Aj, Rromale!

Mišto aviljan ka o Aj-Rromale! Kado blogo si pe kultura thaj nevimata le Řomenge, thaj vunivar le Phirutnenge. Na dara te de amenge vareso te arakhes, kaj interesno tumen si. Te interesnil pe kongodi te žutil amen le blogosa, phen amenge!
Welcome to Aj-Rromale, a blog about the culture and world news of Romani, and sometimes Travellers. Please, feel free to submit anything of interest that you find. If anyone is ever interested in helping to run this blog, please let us know!

Regarding the content on this website!
The images do not belong to us unless stated. All credit is given to the owner and websites linked up if we can find the information. The same goes for the news articles.

If you ever see your own work on this website and you do not want it to be shared here, please contact us and we will remove it.

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Te dikhes tire butja po kado vebsajto, thaj či mangan, ke avile kathe, te phen amenge thaj ame durjaras les.

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Gypsyland - Documentary by Martyn Bray — Kickstarter →

When we started out making this exciting documentary about the Gypsy festival in the Camargue, the gypsies, who are one of the most persecuted people in history, were once again being threatened. President Sarkozy had offered them €300 each to leave France voluntarily. Those who declined his offer had to watch while bulldozers destroyed their homes. I had already been over in France and started work on the film so I felt outraged and at the same time a great deal of compassion for the people and characters I had come to love & trust.

If like us you value freedom, self-expression in music and dance, tribal traditions and those who live in harmony with our natural resources, then please join us. Your collaboration will result in the creation of this inspiring documentary that might help change people’s perceptions of the gypsies.

While filming the pilgrimage, I became fascinated by the mysterious story of the Gypsy Saint Sarah. Following in her trail laid down by the eminent Gypsy scholar Prof Ian Hancock, I was led back through time to mediaeval India.

Kickstarter →

I can’t say I like the title much, but the subject is intriguing.

Tagged: romanigypsyfilmmediakickstarterGypsyland

Do It Romanes | Indiegogo →

Do it Romanes (Gypsy style) is about Alex, a poor teenage gypsy with incredible musical talent. Unfortunately for him, his particular gypsy tribe has a taboo against playing music for gadje (non gypsies). Throughout the story he struggles to reconcile his dreams with his cultural beliefs. The story will have humor, excitement, romance and the always powerful theme of family unity.

The film will appeal to fans of movies like MoonstruckMy Big Fat Greek Wedding, and Bend it LikeBeckham, which have a similar focus on unusual families of lesser known subcultures.

Read more and contribute here

Tagged: romanigypsymediafilm

'Gypsies' in the American Media


It is probable that National Geographic is aware that “Gypsy culture” has been a popular subject in the media recently, and it seems possible the Channel may want to feed off of this trend at the expense of the people involved despite its not-for-profit status. 

I’ve seen a few posts floating around Tumblr which suggest contacting the ACLU about the irresponsible and ignorant programming which has been airing in the US claiming to show ‘real Gypsies.’ I am not an expert in these things, but I believe you should be sending your complaints to the FCC. The ‘take action’ link should lead you to a pages where you can complain or discuss. The complaints page link to ‘broadcast’ which allows reports of ‘Unauthorized, unfair, biased, illegal broadcasts (does NOT include Obscene, Profane or Indecent material)” and that should lead you to this form.

As an American living in Europe, I have become used to seeing the constant racism Romani and Irish travellers face. I am disappointed that thanks to the popularity of ‘Gypsy Wedding’ in the UK, TLC has decided to air its own version of the show and now this racism will be exported to the United States. If that wasn’t enough the National Geographic channel has decided to air its own biased and racist programming (complete with shots of spooky fortune tellers and candles), when it was a brand that until this point I deeply respected and admired. At one point, National Geographic was responsible for excellent books such as Gypsies, Wanderers of the WorldThis is incredibly dangerous because the documentary-style filming and strength of the brand name will lead the average viewer to believe that this behaviour is typical of ‘gypsies’ and that they are now ‘informed’ about their lifestyle, traditions and customs. 

Rather than explain why I believe these shows are unfair and biased, let me share a few paragraphs from the Romani Archives: 

The only possible outcomes of airing the program are that it would provide a poor understanding of who and what the Roma are, and the knowledge that the Romani American population is not sufficiently equipped to combat racial stereotyping legally.  Furthermore, if one were to consider the making of a series presenting a family of American Jewish crooks as Jews generally, or a black street gang were presented as representing African Americans generally, there would be a massive outcry, and such projects would die aborning. The proposed American Gypsies is no different from these hypothetical, backwards, examples.  Already a proposed series on an American Muslim family has been cancelled, presumably for fear of legal backlash. 

