It is almost impossible to believe that in THIS century, we humans allow our children to get different educations on the basis of race. Sadly, equal education for Roma is rare in several Eastern European countries. OUR SCHOOL is a film about this by Mona Nicoara. And here is an inspiring Hungarian campaign for inclusive education:
Skye: It is not enough to know or remember the Roma Holocaust occurred- the circumstances that led to such an act, the subsequent forgetting, and persistent bias against the Roma which continues to this day need to be confronted in order to change the harsh reality many Romani communities endure.
"Two independent United Nations human rights experts issued a call on August 2 2012, Roma Holocaust Remembrance Day, to all countries, particularly those with Roma communities, to confront modern-day hatred, violence and discrimination against this group and find solutions to their persistent exclusion.
United Nations Independent Expert on minority issues, Rita Izsák, who is herself of Hungarian Roma origin, said that not enough was being done to challenge “a rising tide of hostility and discrimination against Roma in Europe that shames societies”.
“Genocide in Europe began by dehumanizing the other, blaming them for the problems of society, ridiculing their differences, excluding them and surrounding them within the walls of a ghetto, labelling them as evil, filthy and unworthy of the rights and opportunities afforded to others. Today in much of Europe, nearly 70 years after the Holocaust, many Roma experience all of the above on a daily basis,” Izsák said."
For more: http://sofiaglobe.com/2012/08/03/un-human-rights-experts-call-on-countries-to-confront-hatred-violence-and-discrimination-against-roma/
To read the report: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=12401&LangID=E
Skye: I know many are following the Olympic Games in London, and that is a wonderful pause with all the madness going on in the world, but today is August 2nd, the first of two days of Remembrance for those Roma who perished at Auschwitz-Birkenau sixty-two years ago. Here is an article about a young Roma who intend not only to ensure the world does not forget, but work to empower their future with their advocacy.
"On the Day of Commemoration of the Roma Genocide on August 2, ternYpe International Roma Youth Network calls for a European wide political recognition of the persecution and genocide of Roma and Sinti in Europe by the Nazi regime, and for a greater awareness in our societies of the danger of antigypsyism, hate speech and stigmatization, which continuously cause social exclusion and marginalization of Roma in most European countries..."
To read more: http://romayouth.com/august-2nd-commemoration-day-roma-genocide
"The US reality show is likely to turn ignorance about Roma people into all-out prejudice. It is time for more thoughtful TV" Reality shows feed on stereotypes and disdain for tribes other than one s own. Most people in the US know of Jersey Shore, which generated a debate around the representation of Italian-Americans on television. There are many more like it: The Littlest Groom (which plays on stereotypes about little people), My Big Fat Obnoxious Fiancé (overweight people) and, yes, the unfortunately and descriptively titled Black Mafia Family Wives.
Skye: I was sent this as a glimmer of hope against the tide of racism, resentment, misunderstanding, and fear. "It seems unlikely but Berlin, the very city where the genocide of the Roma (Gypsy) peoples was planned 70 years ago, has become the city where they now find refuge.
In the suburb of Neukoelln, a large complex of run-down apartments is being done up to become comfortable homes for more than 100 families from a dirt-poor village near Bucharest in Romania.
Where the Nazis planned the mass murder of Roma, modern Germans plan comfort and acceptance..."
Skye: Reading this shocked me into a new appreciation of why it is not enough to say "Never again", build a museum, memorial or centre, lay a wreath and shed tears: the Holocaust did not begin with an act, but in the mind, in thoughts, ideas which seethed in circumstances not so unlike our current time- massive unemployment, economic instability, and a rising intolerance of whomever is perceived to be the "other", and therefore a threat. Yes, the past must not be forgotten, but in the form of vigilance against whatever new guise racism and its accompanying hatred may take- and new group targeted.
"Officials in Hungary united this week to condemn ongoing ethnic violence and anti-Semitic attacks, including an assault on the former Chief Rabbi on 5 June. But a cause for further soul-searching has emerged: a scientific scandal recalling discredited notions of racial purity.
Hungary’s Medical Research Council (ETT), which advises the government on health policy, has asked public prosecutors to investigate a genetic-diagnostic company that certified that a member of parliament did not have Roma or Jewish heritage.
