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The true story behind the film California Dreamin’ 18/01/2010

Posted by allthingsro in film, translations.
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Village station master angers minister after he stops a NATO train for two weeks

The film California Dreamin’ by the much-missed director Cristian Nemescu was inspired by a true story. Florin Patrachioiu, stationmaster in Pielesti in southern Romania stopped a NATO train loaded with military equipment for two weeks and four hours because its papers were not in order. Traian Basescu, now President of Romania, threatened Patrachioiu, saying that he would lose his job.
In 1999, during the war in the former Yugoslavia, a NATO train made up of 20 cars, 18 of which were carrying military equipment, was heading towards a military unit in Craiova in southern Romania. In the commune of Pielesti in Dolj County, stationmaster Florin Patrachioiu stopped the train for four hours because he discovered that the papers for the military convoy were not in order.
No customs stamp
“On 3 June 1999 I woke up to find a train full of Americans who were transporting military equipment for the war in Yugoslavia. Their destination was a military unit in Craiova. I looked at the papers and saw that it said international transport and that it hadn’t cleared customs. It had passed Curtis customs but it had not been stamped. I told them that the train would not move until it had been checked,” said the Pielesti stationmaster, aged 51.
Florin Patrachioiu told us that several high-ranking Romanians, including President Traian Basescu, who at that time was Transport Minister, threatened him, saying that he would lose his job if he did not let the American convoy leave.
“The Directors of Craiova Customs came to me and told me to let the train leave and that they would stamp the papers afterwards. I refused. They started to threaten me, saying that I would lose my job with the Romanian railways. That didn’t happen. I told them that if it did not have a stamp to say that it had been checked by customs, the train would not move from Pielesti,” said Florin Patrachioiu.
Seeing that Patrachioiu did not want to give the train permission to leave under any circumstances, the Craiova customs authorities put the bothersome stamp on the customs papers. After remaining stationary for four hours, the American soldiers were able to leave.
But the problems at Pielesti were not over. One month after that incident, the war was over, and the Americans needed to leave via the same forgotten station. The very same Florin Patrachioiu saw to it that the NATO transport was stationary for two weeks this time.
Customs bill: £7,000 and €20,000
“I told the Americans that they had to pay transport taxes of 371 million lei (approximately £6,800) and €20,000. They replied that they were not going to pay. I told them that if they did not pay, then they would stay here. They surrounded me. They said they would pay in instalments because they didn’t have it all. They did not leave the military unit in Craiova until they paid me the full amount because they could not go anywhere beyond Pielesti. All together it took around 14 days.
Actor Razvan Vasilescu plays Patrachioiu
In the film California Dreamin’, Florin Patrachioiu’s role is played by the actor Razvan Vasilescu. Doiaru (Vasilescu) is the stationmaster in the village of Capalnita and a local “baron” involved in all kinds of dirty business. He stops a train full of Americans heading for Kosovo and does not allow them to leave for five days because the train’s papers are not in order. The story gets complicated when Doiaru winds up everyone in the village, led by the mayor, all of whom are fans of the NATO soldiers.
Transport Minister wanted to fire him
During the second incident, when the Americans forgot to pay transport taxes, Traian Basescu himself, then Transport Minister, called Florin Patrachioiu from Bucharest. Basescu angrily threatened him that he would cancel his contract of employment if he did not give the train the green light. “He promised that he would come personally to me at the station. I waited for him calmly because I had not done anything wrong. I stayed at the station until 21:00, and, seeing as he wasn’t coming, I went home. A few days later, I was informed that I had been awarded three non-taxable months’ salary for exceptional merit,” said Patrachioiu.
President of Romania: “You’re a stickler for the law.”
By chance Florin Patrachioiu met Traian Basescu in 2003. “I saw him when he was Mayor of Bucharest. I went up to him and introduced myself. When he heard who I was, Basescu started to laugh and asked me: ‘Do you know how much trouble you gave me? I said that you were stickler for the law, and I wanted to fire you. Then I was told that you had done nothing wrong, that you were just upholding the regulations of the Romanian railways, and I left you in peace. God, I need people like you.’ Then he promised me that if he came to power, he would install a high-quality doctor’s surgery in our village. Now he is president, but he doesn’t remember what he promised me. I have not forgotten, and I’m reminding him now,” said the stationmaster.
Armand Assante plays the role of the commander
The stationmaster met director Cristian Nemescu in person. The director based his film California Dreamin’ on the events in Pielesti. “I went to the film set and I met Razvan Vasilescu, the actor who plays my part. I also spoke to Armand Assante who could not believe what I had done and repeated again and again that it was incredible. Cristian Nemescu congratulated me on my courage. I will never forget that day. When I heard that Nemescu had died, I cried, and I am a strong man. I have close friends who have died, and I didn’t shed a tear. I am very proud that the film received an award at Cannes, and I am glad that I was a source of inspiration for such a talented director.”

Article by Dana Neagu appeared in Libertatea on 3 June 2007. Translation by Daisy Waites.

Buy California Dreamin’ on Amazon.co.uk

Rent California Dreamin’ from lovefilm



1. Dan - 17/02/2010

Where in Canada can i buy this movie,i would love to get an original version,i checked on HMW site and they don’t even list it …can somebody help, please ..and thank you.

allthingsro - 18/02/2010

Hey Dan,
Sorry I can’t really advise on Canada, but amazon.com appears to stock a region 2 DVD of California Dreamin’. You’d probably need a code for your DVD player in order to watch it.

2. Tian - 23/03/2010

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