The “Gypsies” in the British and TLC series “My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding” are not in fact Romani at all, but a white population of Irish descent.   The  definition of “Gypsy” (or “gypsy”) is already vague in people’s minds, most of whom think it is a behavior rather than an ethnicity, and National Geographic’s imprimatur will only serve to reinforce that misconception.  If the general public’s exposure to “American Gypsies” is presented under National Geographic’s trusted name, then disrespectful and inaccurate perceptions of our people will have been confirmed.

-The Romani Archives and Documentation Centre

The National Geographic Society’s mission is to “to increase and diffuse geographic knowledge while promoting the conservation of the world’s cultural, historical, and natural resources.” (Source) For decades it has been a friend to the Romani people, documenting their lives from across Europe to their ancestral home in India. A previous National Geographic magazine article observed:

In crocodile-skin cowboy boots and jeans he appears thoroughly American. “I’m afraid we don’t have campfires or wagons or bandannas, earrings, or violins,” he jokes. “We don’t steal babies or pick pockets—maybe we’re not Gypsy enough for you?” Then he gets serious. “We may look modern and adapted on the outside, but on the inside we’re pure Rom. We’re naturally secretive because we have such a long history of persecution.”

It is a shame that the National Geographic Society has turned its back on its own mission and the Romani people in pursuit of television ratings. 

Tagged: NewmediaRomanigypsy

Slavyava elder Matviy Balint

29.06.2012 repeat 02.07.2012

We are closely following how the Roma of our country live.
In our programme, we will talk about today’s Roma of the city Svalyava.

Since 1995, Matviy Oleksandrovich Balint is the elder of the Romani settlement. For three consecutive runs, he is the respected Rom and deputy for the city of Slavyava and for the council of representatives of the Romani community.

His main job is overseeing the improvement of Romani life: finding work for hard working hands, improving living standards, building houses, helping large families, and widows. The criterion for the evaluation of his work is that in the past seventeen years, no Roma were arrested for criminal activities.

History. The Romani community of Slavyava has been living in the city for 250 years. Their main trades were breeding horses, small trade, and of course, music.

In the last few years, there were big changes happening in the Romani community. A street committee was elected, and general meetings are held regularly to restore order and prevent crime. 

Tagged: filmromanigypsymediaUkraineSlavyavaMyroslav HorvatMyroslav Horváth

Source: youtube.com


Romale thaj amalale, dikhen kado blogo. Šaj te arakhen kothe but romane filmura thaj dokumentariji pa le roma ande bari luma.

Roma and friends, check out this blog. You can find there many Romani films and documentaries of Roma around the world.

Tagged: websitemediafilmromanigypsy

2nd edition of the Open-Air plenary Romani Art - International Dialogue "Jaw Dikh" project in Czarna Góra village in South of Poland (Djelem Djelem) →

Harangos Roma Educational Association invites you to the 2nd edition of the Open-Air plenary Romani Art - International Dialogue “Jaw Dikh” project in Czarna Góra village in South of Poland.

This project aims at establishing a dialogue between the Roma artists from Europe. The first edition took place in August 2011 and it’s success convinced us about the need of continuity of this initiative. In attachment you will find a publication from the event in 2011.

My name is Małgorzata Mirga-Tas, and I’m a Roma artist from Poland, initiator and coordinator of this project. Below you will find a short description of the project - main themes, aims and some of the activities planned. I will be happy to answer all your questions regarding the project. 
We are looking forward to your participation in the project. Please inform us if you would be interested in participating in this event:

01st of September till 10th of September 2012

More information →

Djelem Djelem

Tagged: newsromanigypsyartmediamuseumPolandCzarna Góra

Gypsy culture: Ceredigion and Pembrokeshire stage celebrations (BBC News) →

Ifan Jones Evans and Shan Cothi

Ifan Jones Evans and Shan Cothi will go on tour in a Gypsy caravan for an S4C TV series

The Gypsy traditions of Ceredigion and Pembrokeshire are being celebrated in a week of community events.

Music, dance and food take centre stage at the events taking place to mark Gypsy Roma and Traveller History Month.

Celebrations start on Monday in Cardigan and continue in Newcastle Emlyn, Crymych, Newport and Fishguard, finishing in Rosebush on Saturday.

TV presenters Ifan Jones Evans and Shan Cothi will tour the region in a Gypsy caravan for a nightly series on S4C.

Isaac BlakeRomani Cultural and Arts Company

Called Y Sipsiwn (The Gypsies), the programmes will examine how the Romany Gypsies have left a lasting legacy on Welsh life and history.

The events and programmes have been organised in collaboration with Isaac Blake, director of the Cardiff-based Romani Cultural and Arts Company.

"Y Sipsiwn is a contemporary series which also looks at the history of the Romany Gypsy tradition and so helps to create an awareness of the background and history as well as the situation of the community today," he said.

"It will, hopefully, balance out some of the negative media preconceptions and challenge the myths and stereotypes."

The Amigos, Lowri Evans and Radwm are among the musicians taking part in the community events, along with local food producers, poets and folk dancers.

Meanwhile in Cardiff, an event on Monday at St David’s Hall will celebrate Gypsy, Roma and Traveller culture with films, live performance, art and children’s activities.

