THE CHEESEBURGER MANIFESTO

By Ted NICOLAOU

ITA ENTERTAINMENT GROUP LIMITED - as PROD / FIN

Romance - Development 2017

An American Executive smuggles a million dollars as bribe money for Romanian officials weeks after the revolution to help set up an Auto Company. Unwittingly he gets caught up in his chauffeur's dream and falls in love with his revolutionary sister. This results in hilarious conflict!

    • Year of production
    • 2017
    • Genres
    • Romance, Comedy
    • Countries
    • UNITED KINGDOM, ROMANIA
    • Languages
    • ENGLISH, ROMANIAN
    • Budget
    • 5 - 10 M$
    • Duration
    • 110 mn
    • Director(s)
    • Ted NICOLAOU
    • Writer(s)
    • Ted NICOLAOU
    • Producer(s)
    • Martyn HALL (ITA Productions Limited), Vlad PAUNESCU (Castel Studios), Robert BERNACCHI
    • Synopsis
    • This Feature Film is a fish-out-of-water romantic comedy. An arrogant young executive for an American auto company smuggles a million dollars in bribe money to Romania weeks after the revolution to grease the wheels of the post-Communist bureaucracy. Unwittingly, he gets swept up in his Romanian chauffeur’s dream of owning his own business - the first American style hamburger joint in Eastern Europe and falls in love with his chauffeur’s sister, a firebrand of the opposition party and minor hero of the revolution, who's attracted to him, but offended by everything he stands for. The secret police, suspicious of his fraternizing with dissidents, mistakenly conclude that the burger joint is a front for an American-funded anti-government party, and brand him an enemy of the people. Back home, the SEC investigates the undeclared million, and his American cohorts let him take the fall. In a comedy of errors, he goes on the run, loses the million, and ends up disguised as a peasant, fleeing for his life across the wilds of Transylvania. From Armani suits to peasant rags, from Malibu to the post-Communist Twilight Zone – he journeys light years from home to rediscover the American Dream. JAKE ROBERTS has it all, the Malibu dream house and high-powered job. However, he kisses it all goodbye the day he leaves for Romania with the million dollars his colleagues at American Eagle Motors embezzled to bribe Minister of Trade RADU RADULESCU to put them first in line to buy cheap steel and auto plants. Jake is culture-shocked by the poverty and the sinister atmosphere that permeates the city, but most of all by the utter lack of western amenities such as free toilet paper one takes for granted in a democracy. Trade Minister, Radulescu, tours him around the broken-down auto plants, introduces him to the bizarre nightlife of the still-in-power party bosses, and wines and dines him in some of the worst restaurants on the planet, all the while trying to get his hands on the baksheesh in the high-tech briefcase that's constantly cuffed to Jake's wrist. Jake's only American contact in Bucharest is PETE PETERS of the U.S. Embassy, a lonely diplomat who's been stationed here so long he's having a nervous breakdown. Jake regards Pete suspiciously as Pete warns him about the futility of doing business here and his paranoid rants about the spies who watch their every move. Jake treats his state sponsored chauffeur MIHAI condescendingly at first; but Mihai is a passionate oddball who won't shut up, a former chemical engineer with a crazy dream of opening the first American-style burger joint in Romania – a happy place that "looks like a giant cheeseburger." The problem is, he’s never tasted a cheeseburger, only seen them on the old American TV shows whose dialogue has been dubbed into Communist propaganda. He begs Jake to teach him everything he knows about the cheeseburger. Impressed by Mihai’s entrepreneurial spirit – a ray of hope in the downtrodden city – and starving for a taste of home, Jake agrees to be his cheeseburger guru. Mihai proudly drags Jake home to meet his family. In a depressing row of apartment blocs, Jake finds a household full of lively characters – Mihai's sarcastic MAMA, his sister, and extended family. Jake is instantly infatuated with Mihai's sister DIANA, a fiery revolutionary. But the more he tries to charm her, the more she busts him for his spoiled American pomposity, questions his motives for coming to Romania, and resents him for encouraging her brother’s doomed capitalistic dream. Between his chilly meetings with Radu, Jake spends his free time basking in the warmth of Mihai's poor but happy family. Suspicious of Jake's fraternizing with a known revolutionary and worried about losing the bribe money he’s been promised, Radu puts the secret police on their tail.
      Shopping with Mihai and Diana for ingredients to make a simple cheeseburger becomes a dangerous quest through the underbelly of the city's black markets. Jake grills burgers for Mihai and his extended family. When Radu and his cronies come to arrest Mihai for disobeying orders, Jake stands up to them, saving the day. Surprised by his audacity, and secretly impressed with her cheeseburger, Diana starts to thaw a little. In a moment of weakness, Jake agrees to finance Mihai’s burger joint with a portion of the auto-maker’s cash. Back in the States, the SEC launches an investigation into the missing million. Jake's cohorts finger Jake. A phone call on the tapped hotel line warns him to hang onto the money at all costs and hand it over when the embassy comes to take him into custody. Jake makes up excuses to delay paying Radu the baksheesh. Upset by Radu’s manipulations, unsettled by the constant surveillance, unnerved by the demented homesick ravings of Pete Peters, and unable to ask Mihai for the money back, Jake grows more and more paranoid. As his world crumbles around him, he's increasingly subjected to the daily humiliations of a poor Romanian. He even starts smoking cigarettes like everyone around him. He clings to his friendship with Mihai and Diana like a lifeline, rejecting the corrupt mission that brought him here, and looking for a way out of his legal nightmare. Radu finds a diagram of a cheeseburger that Jake drew for Mihai and has it analysed by State cryptologists. They misinterpret it as a coded manifesto of a revolutionary people's party whose symbol is the cheeseburger. Radu denounces Jake as an Enemy of the People. With agents of both the U.S. and Romania vying to get their hands on the money, Jake and Diana go on the run, hiding out in the family's mountain village, disguised as Transylvanian peasants. Living the simple life among hard-working peasants, Jake and Diana fall in love. Their romantic idyll comes to a screeching end when Radu and his cronies kidnap Jake and take him to a nightmarish steelworks to kill him. Fleeing for his life in a dilapidated ore-bearing gondola, swaying high over the hills on a creaky cable, he loses the money over a deep river gorge, and winds up lost in the Carpathian wilderness, dressed in peasant rags. Believing that Jake has fled the country to avoid arrest, Mihai and Diana mourn their lost friend as they move ahead with plans for the grand opening. Convinced that the opening day celebration is a smokescreen for a massive anti-government rally, Radu and his cronies call up the army and strike-breaking coal miners to terrorize the mob. Lost in the mountains, peasant Jake hitches a ride on a bus full of club-wielding miners that, unbeknown to him, are headed straight for the grand opening. In a suspenseful climax, riot troops amass before the giant cheeseburger. Jake arrives in the nick of time to head off disaster, demonstrating both the universal appeal of American junk food, and the power of television to make politicians behave. One bite of Mihai's cheeseburger nearly cures Pete of his depression. But he's here to perform a solemn duty: to put Jake on the first plane home, where he'll be taken into custody by the FBI. Jake and Diana say their last goodbyes. Their love was ill-fated from the start, since neither of them could ever bear to live in the other's country. As Jake boards the plane in handcuffs, a last minute communique from Washington gives him the opportunity to decide between his old way of life and a new beginning.
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