CIFF Review: Little Spartan!

Little Spartan Gabi 09-25-14

Little Spartan is a strange little film from first-time director Dragos-Bogdan Iuga, who also scripted. It is a film that shot over sixteen years (talk about ambitious!) as Iuga follows the life of millionaire/billionaire (both terms are used in the film) little person Gabriel Dita. Ostensibly, it is about the efforts of Gabi to make a fictionalized film of his life.

Intercut with footage from the present, are clips showing Gabi’s life and interviews with people who have somehow impacted – or been impacted by – his life. Much is made of his wealth and, in one sequence, just fired a housekeeper takes her mom on a video tour of his home with her cellphone. It’s a particularly grand home, but when we see Gabi and his brother , Razvan (Doru Catenescue) at home, there are sitting in a cramped living room and bickering over where to put the TV while Gabi works on making a puppet like the ones we see his uncle making in flashbacks.

Gabi has made his fortune by buying low and selling high – he bought the patent for something called a stableipod, for one, or promoting pigeon meat as the next big foodie craze (but is that why he collects so many pigeons? We never see him selling or cooking them…). Then there’s the dating website he started for little people to meet each other – which has apparently become very popular with pedophiles – and another website that features a video of him with two normal-sized girls.

Whatever the source of his wealth, he is wealthy to finance his pet project – that biographical film – but there parts of his life that might not be believable. In his office, there’s a trapezoidal door. An employee has seen him disappear through it and, on one occasion, managed to keep it open and recorded what he saw on his cell phone. The next time he saw the door open it was not the same.

Between the minutiae of Gabi’s life – he’s a huge fan of Dinamo Bucharest, the local football (soccer) club; he buys several pigeons a week from an open-air market; we see him at work in his office – there moments that don’t quite line up.

Iuga’s film verges on ponderous, but a sneaky sense of humor keeps it from ever becoming boring. The combination of filming techniques (cell phones, differing film stocks and digital work)give Little Spartan an authentic feel, as well.

Iuga’s final sequence might give any real sense of closure, but neither does it feel like merely the punchline to particularly perverse shaggy dog story.

Anyone who is serious about wanting to see something different owes it to themselves to check out Little Spartan. Love it or loathe it, you’ll have to admit that it is different…

Final Grade: A-