An exhibition about the city’s Gypsy heritage is on show at the Cardiff Story museum until August.

Y Sipsiwn (The Gypsies) is on S4C from Monday to Friday, 25-29 29 June at 20:25 BST, and on Saturday 30 June at 21:00 BST.

BBC News

Tagged: newsromanigypsymediaUKWales

Hamlet in Slovakia (Cinespect) →

“Gypsy” opens on Wednesday, June 27 at Film Forum.

Running time: 100 minutes; in Romany and Slovak w/English subtitles.

The depiction of a foreign culture is inevitably complicated by an audience’s outside perspective. In most cases, it’s not quite enough for a filmmaker to present foreignness with objective accuracy, because the audience already has preexisting stereotypes and expectations of how things should be represented. However, some of the most interesting depictions of foreign cultures can juggle and conflate stereotype with reality, following the idea that, for example, most audiences imagine space aliens to have green skin and large heads. Martin Šulík’s new film “Gypsy” seems to have a constant self-awareness of Romani (gypsy) stereotypes, and aims at dissolving them—or at least portraying them fairly—with sympathetic and ambivalent characterizations. The Romani have been living in Europe since sometime around theEleventh Century, but they’ve never fully integrated, and have retained their own social and cultural identities, while remaining somewhat enigmatic and distinctly foreign to most of the people they live amongst.

Rather than becoming a strict documentary of Roma life, “Gypsy” takes on the mood of a Shakespearean tragedy—but set in a Slovak village that’s decorated with rusted cars, stray dogs, and shanty houses. Within the first ten minutes, the father of fourteen-year-old Adam (Jan Mizigar) turns up dead; his mother remarries her dead husband’s brother, a sleazy thug named Zigo (Miroslav Gulyas); and Adam begins receiving visits from the ghost of his father, who somewhat vaguely suggests that Zigo was his murderer. Šulík applies the great lesson of neorealism—that the best way to depict the struggles of a people is by depicting the struggles of one person at a time. (And on another note, Šulík also used nonprofessional Roma actors.) The rest of the film is largely about the irresolvable conflicts surrounding Adam, who becomes a sort of cipher for all of the struggles of the Romani in general. Adam likes boxing, likes spending time with his neighbor girlfriend Julka (Martina Kotlarova), and seems to want a better life for himself. He is thoughtful and impressionable, and all of the other characters see this in him—as a sort of blank slate that they can help, train, use, or influence. Zigo, the loan shark and petty criminal stepfather, wants to makes Adam his apprentice; the parish priest and boxing instructor (who’s perfectly epitomized in a shot of his office wall, on which hangs a picture of the pope next to a photo of Mohammed Ali) wants to save Adam by finding him a job and keeping him from stealing; a well-meaning ethnomusicologist visits the village, befriends Adam, and tries to convince him to enroll in engineering school on a scholarship; and the ghost of his father advises him on how to live an honorable life, but also vaguely suggests that he should avenge his death by murdering Zigo. Faced with this overwhelming confluence of choices and influences, which are all seemingly incompatible with one another, Adam stoically runs from one obligation to the next, unsure of whom to trust, and building up to the film’s implicit statement of “you wouldn’t know what to do either.”

Alongside Adam’s desperate need to choose how to live, most of the other Romani from the village want their lives to be different, too—from a nameless youth who’s kicked out of boxing training for sniffing glue, to a Roma that wants to move to England so that he might be mistaken for a Pakistani. In the end, the film doesn’t really pass judgments or suggest easy solutions. Even Zigo, who’s more or less the villain of the story, seems to be justified—at least partially—in his petty crimes, as a sort of Roma martyr who personifies the “us versus them” attitude. At times, the sheer density of these sympathetic yet tragic portraits is pretty overwhelming—something like being in small room crowded with too many interesting people. But by characterizing the Romani with stark, sympathetic contrasts—as both thieves and victims, pariahs and martyrs—and by trying to give each person unique and ambivalent motivations, “Gypsy” offers a complex and fascinating portrait of Romani life.


Tagged: newsromanigypsymediaSlovakia



National Geographic’s new series “American Gypsies” features a family struggling with internal dynamics, cultural differences, and the effects of the outside world.

Beyond the superficial portrayal of the Gypsy people is a rich cultural heritage that has survived because of the generational secrecy and transience of Gypsies.  This series takes viewers inside sacred traditions and customs that have survived for thousands of years, but never before been witnessed by non-Gyspies, and explains how the modern day gypsy co-exists with the modern world.”

These Gypsies are the Johns family, one of Manhattan’s most prominent Gypsy families. The series comes to us from executive producer Ralph Macchio and Emmy Award winning Stick Figure Productions.

National Geographic cameras document the family’s efforts to preserve age old Gypsy custom as they try to keep their power in their community. Nat Geo goes inside the Gypsy culture in America for the first time.

