In 1992, the bodies of two Roma men were found shot to death in a cornfield by the German-Polish border, after which the field suddenly went up in flames. That small, cinematic image pushed filmmaker & artist Philip Scheffner to investigate what sounded like a pulpy crime tale, but he ended up discovering a tragic story of injustice, a bungled investigation, and two Romanian families forever scarred with the loss of their beloved patriarchs.
The impact and cruelties suffered by victims of violence come through very clear, but Scheffner’s technique – re-asking and reassessing the events surrounding the murders of the migrant workers – make the film tough-going, mostly because his push for realism and real-time reactions includes often static master and medium shots – many involving interviewees listening to their audio statements after which they add missed details.
Scheffner also lingers on too many visual nuances, grinding the midsection to a deadly crawl, leaving the most arresting and outrageous details for the tighter finale. The film’s still a fresh take on the investigative crime documentary, but Scheffner’s peculiar & sometimes artistically indulgent style may lose a few viewers before the endpoint.
© 2012 Mark R. Hasan