Filmmakers Livia Ungur and Sherng-Lee Huang showcased their film “Hotel Dallas” about a woman on a journey of self-discovery in Romania with “Dallas” star Patrick Duffy.
The film was screened at ETSU’s D.P. Culp Center Auditorium on Monday night, Nov. 14, with a Q&A session with the filmmakers following the show.
“Hotel Dallas” is about a woman journeying across Romania after receiving a lottery green card to come to America. The film follows Livia and the soul of a dead man named Mr. Here, who’s based on “Dallas” character Bobby Ewing, across Romania to help get Mr. Here back home to Dallas, Texas.
“We were really interested in the whole dream level of reality and fantasy and also that specific excuse for the character to come to Romania,” said filmmaker Sherng-Lee Huang.
“As far as having the central character it was nice to have Bobby, who’s more of a blank slate. [J.R. Ewing from the original ‘Dallas’] is really the character people remember; Bobby is kind of more of a like an everyman kind of hero, and so we it was easier to sort of repurpose him to what we wanted him to do.”
The film features Romanian actors and Ungur’s parents as her character’s mom and dad. Her father also plays Romanian businessman Alexandru Ilie who had parts of the Southfork Ranch from “Dallas” recreated in Romania.
Ungur, a Romanian, grew up watching “Dallas.” It was the only show that Romania’s communist President Nicolae Ceaușescu allowed the people to watch other than the communist shows the government allowed.
“Dallas” was rumored to be not only the president’s favorite show, but also a warning about America’s capitalist society.
The film also used child actors to act out scenes from “Dallas” and certain moments in Romanian history, like what Romanian citizens might have seen had the Romanian president and his wife’s deaths been televised.
“Hotel Dallas” showed creativity, talent and promise, but somewhere along the way it became hard to follow.
It felt like the film itself was trying to tell multiple stories but did not bring all the stories full circle. In hindsight, it is sad because one of the themes is the circle of a story or life.
During the Q&A, Ungur and Huang showed the love and passion they had for filmmaking and Ungur’s story.
However, the film lost some of it’s meaning as a docufiction film.
Creating this film with the idea that some of the information included in it was fact made it hard to differentiate the difference between fact and fiction.
As the stories played out on screen, you would begin to get a sense of the meaning, and then another element to the story or depiction of the story would be shown and the meaning would slip away.
Overall, you could feel the love that the creators had for the work, message and story, but the delivery lost some of its meaning by fitting too much plot into too little time.