At the last Television Critics’ Association meeting, Monsters and Critics spoke to Ralph to find out how he crossed paths with the Johns.

“A good friend, Peter Lapara’s son and his friend Andrew are film students in graduate school, working on a documentary on the Johns family, and they showed me the early stage footage of Gypsy weddings and a court hearing in their Gypsy culture.  It was all fascinating and the personalities were just popping off the screen. And all here in New York City.  Steve Cantor, Stick Figure, and I had another project that we were working on at the time, developing, and I thought that they were the perfect match for this docu-series. Everyone felt this story needed to be told, and we began shaping it, and, fortunately, for us, Nat Geo fully embraced and as excited as we are.”

While on panel at the TCA’s. American Gypsy Nicky Johns talked about perceived image.

“That’s why we’re here, because our image…people don’t know about it. And like Ralph said earlier, what he was saying, we’re characters. We’re not characters. We’re far from that. I’m not playing somebody. I’m not playing a Gypsy. I am who I am. I’m not playing Nick. I really am Nick. This is my brother. This is my family. This is who we are. The word Gypsy is in the dictionary. It’s when we looked it up and everybody looks it up, it comes up as a gypsy moth. I’m not a gypsy moth. Do I look like a moth to you guys? My brother, my family, we’re not bugs. So the thing is this. This is our family. Every other movie you guys seen or heard about the Gypsy people, we’re not Gypsy. We’re Roma. That’s what we are. The word Gypsy derives from Egyptians or something like that. We adopted that.

His brother Bobby clarified the Roma remark: “We call ourselves Roma. Other people, on Romas call us Gypsies. That’s the way you’re familiar with who we are. We’re Roma. That’s what we call ourselves. We’re Gypsies, but that’s a word that was put on us, that nobody ever really understood us, who we are.”

Nicky shared his view on ‘gypsy’:  “The word Gypsies is a racial epithet to us. We’re Roma.”

The series comes Tuesday, July 17 9PM

Meet Bobby Johns: your average middle-aged businessman.  He’s got respect on the street, connections in the community and is always looking for money-making opportunities.  He’s also a Gypsy.  Add a psychic mother.  An ailing father.  A hot-headed younger brother vying for power.  A missing wife.  A daughter dreaming of acting.  A nephew dating a rival Gypsy family’s daughter.  A son ready to take on the psychic shop business.  These days, it’s getting tougher and tougher to make a fortune in the fortune-telling business. See the Show Open here. and the Trailer here.

American Gypsies, premiering July 17, 2012 at 9 pm EST/PST on National Geographic Channel gives an intimate portrayal of an extended family steeped in honor, living by their own rules and traditions, and trying to realize their version of the American dream.  Compelling and colorful, passionate in their beliefs, strong-minded in their decisions, respectful of family and tradition, the Johns family demystifies Rom culture as we are given the&nbspopportunity to share in the drama of their everyday lives







Tagged: RromaRomaRomaniRomnaichalUSNational Geographic ChannelNO NO NO NONOT AGAINmedia

Legendary Roma Gypsy poet set for silver screen →

Filming is under way on a biopic of Papusza, the legendary post-war Gypsy poet who was rejected by the Roma community after being lauded by Poland’s literary elite.

Veteran film-maker Krzysztof Krauze, who describes the project as “an epic story,” has cast amateur Roma actors for the film.

“They are fantastic actors,” he told Polish Radio.

“They are very friendly, full of life and open-minded,” he enthused.

“We tried to treat the Gypsies as a nation in this film, and not as just a source of colourful folklore,” he added.

The drama will move between the poet’s birth in 1910 to her husband’s death in 1970.

“We will show pogroms, war, forced settlements, and harassments by the police,” Krauze revealed.

“Such a tale about the Gypsies has never been told before,” he said.

Papusza (Bronislawa Wajs-Papusza) was discovered by writer Jerzy Ficowski, who spent time living among the Roma following World War II.

As a veteran of the official WWII Polish underground army, Ficowski was at risk of arrest by the communist authorities, and between 1948 and 1950 he travelled with the Roma.

Ficowski is being played by Polish actor Antoni Pawlicki in the film, while celebrated poet Julian Tuwim, who helped promote Papusza, is being acted by Andrzej Walden.


Tagged: newsromanigypsymediaPolandpoetPapusza



Click Here to Sign the Petition 

For hundreds of years Romani have suffered racism and prejudice because of the way we were stereotyped. A lot of hard work has went into changing people’s view of us around the world. This is being destroyed along with the reputations of our people. The Television Show “My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding” promises a look into the “Gypsy” lifestyle. What they are really doing is showing a small group of Irish Travellers and then passing them off as “Gypsies”. There are many lies that are being peddled to the viewers as facts so that the show’s producers can make a buck. But they are doing it at OUR EXPENSE.