Skye: I was aware of the August 2nd massacre of the Roma at Birkenau in 1944, but did not realise this event was preceded by another attempt two months earlier. This essay from 2008 by Roberto Malini (La Voix des Rroms) gives an insight on what happened.
"On May 16th, 1944 four thousand Roma imprisoned in the “zigeunerlager” in Auschwitz decided to stand up to their murderers who according to programme had come to get them to lead them to the gas chambers. The most powerful and well-organized machine of oppression and death of all time found itself before human beings reduced to a pitiful state – swarms of children all skin and bone and barefoot women and men. It wasn’t only the men who decided not to bow their heads to these butchers in uniform; the scrawny hands of children and women picked up stones, bricks, iron rods and rudimentary blades and all together the Roma of Auschwitz cried “No! We will not give you our children to force through your chimneys. Your doctors have tortured so many of them already while experimenting their monstrous science. The children’s screams rose high into the air, higher than the dense smoke issuing from the crematoriums, higher than our prayers..."
The full essay. http://www.romabuzzmonitor.net/2012/05/let-us-take-up-the-legacy-of-the-gypsy-heroes-of-may-16th-1944/
skye: I came across this and found it an interesting perspective.
"...The relationship of the Roma and the media might be the most complicated one among all minorities, characterised by prejudices and stereotypes. This stereotype has two forms in media. The Roma are being perceived as: a) a problem B) victims
a) On the one hand, there is information based a priori on prejudices–the Roma as a problem. Journalists write what they think is right, what the majority expects from them...
B) The other pole is the “attempt to help”, that means the perception of the Roma as victims... Here a specific interest... plays its role in order to get further resources in form of grants, positions in various institutions, etc.
The source of information usually is not the field, the real life in the communities, but activists... In front of the donors, they try to present information which they regard as important, and often they present information that is their story, as objective information...."
Roma Press Agency: full article. http://www.mecem.sk/rpa/?id=media&lang=english&show=22173
Skye: This April 8th, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton issued a press release. In years past, she has attended events and spoken in favor of better conditions for the Romani people, and so it is a spark of hope to see her continue to show her support.
"On behalf of President Obama and the people of the United States, I want to send best wishes to all Roma as they mark International Roma Day. Today we celebrate the history, impact and culture of Romani people. From music and art to science and literature, Romani people have contributed in ways large and small to the fabric of countless societies.
But too often and in too many places, they are forced to live on the margins. They are segregated, beaten, and systematically discriminated against. They are denied access to an education and to jobs. Despite a decade of progress, during this global economic downturn incidents of anti-Roma rhetoric and violence are on the rise..."
Roma around the world celebrate this day in tribute of the first World Roma Congress held in Orphington, near London in 1971.
Since 1971, decisions of the World Roma Congress largely shaped our struggle for dignity. Ever since, a moral high ground enshrined in those decisions elevates our determination to the cause. They present a transnational political code for future generations of the Roma people.
Since 1971, we are resolved to be called Roma. We stand up beneath the green and blue flag embellished with the red, sixteen-spoked chakra wheel. We sing a common anthem that echoes our history of determination to peace and unity. We speak Romanes, the language whose endurance is a living source of connection with our brothers and sisters all around the world. We are citizens. We are proud to be a Roma Nation. We commit to live together with other people and Nations in peace and mutual respect.
With these words in our hearts and minds, Roma world-wide could celebrate International Roma Day together in unity under the motto: United in Peace, Prosperity and Solidarity!
On 8th of April 2012, at 12:00 noon all the Roma around the world can unite through the flow of the rivers, seas and oceans. Let us gather at noon to cast flowers into our nearest river, sea, ocean. Let the spirit of the International Roma Day unite us!
A large group of Roma activists in Budapest will gather and cast flowers into the Danube. We call on all Roma to organize celebrations, cast flowers and share this information with others in order to initiate the unity of Roma in the world.
Gypsies have lived harmoniously in Hungary for five centuries. Yet now, as vigilantes wreak terror upon their communities amid the rise of the far right, new tensions threaten to tear the country apart.
