The Human Resources Manager


Sometimes I honestly don’t know how I stumble across the things I do on the internet. That’s the naked truth. But the other day I came across a review for a movie called The Human Resources Manager and since it heavily involves Romania, I promised myself I’d write it up for the blog.

Unlike the other movies (and TV programs) I’ve written about here, I haven’t actually seen this movie, so I can’t tell you too much about it. I do know it was actually filmed in Romania and has a few genuine Romanian actors in it (albeit in smaller roles). A goodly part of the dialogue is also spoken in Romanian as well, from what I understand.

The basic plot of the movie is that an immigrant worker in Israel dies on the job and the company’s HR manager (hence the title) takes her body on a long trip home to her remote village in Romania.

Again, I haven’t seen this movie, but after reading an interview with the director, he seems like a nice enough sort. He even had a couple of good words for Romania.

The New York Times on the other hand, wrote a review which rankled me something fierce. If you ever want to know the source of people’s fears about Romania, it’s a steady diet of mainstream outlets like the NYT, who in this case use their favorite bugbear of them all:

…some Godforsaken, unnamed country (played by Romania), the manager trundles across a frigid, post-Soviet wasteland…

Got it? Romania is a post-Soviet wasteland even though the Soviets have been gone since 1958. Ceausescu, for all his many faults, was fiercely committed to being independent of the Soviets. Romania has been post-Soviet for 53 years now!

Not to mention the subtitle of this review is “the back of beyond”, as if Romania was some outpost on the moon and didn’t have daily flights from Bucharest to Tel-Aviv that last just two and a half hours. Last night, in fact, I was listening to OTP ground control and heard one of those flights to Tel Aviv take off. Sheer coincidence that – the same as me finding a review for a movie I’ve never seen.

Just for “funsies”, I decided to read a dozen reviews of this film from other sources, including one in Italian, another one from a New York publication and even an Israeli one (which states that the HR manager goes to Russia to bury the body, not Romania – oh well, they both begin with R, right?) and so far, only the NYT had such vitriol for Romania.

Ah well, what can you do?

Although totally unrelated to the film, I actually happen to know a Romanian woman who was an immigrant worker in Israel herself. Pardon me for stating the obvious but her hometown is no “wasteland” but one of the most beautiful cities in this country. Now she’s back home, doing good things.

But I guess real life sometimes is less interesting than a made-up story. Can’t blame the director for that ;)

8 thoughts on “The Human Resources Manager

  1. > “…some Godforsaken, unnamed country (played by Romania), the manager trundles across a frigid, post-Soviet wasteland…”

    Well, maybe the article in NYT has mistakenly confused the film with the novel which makes the film’s storyline, A.B. Yehoshua’s ‘A Woman in Jerusalem”, where the story takes place in Siberia…

    > “Not to mention the subtitle of this review is “the back of beyond”, as if Romania was some outpost on the moon…”

    Sam, maybe the “back of beyond” is not referring to Romania, but to the remote, God-forgotten village up in the mountains where the HRM — who decided to do the right thing — is taking the body for burial in her childhood village.

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  2. See, Sam, maybe you understand now why some Romanians overreact every time when they hear/see/read stereotyped news about Romania. There is an article that went viral on news yesterday, about a Gypsy woman from Romania who gave birth to a child in UK. Actually the news is about her mother who is considered to be the youngest grandmother on Earth (23 years). Ignore the fact that Gypsies lie constantly about their age (there was another famous case in Spain, recently; after investigations in Romania, the 12-year old mother turned out to be 15)! While many media outlets stated that it was a Romanian Gypsy family (even Metro New York!), French media preferred to mention just Romanian, like yahoo.fr did. What personally upset me was this sentence:
    “Elle a aussi expliqué qu’il est traditionnel en Roumanie d’avoir des enfants très tôt ” = She (the grandmother) also explained that it is a tradition in Romania to have children at an early age.
    http://fr.news.yahoo.com/55/20110307/tod-elle-devient-grand-mre-seulement-23-17baed7.html
    Other media said: “Stanescu said marrying young and bearing children before the teen years was a common part of Romanian gypsy culture.” I wonder where did these people get the information. I can only believe that yahoo (and others) intentionally mentioned only Romania. So what ignorant people will get from yahoo is that, in Romania, all girls get pregnant at 11 or 12.

    And there is something else that upsets me: when Romanian authorities tried, years ago, to enforce the Romanian law in Gypsy communities, all human rights organizations and EU started to scream that Romania was intolerant and didn’t accept the Gypsy culture and that was outrageous.
    Meanwhile, the so called Occident has acknowledged that multiculturalism failed in Europe (să-i fie țărâna ușoară! / RIP), but Romania, with its Gypsies, has to stick with the image of a freak country.

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      1. Forgive me Rocky, but I would say that’s a fact, not a stereotype. It happens that I lived very close to Gypsy communities, for many years. I “shared” my staff with them many times so I can say that we had close contacts. The girls never tell their real age, for at least two reasons: either don’t know (sometimes patents don’t bother to keep their birth certificate or they simply don’t have one) or just to find a good catch (the younger, the better; if the girl doesn’t marry young, she has less chances to find a good husband).
        But I guess I am wrong and you are more informed about Gypsies than I am.

        p.s. There are also many good things to say about Gypsies, but it’s not the case here. And I am tired of people who, for the sake of “political correctness,” ignore essential issues.

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      2. > “But I guess I am wrong and you are more informed about Gypsies than I am.”

        I guess your guess is right.

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  3. Sam,

    You cannot get upset every time you hear about Romania being described like that. It is a stereotype that you have get used to, otherwise it will drive you crazy. Somehow, in a very twisted way, we, the Romanians leaving abroad, enjoy the look on the locals faces when we tell them that we are Romanians and they go like “Wow, but you’re so smart/cool/skilled/educated…” (whatever applies to you!). In fact, you start to get off on that, in shocking them like that. To make it even more fun, you tell them that you had to leave Romania because you were not smart/cool/… enough to live there as the competition was too tough ;)

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