One of the many lies shows a supposed “Gypsy” tradition called Grabbing, where boys basically assault young girls in order to steal a kiss. You know we don’t do this. Its insulting to Romanies and Irish Travellers alike that this show throws us into a pile with no respect to who we really are. We have been severely damaged by the way this show spins “Gypsies” into a Jerry Springer Show. Our people are being depicted as trailer trash, alcoholics and thieves which is causing even more hatred and more suspicion in the Romani and Traveller communities.Do not participate in the negative portrayal of the Roma by participating in this documentary. These people are sharks who will use and abuse you and your family. They are soliciting our kids on Facebook already. They’ve contacted my daughter, my sisters and other members of my family. Chances are they are trying to contact your chavies too.

Do not trust them!A show like this can make MILLIONS of dollars per season and will expose the way that you live and how you do business. They would pay you what amounts to peanuts. We have read dozens of reports from other Travellers and Romani in the United Kingdom about how our children are now the subject of even more abuse and are being bullied because of the lies produced in this show.

Take Action Now!

A potential class action lawsuit may be filed against the My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding to show these greedy outfits that we’re not going to take this laying down. All Roma, Romanichals and Travellers need to join the fight by filling out this petition. Just click on the clipboard to be taken immediately to the petition. We appreciate your support!


Tagged: petitionmediaromanigypsyMy Big Fat Gypsy WeddingromanichalTravellersPavee

Source: romanichal.net

RomaReact.org →

RomaReact is about us. We are people - both Roma and non-Roma - who want to shape the public debate on Roma inclusion. We want our voices to be heard. We are connecting through RomaReact,  an interactive multimedia mapping platform that allows us to share everyday Roma realities and to  challenge the stereotypes and prejudices that Roma face. Through RomaReact we want to build a global online community seeking social change and justice.

 Our idea is to use RomaReact as a digital space to mobilize even more young people to actively participate in society and become agents in their own lives as well as equal and respected citizens. Through this website we want also to present a positive image of Roma by sharing the culture, fun and real stories of real people. We want to promote Romani people as integral to our countries, as well as promote the sense of responsibility for the contribution to a fair and equal society each of us makes as an individual.

 RomaReact is built on the experiences of the ERGO Network and its members and friends, who focus primarily on Roma grassroots empowerment and mobilization.Together, we can promote our activities and events and we are looking forward to yours! 

Visit RomaReact.org for more information.

Tagged: websitemediaromanigypsy

Czech Republic: TV Nova rejects allegations of anti-Romani campaign, offers "dialogue" →

Commercial broadcaster TV Nova has responded to a press release issued by the civil society members of the Czech Government Inter-ministerial Commission for Roma Community Affairs, rejecting allegations that the station is intentionally conducting an anti-Romani campaign. “We thoroughly reject those charges as groundless. We also protest the generalizations made about TV Nova in that statement,” Lubor Černohlávek, director of communications and public relations at TV Nova, said in a press release sent to news server Romea.cz.

The civil society members of the Inter-ministerial Commission issued their own thorough protest on Monday against the way in which some Czech media outlets have been reporting on criminal activities either actually or allegedly committed by Romani people. The civil society members of the “Romani Commission” called on the editors-in-chief of Czech periodicals and television stations to uphold the ethical codex for journalists and to only report information in the news when it has been properly verified.

The press release also recalled the recent reporting performed by Ivan Berka of TV Nova about an incident in which three Romani men were alleged to have assaulted a girl, slicing her with a knife and demanding cash and food from her. That incident was later proven to have been completely fabricated.

"The news desk of TV Nova is governed by strict ethical rules, which include, among other things, the responsibility to verify information. When the material in evidence and the Police subsequently determine that the original suspect, irrespective of whether he is Romani or not, is a suspect no longer, naturally our practice is to correct the information. This was done, for example, in the case you mentioned of the girl who was cut. The next day, at the moment when the facts were published proving the girl had invented the story of the assault, we published an apology and corrected the record," Černohlávek told news server Romea.cz.

Civil society members of the commission also called on the Council for Radio and Television Broadcasting “to address the completely intentional campaign conducted by TV NOVA, which is influencing the racist atmosphere in the Czech Republic in a completely fundamental way.” Černohlávek responded to that as follows: “Should specific complaints be filed, we will concern ourselves with them and we are open to dialogue. However, at this moment, your side has provided no concrete evidence of a concrete ‘intentional campaign conducted by TV NOVA, which is influencing the racist atmosphere in the Czech Republic in a completely fundamental way.’ That is to say, in the future we welcome direct communication instead of the publishing of press releases which do not include any concrete commentaries or grounded complaints.”

Patrik Banga, a civil society member of the commission, told news server Romea.cz that “At the current moment we are putting a complaint together to send to the Council for Radio and Television Broadcasting. It will include concrete points. At the same time, we are glad TV Nova is offering room for dialogue.”

"After reviewing the complaint, we will analyze the broadcasts concerned. If we determine the complaint is justified, we will initiate an administrative proceedings," Kateřina Kalistová, chair of the Council for Radio and Television Broadcasting, told the on-line daily TÝDEN.CZ.


