There are parts of the world that can seem lost in history. Rural Transylvania in Rumania is one of these places. Off the Beaten Tracks is a documentary that follows a year in the life of Albin Creta a teenaged shepherd and his family and flocks in Northern Transylvania. Life here moves more slowly, the muddy roads are full of sheep, horses and donkeys, and vehicles definitely take second place. The shepherds and their dogs take their sheep into the hills, make cheese (which they take to market on the backs of donkeys) and sell the lambs in the spring. However consumerism is beginning to take over, a large part of the film is given over to deciding which car to buy, even though almost everyone agrees that a car is no good for taking the sheep into the hills and that it isn't even a practical form of transport on the roads. Towards the end of the film, it becomes clear that the market for lambs is collapsing ('because the foreigners don't like lamb' says one character, but that doesn't explain it really, because it's the Rumanian market, that has been strong in previous years, that is seen to be collapsing). Some of the women of the family go to Germany to earn some money to keep the family together. It was therefore a bit depressing to see them come back after a short period of time in Germany having spent all their earnings on consumer luxuries and non-essential items. There seemed to be a definite disappointment amongst the menfolk about this too.
I had thought that this film was going to address some of the issues more deeply (for example the complexities of why the market for lamb has collapsed and the implications of EU membership on Rumania). However, it was definitely a more enjoyable film for concentrating on the rhythms of everyday life and the beauty of the Rumanian countryside.
I attended the press screening for this film at the Edinburgh International Film Festival. Public screenings are: 22.30, 20 June and 19.45, 21 June, both screenings are in Filmhouse 3. You can book tickets on the Edinburgh international Film Festival website here.
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