Wednesday, November 18, 2015

DOC NYC ’15: Not So Namaste (short)

Evidently the Romanian gymnastics program was still plenty brutal, even after Bela Karolyi’s defection. Of course, that should not surprise anyone, considering who was ultimately in charge. Ella Cojocaru survived the Romanian junior national team’s training regime during the waning days of Ceausescu, but only later found inner peace as an adult in the West, with a little help from the East. Cojocaru revisits the toxic gymnastics of her past and explains the healing power of yoga in Rita Baghdadi & Jeremiah Hammerling’s short but on-point Not So Namaste, which screens during this year’s DOC NYC.

Namaste could easily be much longer, leading one to wonder if it is a proof of concept production. Regardless, Cojocaru’s recollections of growing up in the years leading up to the 1989 Revolution are dramatic and valuable. At first, she had a passion for the sport, but it was literally beaten out of her. However, her mother would not let her quit, because it Olympic glory was one of the few means to a better life under the Socialist regime.

In a way, Namaste is like a short video postscript to Little Girls in Pretty Boxes. It also provides an empowering ending for a change. Cojocaru is a charismatic and forthcoming subject, while co-director Hammerling’s black-and-white cinematography gives it all a classy look. Festival programmers in particular ought to give it a try, because it could easily be coupled with sports films or Cold War Era documentaries. Recommended for both audiences, it screens tomorrow (11/19) as part of the Shorts: From There to Here block at DOC NYC 2015.