Tagged: newsromanigypsyCzech RepublicTV Novamedia

Romani filmmakers establish International Romani Film Commission →

Romani documentary filmmaker Katalin Bársony, far right with microphone, and other panelists in Berlin this February.

Who are we, how many of us are there, and how can we help one another? Those were the basic questions intensively covered by the world’s most famous Romani filmmakers during two days of discussion in February. The filmmakers were invited to the Hungarian Cultural Institute in Berlin (Collegium Hungaricum Berlin) to attend the Cinema Total 5 festival.

What does the Collegium Hungaricum have in common with world-renowned Romani filmmakers? At first glance it seems a bit of an odd combination. The connection would evidently never have been made without the Hungarian director and screenwriter Katalin Gödrös. As she herself has said, one year ago she asked herself the question: What is the difference between films about Romani people produced by non-Romani people and the films created by Romani people themselves? She received support for this topic one year later, partially thanks to serendipity - the Cinema Total 5 festival was being held at the same time as the biggest film festival in Berlin, the Berlinale. Hungarian director Bence Fliegauf was presenting his film “Csak a szél” (Just the Wind) there, which was inspired by a series of eight murders that took place within a single Romani family. The director of Collegium Hungaricum remembered Katalin Gödrös’s idea and asked her to organize a meeting of Romani filmmakers during this year’s Cinema Total 5 festival.

The director’s request fell on fertile ground and the “secret plan”, contrived at a meeting two weeks prior to the start of the festival, ended up significantly exceeding the framework of just a single panel discussion. On Tuesday, 14 February 2012, the most significant Romani filmmakers from all over Europe met for the first time publicly. Seated next to one another on the podium were Katalin Bársony, the Romani activist, director and executive director of the nonprofit Romedia Foundation in Hungary; Sami Mustafa, a director from Kosovo who also leads the Romani film organization Romawood and is the artistic director of the Romani “Rolling Film Festival” in Prishtina; Lidija Mirković, an activist and director originally from Serbia, now living in Germany, who founded the Haymatfilm initiative; and Damian James Le Bas, an actor, author, filmmaker and journalist from Great Britain who is the Editor-in-Chief of the quarterly “Travellers’ Times”. That is how the four participants in the panel discussion were introduced - but one chair remained empty at the center of the podium.

Everyone was expecting that evening’s guest of honor, the French actor, composer, director and screenwriter Tony Gatlif. Anticipation was rising. First, viewers were given the opportunity to sample his most recent film creation, “Indignados”. On the wall behind the podium, clips from Athens, Paris and Madrid show hundreds and thousands of angry young people calling for greater freedom and justice for all. The footage cuts to a young woman in wet clothing, probably from Africa, running out of the sea after having made it to the coast of Greece. We then see hundreds of people’s heads and hands gesturing to the sky. The screen is filled with slogans such as “No one is illegal” and “The people united will never be divided”. Then we cut to the young immigrant standing on the corner of a square full of demonstrators. A small slowly forms on her lips. The viewers’ faces reflect how thrilled they are. Tony Gatlif enters to thunderous applause. The discussion, entitled “Seeking Roma Film Makers!”, can now begin.

Tony Gatlif speaks jovially, sometimes cracking jokes, but the honor and respect felt for this recognized filmmaker is palpable. During the hour-long discussion, abstract topics are raised, such as that of a homeland and the desire to belong, as well as purely pragmatic questions, such as how to present a film about Romani people to viewers while preventing the repetition and further dissemination of a wide range of prevalent prejudices. However, the greatest surprise comes just before Gatlif must leave the discussion and appear at the Berlinale. Katalin Gödrös steps before the podium and asks the key question: “Mr Gatlif, we intend to establish an International Romani Film Commission. Do you support that?” No one moves but the interpreter seated next to the French film celebrity, whispering into his ear. “Naturally! I’ll sign anything you do and write!” is Gatlif’s response. The other filmmakers exhale and look at one another encouragingly. Even though the audience has learned of this commission for the first time, they spontaneously applaud. Gatlif leaves. The first part of the evening has come to a successful conclusion.

During the second part of the discussion, talk turns to the options for financing Romani films. Two opinions clash on the podium: Some are persuaded that it is not possible for Romani films to break into the world of mainstream film and the film industry, while others claim such a breakthrough is possible with the right amount of effort. Katalin Bársony, for example, sees enormous possibilities in the Arabian and Asian markets, where she says Romani topics are currently being examined. Her most recent film, entitled “Uprooted”, was selected along with six others out of 50 000 entries to run at the Al-Jazeera International Documentary Film Festival in Doha, Qatar. Bársony sees this both as an enormous appreciation of her work and as an effort to politically exploit her film to draw attention to human rights violations in Europe. She says the states of the Middle East are making it clear that European countries should first get their own houses in order before criticizing others. Her words are confirmed by Lidija Mirković: “Al-Jazeera is producing the best films about Romani people in the world at this moment”.