We are honored that our film showed in Budapest as part of the worldwide Music Days set up by the Daniel Pearl Foundation (dedicated to the Wall Street journalist who was killed by terrorists in 2002. He loved music.)
After the American Corners screening, there was a discussion about images of Roma in the film, and social and political treatments of the Roma throughout Europe and Hungary.
The comparison of the Roma plight to the African American struggle in the U.S. was a connection made throughout the conversation.
There are many stories of Roma being attacked in Europe - by people who never get punished. This story is very sad, but at least the authorities seem to be taking crimes against Roma seriously.
BBC: Four right-wing extremists in the Czech Republic have been jailed for an arson attack on a Roma family. The court handed down sentences of up to 22 years for racially motivated attempted murder. Molotov cocktails were thrown into a Roma house in 2009. One of the victims was a toddler who barely survived, suffering 80% burns on her body. Her mother suffered 30% burns.
At the European Parliament debate today, MEPs welcomed the announcement by Hungarian PM Viktor Orbán that he will launch a European Roma Strategy in early 2011 - they are calling for an action plan based on economic attributes instead of ethnicity. The Council would also support the next EU Presidency in providing a common European solution for a common European issue. Read more on: EPP Group
Jasmine: This story makes me feel strangely proud. If authorities feel threatened by talk, then it proves that talking works. It has the power to open our minds. This film is not overtly political, and our conversations afterwards seem quite benign: What would you do if you had money and power to make changes for Roma? What would improve life for your friends and family? Are you proud of your ethnicity, or ashamed, and why?...
If these discussions are too political, then it just shows me how necessary they are!
Ella:... What can we do with Gypsy Caravan? Is talk really dangerous? Well, today, more screenings and talks: at a school, a prison, and now at a festival. In prison I asked various questions as usual. When we got to the political climate, the 4 wardens or councilors all tried to stop the talk. oh, its time for lunch. Lady, lunch is at 11.30, we still have 15 minutes to go - I intend to use it. No, but we can only talk about music. I am sorry, but this cannot be so. We brought this film to help change by making people think about the situation here... The prisoners wanted to talk, but it went nowhere with the nasty looks from the wardens. I asked the one who walked me out if this is a prison rule? Why cant the inmates talk politics? I understand they do not have the right to vote, but this is just freedom of speech, you pushed your fist straight in their mouths, in my mouth right under my eyes. What is going on here? No answer. Just assurances that they will show the film as many times as they can. and chat about music... One hour later, there was a call from the press office of the ministry that gave us permission to enter prisons. The lady left a message saying that someone complained I talked politics and if I didnt stop it immediately, they would deny all further prison access. I am thinking about the pros and cons, should I fight for freedom of speech and thus lose the opportunity to show the film, or should I tiptoe in fear and show the film and talk about music....?
A valuable leak! A memo from the French interior ministry this week confirmed that President Nicolas Sarkozy launched an explicitly racist war on Traveller camps. He said it had nothing to do with ethnicity, but the memo showed that "Gypsies" are being targeted. This has jolted Europe out of indulging the Sarkozy stunt, and into a full-throated attack on Paris. It has stirred overdue introspection in France about how minorities are treated. And it has highlighted how Europe's largest minority, the 10 million-plus Roma people, suffer all across the continent.
France is not alone. Systematic discrimination against Roma in eastern Europe is an acknowledged if underreported reality. As the EU expanded, migration followed, and eastern attitudes are spreading west. While the Danes have been seeking to expel some Roma, Swedish police have been caught illegally forcing others out of the country. As Germany has repatriated Gypsy children to Kosovo, the Belgians have driven a camp out of Flanders and the Italians have used the presence of Roma as reason to declare a state of emergency.
Ella: In Szekszard, people own vineyards. One is not from Szekszard if one does not have a vineyard.
The Bohyhad cultural center filled up quickly. After the film, we talked. I taped a bit. This film stars Roma who are musicians - the music is fantastic, but the point is their humanity. Some audience members are more comfortable sticking to the music. It is tiresome again and again to hear only about how musically gifted the Gypsies are. Of course they are comparatively gifted if this is encouraged, and that is a wonderful thing. But how about other options? They have a great gift for speaking, but noone encourages them to cultivate that and become lawyers and politicians and what not. No, let them cultivate their traditions that are palatable to the rest of us like wood carving and singing. Meanwhile, we shall be doctors and IT people, and presidents and politicians, that is our tradition. You Roma people keep on weaving baskets.
