Chuck Norris Vs. Communism: The Woman Behind 5,000 Dubbed, Smuggled Tapes

February 27, 2014 | Sophie Weiner

Chuck Norris vs. Communism,documentary by Romanian filmmaker Ilinca Calugareanu, tells the story of the mysterious voice that countless Romanians heard dubbed over the illegal, black market VHS tapes they watched growing up in the USSR. The Republic that kept a very tight guard on what media was distributed to the public had overlooked the videotape. The documentary trailer shows a fascinating character study of the woman who dubbed Jaws, The Godfather 2, The Shining and more — action, horror, kung fu, etc., “Are you talkin to me?”  — over 5,000 titles in total. But you can’t see it yet. In fact, there is no release date listed on the site and the amazing trailer isn’t even embeddable, possibly due to copyright issues.

Through interviews and footage, the film brings to light the story of Irina Margareta Nistor who risked her life to translate Western films into Romanian over the course of a decade. Nistor, who worked for the public television station, was recruited by a strange wealthy man named Toader Zamfir to dub his smuggled movies and all she remembers about him really was that “He had very shiny shoes.”

“Throughout my childhood, these films provided a glimpse into the forbidden West, resplendent with blue jeans, Coke and skyscrapers. As Hollywood movies became ubiquitous through the black market, this voice became one of the most recognizable in Romania. Yet no one knew who she was,” director Calugareanu wrote in an op-ed for The New York Times last week.

Nistor’s dubbed films defined the underground culture for Romanians living under communism in the 80’s and provided a fantasy of a better world out there, a world where Chuck Norris, Sylvester Stalone or Bruce Lee always destroyed the bad guy. Let’s hope the film get released one day.