The question of financing film productions became key during the discussion of the future Romani film commission. All of the Romani filmmakers met immediately the next morning, literally locking themselves into the modern conference room of the Collegium Hungaricum. They did not leave the room until they had agreed on the basic wording of the declaration that establishes the future International Romani Film Commission. However, just before 7, when the declaration was to be ceremonially presented to the festival audience, a rather boisterous and dramatic clash took place. Until the last minute, the question had escaped everyone’s attention as to whether the longtime coworker of Damian James Le Bas, who had participated in many preparatory meetings and who had also assisted in drafting the declaration, should also sign it, as he was the only member of the group who was not technically considered Romani.

A basic conflict then erupted between those who advocated the opinion that everyone interested in the commission should be included and those who did their best to maintain the commission as the purely Romani representatives of Romani filmmakers. Just before the ceremonial announcement of the declaration, the conflict went so far that it threatened to undo all previous efforts. There was the risk that the entire project might collapse. The entire group, in spite of themselves and with visible exhaustion on all of their faces, sat down at the same table once again and entered into another long discussion. In the end, the original version of the declaration was adopted. The filmmakers decided for the more open version of the commission. The declaration itself says that within the commission, decision-making rights will be ensured for Romani people because its various sections will be predominantly staffed by Romani members.

Despite this somewhat turbulent ending to a day of work and more than an hour of final discussion, all of the filmmakers were very optimistic and satisfied with the declaration that evening. Their expectations have produced not only expansive hopes, but also a great number of tasks for the International Romani Film Commission to complete. Damian James Le Bas primarily criticized the current state of affairs, wherein Romani people do not have their own representatives in the film industry and are represented by the voices of others, by non-Romani film directors and screenwriters. Besides changes to this state of affairs, he said he expected the future commission to help Romani film artists finance their works. He said many Romani people do not know how to connect with financial institutions or how to even start, because financial support mostly goes to people who already have good contacts with producers. He also said he had made his most recent short film, “Rokkerenna”, for only EUR 36 - and EUR 30 of that was for gas. Le Bas said that for him and for short works, low-budget productions are fine, but not everyone can work that way and large, significant projects cannot be produced that way.

Katalin Bársony spoke of very similar aims. She said she hoped that one day Romani people would be speaking for themselves through film. Lidija Marković’s great wish is for the commission to assist talented, well-educated Romani people to stop being ashamed of their Romani origins and publicly identify themselves as Romani. She claimed that when she started to focus on Romani topics 20 years ago, there were not as many Romani professionals around as there are today and that now is the time for them to stop concealing their identity, because their potential can only really be made use of if they embrace their identity.

Sami Mustafa said he sees the Romani film commission primarily as a way to assist beginning young filmmakers, a platform for transferring experience and knowledge to them. He is also optimistic: “Five years ago, there was only Tony Gatlif. Today there are five of us making documentary films. Who knows how many Romani people in future will find the courage to overcome all of the everyday obstacles and set off into the dangerous enterprise of filmmaking?”

There is nothing for it but to wish a great deal of courage not only to budding filmmakers, but also to everyone who has taken up the task of creating the International Romani Film Commission. This task will certainly require a great deal of effort and energy.

The aim of the International Romani Film Commission is to make it possible for a larger number of Romani filmmakers to realize their projects and to create greater recognition for such professional filmmakers in the various states in which they live and worldwide. The tasks of the International Romani Film Commission will include the following: Selecting professional Romani film creators for support and creating ties between them; guaranteeing a fully independent process for the Commission’s decision-making processes by making sure it is financed from three separate sources; providing advice, backing, encouragement and support for Romani filmmakers in all aspects of audiovisual and film production; lobbying mainstream filmmaker platforms to include Romani filmmakers on them; lobbying for better recognition of Romani figures on national and international film commissions and film fora for the purposes of increasing their chances of receiving mainstream financial support; creation of an International Romani Filmmakers Association.

Tagged: newsromanigypsymediaHungarianBerlinGermanyKatalin Bársony

Commentary: What the Czech media won't print about Romani people (or what Právo refused to publish) →

The following commentary by the director of the Czech Government Agency for Social Inclusion in Romani Localities, Martin Šimáček, was originally meant to be published by the daily Právo. In this piece, Šimáček responds to an article authored by an editor at the paper, Jindřich Ginter, entitled “Even wealthy Romani families abuse welfare” (Sociální dávky zneužívají i majetné romské rodiny, available in Czech only at http://www.novinky.cz/finance/264171-socialni-davky-zneuzivaji-i-majetne-romske-rodiny.html). Even though representatives of the Editor-in-Chief of Právo asked Šimáček to write this commentary after receiving critical responses to Ginter’s article, the daily refused to publish it after two weeks of communication back and forth. News server Romea.cz is therefore publishing it here in full translation:

The social tensions we witnessed last summer and fall in relation to the events in Šluknov district seem to be furtively returning to the towns concerned and onto the pages of our newspapers. The dissatisfaction of the population with the social situation, their annoyance with crime, and their perception that social norms are being violated are once again breathing new life into ethnic intolerance.

