petrila, population 21,000, is about to see its mine shut down, its last group of miners laid off and the mine’s buildings demolished. The town, which owes its very existence to the mine, has become the victim of an EU eco-directive, and politicians, both local and national, are decidedly uninterested in upsetting anyone in Brussels by protesting. Enter former-miner-turned-anarchic-artist Ion Barbu, an energetic surrealist determined to save the mine and its related buildings, insisting that they are part of the town’s cultural heritage. Barbu is an aesthetic magpie who draws on artistic traditions high and low to mock the authorities and fight for his ideals: he paints the buildings in vibrant colours—a cylindrical structure is made to resemble a Warhol soup can—engages the townsfolk in Dada-esque fashion parades, puts on underground theatre performances and, by including everyone from young hipsters to pensioners to the miners themselves, re-builds a sense of community. Contrasted with Barbu’s manic charm is the calm, dignified manner of Cătălin Cenuşă, the leader of the last remaining unit of miners, who smashes any pre-conceived or stereotypical notions of what a miner should be…
Mixing anger, comedy and empathy in equal measures, Andrei Dăscălescu’s superb documentary revels in the power of art to unite people in common cause and does so with a visual palette and sense of style perfectly in keeping with his main protagonist’s absurdist worldview.