Set within Bucharest’s impoverished ghetto Ferentari, Ivana Mladenovic’s intimate narrative debut navigates the unexpected relationship that blossoms between a young anthropologist named Adi and Roma guide Alberto.
Soldiers. Story from Ferentari
A daring and impressive debut, Ivana Mladenovic's Soldiers. Story from Ferentari breaks taboos and boundaries through its portrayal of love and tenderness within the harsh environment of Romania's marginalized Roma communities. A contemporary gay Romeo and Juliet, Soldiers progressively lays down its stoic armour as we move closer into its intimate story of love and companionship.
Based on the fictionalized biography of screenplay writer and lead actor Adrian Schiop, the film is set within the social borders of Bucharest's impoverished Roma ghetto of Ferentari, where Adi, a thirty-something anthropologist, moves to begin his field research into manele pop music. Getting a feel for the local scene and searching for a guide, he meets Alberto, a portly and jovial Roma with a prison record and gambling habit. The two strike up a friendship that unexpectedly blossoms into amorous companionship. When their relationship, hidden away from discriminating eyes, eventually starts to falter, the realities of the ethnic and cultural power dynamics operating in their society are laid bare.
An unmistakable talent and a director to watch, Mladenovic lets Schiop play his fictional alter-ego alongside an ensemble of non-professionals. Present, but never intrusive, the camera captures the chemistry between the leads, casting an up-close gaze on the rarely observed queer and Roma cultures at the neglected periphery of Romanian society. Neither exploitative nor didactic, Soldiers delivers a tender love story that discusses isolation, intimacy, and being at the mercy of a society too quick to ostracize.