In this situation, exceptional responsibility is borne not only by the Government and by representatives of regions and municipalities to try to find solutions to the problems that people are so fired up over. Such responsibility is also borne by journalists. They should be reporting in detail on the causes and circumstances of these events and reflecting on the current atmosphere in society. The way in which they perform their work has an enormous impact on society. If a journalist skimps on that work and just rides a wave of unconfirmed reports, whispers and myths, rising intolerance is often the only result. Combined with the principle of collective blame, such intolerance can never lead to any civilized solution to these problems.

Unfortunately, the article by Jindřich Ginter entitled “Even wealthy Romani families abuse welfare” is an example of such irresponsible work. This piece was published in the daily Právo and on its affiliated online news server, Novinky.cz. Without any proper citations or verification of sources, using general references to “the population of Ústí nad Labem”, this piece places collective blame on all Romani people for illegal behavior. Other half-truths are added to the mix, while the most serious phenomena are not addressed at all. What are the most serious phenomena?

During the 22 years of freedom during which people residing in excluded localities (the vast majority of whom are Romani) became almost completely unemployed, a system has developed in the Czech Republic which can be termed “leeching off of poverty”. Indebted families at the bottom of society are not only mistreated by loan sharks and members of the drug mafia. Various residential hotels - both municipally owned and privately owned - contribute their share of mistreatment through their half-legal and illegal practices. The owners of these properties pull money out of the welfare system directly, through the so-called “special recipient of benefit” mechanism, which means tenants’ housing benefits go directly to landlords’ bank accounts. Various sellers of telephones offering supposedly advantageous rates, pseudo-bankers offering quick loans anywhere and everywhere, and other con artists who can get people unschooled in the law to sign basically anything all form an integral component of this system. They are followed by the hordes of collections agents whose processing fees exceed the original debt owed many times over.

The business of poverty is sometimes absurd. Officials in some places, for example, allocate a benefit of immediate financial assistance to secure housing for a client who, “in exchange”, leaves the officials’ town to reside in the next one over. The client uses the money as a security deposit at a residential hotel and “the town is cleansed of inadaptables”.

If an official has even the slightest suspicion that a benefit is being misused (i.e., used for a purpose other than the one for which it was awarded, or that it was requested improperly) that official must perform an investigation through an administrative proceedings and immediately recoup the money should the case justify it. Officials are not, however, supposed to make anonymous reports to the media about such occurrences.

Today the alarm is being sounded most often about the “misuse” of aid to those in material distress. Such benefits comprise only 0.4 % of the state budget and the disbursal of them is usually well-controlled. While it cannot be entirely ruled out that they might be misused, this is not a mass phenomenon. Experts estimate that misuse costs between hundreds of thousands to several million crowns annually. Such cases may turn up in the field, but the information published in Mr Ginter’s article - that Romani people are making money through committing incest - is so comical as to be absurd. I do believe such a thing may have happened somewhere at some time, but has it happened so often that it can be considered an institutionalized practice?

Poverty certainly does turn people into wolves. The second post-1989 generation of Romani people from the ghettos (today’s 20-somethings) never learned from their parents what it is like to make a living through legal work. Often the only work available to them is work under the table - and how many entrepreneurs take advantage of that! The survival strategies of these permanently excluded people are diverging further and further from majority norms, and some youths are annoying those around them, primarily through the petty crime committed by pickpockets and other gangs. However, these are individual crimes that should be investigated and tried without the suspects also being subjected to unnecessary, ethnically-focused lynching by the media. Such campaigns just fan the flames of a social conflict which is otherwise resolvable through reasonable social inclusion policies.

Anyone writing about the mechanisms of poverty must do the work of investigating the field from top to bottom. One cannot be satisfied with anonymously “guaranteed” information, myths and rumors. One has to know about and also write about the criminal practices connected to radical poverty. Not all Romani people will come out of such an investigation with a clean shield. Loan sharks definitely won’t, and neither will those who don’t want to work. However, the barroom tittle-tattle that makes out all Romani people in the Czech Republic to be burglars and sharks would eventually cease to be considered valid.

If journalists want to contribute toward resolving this situation, which is proving so corrosive to the Czech Republic, i.e., the coexistence of Romani people from the excluded localities with the majority society (primarily with those living near excluded localities, who often have long suffered the ramifications of that coexistence), then they should take a deeper interest in the work done by the Agency for Social Inclusion (where I work), in the workd done by the mayors of towns, by the ministries, by non-profit organizations and regional governments. The press should perform a serious evaluation of the work all of these actors are undertaking in the public sphere.


Tagged: newsromanigypsymediaCzech Republic