Hotel Dallas. 2016. USA/Romania. Directed by Sherng-Lee Huang, Livia Ungur. 75 min.
The lively feature debut of New York–based duo Sherng-Lee Huang and Livia Ungur transforms remnants of the cultural Cold War into a bold take on hybrid documentary and Conceptual video. In 1980s Romania, where Ungur grew up, the American series Dallas was one of the few foreign shows on the air; the Ewing family’s feuding was intended to demonstrate the corruption of American capitalism. Instead, the series’ escapist imagery captured the imagination of a generation, both during the Ceausescu regime and after the fall of the Iron Curtain. Hotel Dallas loosely charts the real story of a 1990s Romanian oligarch who fashioned himself after the series’ lead, J. R. Ewing, complete with a replica of the show’s Texan ranch that doubles as an embezzlement scheme. The narrative unfolds through archival footage, reenactments, a madcap film within a film, and the participation of Dallas star Patrick Duffy. At once slow-burning and exuberant, Hotel Dallas creates innovative cinema from personal and cultural history.