NADIA COMANECI: The Gymnast and the Dictator

Montreal Olympic Games, July 1976: an angel-faced young gymnast storms into sports legend. In front of more than 5 million astonished TV viewers, 14-year-old Nadia Comaneci becomes the first athlete in her discipline to obtain the never seen before perfect score, 10, achieving one of the greatest feats in Olympic history. The entire world is dazzled by her grace, self-control and masterly style. On both sides of the Iron Curtain, audiences are overwhelmed. 

But back in Romania things turn ugly. As Communist Dictator Nicolae Ceausescu becomes increasingly megalomaniac, the pressure on Nadia to succeed becomes unbearable, and her life and career suffer. World-famous coach Bela Karolyi eventually is forced to defect and Nadia follows 8 years later. A dramatic portrait, with elegant recreations, of the Romanian period in the life of Nadia Comaneci.

  • Pola Rapaport
    Writer of O, Family Secret, HAIR: Let the Sun Shine In, Broken Meat, Blind Light
  • Pola Rapaport
    see above
  • Dominique Tibi
  • Nadia Comaneci
    Key Cast
  • Bela Karolyi
    Key Cast
  • Wolfgang Held
    Bruno, Carrier, Sophie &The Rising Sun, Original Gangster
  • Thorsten Thielow
    Original Gangster, Fantastic Lies, Harry & Snowman
  • Yen Le Van
  • Project Type:
  • Genres:
    Sports, Politics
  • Runtime:
    56 minutes
  • Completion Date:
    June 1, 2016
  • Production Budget:
    300,000 EUR
  • Country of Origin:
  • Country of Filming:
  • Language:
  • Shooting Format:
    Digital Video
  • Aspect Ratio:
  • Film Color:
    Black & White and Color
  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
  • BCN Barcelona Sports Film Festival
    May 10, 2017
    Spanish premiere
    Special Jury Prize
  • Hamptons Take 2 Film Festival
    Sag Harbor NY
    United States
    December 3, 2016
    East Coast premiere
  • Denver Film Festival
    United States
    November 5, 2016
    USA Premiere
  • FIlms d'histoire de Pessac: Panorama du Documentaire
    November 18, 2016
Distribution Information
  • Zed Distribution
    Country: France
    Rights: All Rights
Director Biography - Pola Rapaport

POLA RAPAPORT is a writer, director, and editor of many award-winning films. Her work includes “Nadia Comaneci: The Gymnast and the Dictator”, “Subway: The Musical” (work-in-progress); “Hair: Let the Sun Shine In”; “Writer of O,” portrait of the elusive author of the erotic novel Story of O; “Family Secret,” the story of the discovery of her secret Romanian brother; “Blind Light,” doc/drama of a photographer’s peak experience in an Italian villa, starring Edie Falco; and “Broken Meat,” portrait of the mad poet Alan Granville.
She is the editor of several feature documentaries, including Lilly Rivlin’s “Heather Booth: Changing the World” and SxSW Winner “A Woman Like Me”, a film by Alex Sichel, about facing a terminal disease. Rapaport has also edited Kathy Leichter’s festival favorite “Here One Day," and the multi-award-winning “Grace Paley: Collected Shorts”, among many others.
Rapaport is a recipient of a Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship, an Emmy nominee for sound editing, and winner of numerous grants and awards. She is a graduate of NYU, and is married to DP Wolfgang Held, with whom she has often collaborated.

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Director Statement

Nadia Comaneci’s excellent autobiography, Letters to a Young Gymnast, forms the basis of the script. It gives an unusually personal and intimate view of this enigmatic character. The film covers the dramatic Romanian period of her life and career, from 1961 to 1989. So to give it life, emotion and poetry, my cinematographers and I filmed recreations of Nadia’s childhood and the years of her teens and twenties, including her remarkable gymnastic achievements.