At the end of the screening and discussion, people did not go home, they lingered outside the building smoking and yacking away. A lady descended on me to sell her work with disadvantaged kids - so many people work for hatranyos hejzetu/disadvantaged children. Everybody is a social worker or activist - at least, those I meet. So I have to wonder why more progress is not made? Or maybe we all have to keep putting very small drops in this bucket before a change can be visible.
This report just landed in my inbox -- More than a year after the racist killing spree that was part of a wave of violence against Roma in Hungary, we are still receiving news of attacks and the alleged involvement of the military secret service and police forces. According to 2009 police reports, 16 houses have been attacked with 11 Molotov cocktails and 63 shots from several fire arms. There are 55 Roma victims of the crime, six people died, more were injured. Four suspects have been arrested, one of them a former member of the Hungarian Military Secret Service. Victims identified 6 attackers, but police only arrested four suspects.
According to civil activists, 11 people have died since late 2007 in more then 70 communities. Until recently, police only investigated perpetrators in Romani communities and denied any racial motivation. Victims are socially disadvantaged; most of them lost their houses in the attacks. They cannot afford to hire lawyers. Only one organization - Movement for Desegregation, a Hungarian NGO – has offered them legal help. They have 3 lawyers working on this case now.
Ella: ...after our screening, my host came after me with his older daughter, Bettina. I said Bettina, you my dear will go to university. My host drove through through the dark woods with me and Bettina in her baby chair harnessed to the back seat. Bettina asked me if I had a uram/a lord/husband. Yes, Bettina, my friend is waiting for me... he is handsome, has a beard. Oh, Bettina shuddered. Father I am afraid she whispered. Why Bettina? asked her loving father. Of the bearded man. Oh, Bettina don’t be afraid. You are a kindergartner. Last grade, Bettina insisted! Yes, and can you read Bettina? She didn’t say yes or no. It is easy to read, Bettina. You just look at the newspaper headlines. That’s how I found you in this village. Her father asked me if I’ll go to other villages where Roma were killed. He went to the funeral of a father and son murdered in Tatarszentgyorgy. They covered the little boy, his face was blown up. What beasts were those who kill children? Harmless children. A woman fainted when she saw his little face. They went by bus to the funeral. Thousands of people...
At the border they didn’t let the car cross because my host didn’t have ID papers for Bettina. So I hugged them, gave them a keychain with the name of my city on it, see Bettina, this says New York, the place I come from and I wait for you to come visit one day, sweetheart.
Ella: I arrived at the Debrecen prison sweaty, trailing the cinema behind me. Projector, speakers, DVD... here we go!The viewing at the prison was praised. Men showed up in the library and volunteered to talk.
There were two curious questions about the film: One - why did Jasmine choose to show the musicians smoking all the time? She says it was tough to avoid cigarettes on camera! But it is a valid question.... and some Roma today are creating basic campaigns to educate against smoking and unhealthy eating. This information always seems to reach poor communities last - whether they are Romani or not.. Two - what was our intention with bringing the film to the prisons? I said they were supposed to have this time out to consider their life philosophy, a time to regenerate, and reassess and learn about themselves, so the film could benefit a Roma person by letting them feel proud of the achievement of fellow Roma, and non-Roma might learn a few things about Roma. Alright. They seemed to agree with that.
Ella...We showed our film in the Gypsy ghetto, placed in the historical millionaires district, where the military generals and officers used to live. The housing is converted stables. They had a social services center with after school teaching staff. Kids cram for a high school exam they failed before. Some call the ghetto the Citrom/ Lemon, because life is sour there. Teenage pregnancy, young mothers who live on the welfare money they get for their 3, 4 kids. Rampant prostitution. High rates of criminality. Anyone who moves in here never gets out.
