Ferentari is a run-down neighbourhood in Bucharest largely inhabited by Roma. "The closest to a ghetto you can get in contemporary Romania", according to director Ivana Mladenovic. This is where she sets her fiction feature debut, a modern Romeo and Juliet – or rather Romeo and Julio. Ferentari is not somewhere you’d expect to find an introverted academic like 40-year-old Adi. The anthropologist comes to the area soon after being dumped to study the Roma pop music, manele. Adi needs help navigating this shady, often mob-related, world and finds this in kind-hearted criminal Alberto.
As do many contemporary Romanian filmmakers, this originally Serb director plays an intriguing game with fact and fiction in her film, which is populated by amateur actors from Ferentari. Soldiers. Story from Ferentari is based on the eponymous, semi-autobiographical book by Adrian Schiop, who also plays the lead in this loose adaptation.