A film by Irene Lusztig

US | 2001 | 90 minutes | Color/BW | DVD | English/Romanian/French/Hebrew | Subtitled | Order No. 03782


Filmmaker Irene Lusztig unearths a dark family secret in search of answers and reconciliation in her breakthrough feature documentary, RECONSTRUCTION. In communist Romania 1959, Lusztig’s maternal grandmother, Monica Sevianu, took part in a failed bank robbery (known as the Ioanid Gang bank heist) and was condemned to life in prison. Forty years later, the filmmaker returns to Bucharest to reassemble the pieces of her shocking story and construct a portrait of her estranged and enigmatic grandmother.

The title of the documentary derives from a bizarre government propaganda film that reenacts the crime and trial of the robbery and shockingly stars the actual members of the Ioanid Gang – including Monica Sevianu. This surreal docu-drama incorporates interviews, contemporary footage shot in Bucharest and rare archival images, Lusztig reveals a mesmerizing family story spanning three generations about the subversive crime of six Jewish intellectuals, while presenting a compelling and complex examination of modern-day Romania.


“This amazing feature…should screen at film schools as an example of personal docu at its best.”

Ken Eisner Variety

"Vivid, thrilling...a film of ambition and of the best films of 2001."

Gerald Peary The Boston Phoenix

"Lusztig's version of the 'facts' unfolds as a sophisticated, poetic reflection on potraiture and historical detective work...Lusztig's film is a long-awaited gift...'Reconstruction' is a necessary 're-writing' of history."

Adina Bradeanu DOX Magazine

"Far more than a curiosity of family anecdote, the story touches on issues of ideology, racism, freedom, and love - not to mention the nature of filmmaking itself."

Peter Keough The Boston Phoenix

”…evokes powerful family relationships and the complex post-communist changes in Eastern Europe.”

Catherine Portuges Film Studies, Univ. of Massachusetts

“Multi-layered and complex…The film is of interest to those concerned with Eastern European politics and history, women in prison, and media politics.”

Barbara Mennel German & Cinema Studies, UC Berkeley


  • Vancouver International Film Festival
  • Boston International Women's Film Festival
  • Atlanta Film Festival
  • Cleveland International Film Festival
  • IDFA Amsterdam International Documentary Festival - FIPRESCI Jury Nomination
  • San Francisco International Film Festival - Certificate of Merit
  • Boston Society of Film Critics - "Rediscoveries/Discoveries" Award Boston Society of Film Critics - "Rediscoveries/Discoveries" Award
  • New England Film Festival - Best Documentary
  • Docaviv Documentary Film Festival
  • It's All True Sao Paolo Documentary Film Festival
  • Singapore International Film Festival
  • Documentary Fortnight, Museum of Modern Art, NY
  • New York Jewish Women Film Festival
  • Palic International Film Festival Serbia
  • Alpe Adria Cinema Film Festival Italy


Irene Lusztig

IRENE LUSZTIG is a feminist filmmaker, archival researcher, educator, and amateur seamstress. Her film and video work mines old images for new meanings in order to reframe, recuperate, and reanimate forgotten and neglected histories. Beginning with rigorous research in archives, her work brings historical materials into conversation with the present day, inviting viewers to contemplate questions of politics, ideology, and the production of personal, collective, and national memories. She is invested in expanding the form of artful nonfiction through her lyrical use of archival images, her commitment to listening-centered and collaborative cinematic approaches, patient durational shooting, and open-ended, associative editing where the viewer is encouraged to make connections between past and present. She is the solo director, producer, DP, and editor of three acclaimed feature length documentaries that have screened widely in festivals and are distributed by Women Make Movies: her debut film RECONSTRUCTION (2001), the feature length archival film essay THE MOTHERHOOD ARCHIVES (2013), and the performative documentary YOURS IN SISTERHOOD (2018).

Born in England and raised in Boston, Irene is a first generation American whose parents left Ceaucescu’s Romania in the late 1960s. Her work has been screened around the world, including at the Berlinale, MoMA, Film Society of Lincoln Center, Museum of Fine Arts Boston, Anthology Film Archives, Pacific Film Archive, Flaherty NYC, IDFA Amsterdam, Hot Docs, AFI Docs, BFI London Film Festival, Melbourne Film Festival, DocLisboa, and RIDM Montréal. She has been awarded fellowships from the MacDowell Colony, the Flaherty Film Seminar, the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, the Fulbright, and the Rydell Visual Arts Fellowship. She teaches filmmaking at UC Santa Cruz where she is Professor of Film and Digital Media. She is a 2021 Guggenheim Fellow. (11/21)


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