Yet, I met two people with different tales: one, the patriarch of a 30 person family who migrated to Canada and then - upon reassuring promises by the new president, Orban Viktor - returned to Hungary since they all feel that they are Hungarian citizens first of all, not Gypsies, a refrain I hear often. Anyway, they returned only to find themselves homeless. The other startling case was an alcoholic painter, with large eyes, skin and bones, toothless, his feet and toenails dark in repulsive misery. Documentaries have been made about his life but he has never seen them. Today, all was fine with him, he was on his way to an arts retreat on Lake Balaton. He said that he paints in two styles: the fiery Gypsy beauties and wagons and campfires that people commission him for; and much darker images for his own soul.
Skye: In Satoraljaujhely, young members of a Romani folk dance troup thanked us for our screening by performing for us. They all talked about the differences between their dance and the musicians in the film. They call their group Romano Suno - Romani Dream
Jasmine: We’re still making several stops a day — and we’ve only got 4 more days to raise the rest of our kickstarter funding! Meanwhile, here are a few of the people we’ve met: Bela Bartok Street is a Romani neighbourhood of Alsozsolca where Helsinki Watch reported incidents of racist violence against Roma. We stopped and spoke to a group of Roma who said that they can never get any officials to pay attention to their complaints or crimes against them.Then we went to meet the mayor, a woman who agreed to help organize a screening of our film later in August -- where Roma and non-Roma will be invited to attend together. And we met with local representatives of the Roma self-government... They said that they were particularly inspired by Martin Luther King and civil rights films, and when Obama was elected they started to believe that maybe Roma can succeed as well! At the end of our meeting they were asking about Roma in the USA, so we phoned my friend George Eli in Connecticut and they had a short chat. Everyone seems to agree that education is key. Roma need school education, and the rest of us need to learn to be less prejudiced.
This is it! We have hit the road in Hungary and our journey began on Sunday, August 1st in Budapest...
While Gypsy Caravan played at the ERRC summer school, Director Jasmine Dellal had time to sneak out for a few moments and observations:
FYI, I’m actually sitting outside the room of our first screening of the Hungary trip. It’s a lot of Roma young adults who are training to do human rights work. They stood and put their hands on heart as the anthem played.... And have been laughing and dancing and clapping through the film. It’s incredibly rewarding. Of course, this screening is a bit of “preaching to the converted” compared to some others that we have planned (at right wing nationalist organisations), but it still feels worthwhile to see all these guys looking so proud and motivated to speak up for their people. I passed through London yesterday and the front page of the Daily Express had a huge headline GYPSY CHILDREN SENT TO LOOT UK. Can you imagine if Bernie Maddoff’s activities spawned a headline like JEW SWINDLES WORLD. I don’t want to defend the criminals, but I get so angry seeing a whole race tarred with the brush of a few criminals (who then don’t even get the option to go to school or get jobs because their whole race is spurned). Argh.
Anyway, it’s nice to know that things are starting off well.
We pause today & remember the many Romani people who lost their lives sixty years ago on August 2nd & 3rd in the gas chambers of Auschwitz.
We reflect, but we also must direct our thoughts into actions wherever and however we can to shift the perceptions, change the attitudes, as well as abandon policies which perpetuate the prejudice against the Roma, which continues even now....
Jasmine: I was honoured to read out this prose poem on International Roma Day in New York. It was sent to me for today by a writer known as Douglas Halebi, whose Uncle Noah helped raise him in the forests surrounding Beirut. I feel lucky to have stumbled upon his earlier work in time to feature it in my film American Gypsy (1999). [Please forgive me for abbreviating this text to present it today - we hope to present Halebi"s full writing soon].
This life is like a spring rain-cloud that waters the land for an hour and then is gone. And yet it is also a precious gift, unlike any other. And of all those who aspire to deepen its meaning and adorn its passage with passionate strivings, the Roma rank high. Our fathers, whether they were called Roma, Doma, Bosha or some other name, surpassed themselves many times just to be here. They endured catastrophes and calamities across time and space, surpassed the claims of hatred and spite made on them, and lived to flower anew, East and West. They learned to drink the water of life from gilded fountains and icy streams, and to savor the beauty that rises from the tall green grass every spring. ...We, the Juki, consider this world like a cool taste of spring-water, to be savored slowly, drop by precious drop, and with deep appreciation. The "Gypsies" bring the gift of love of life, no matter what may befall them. May we travel through this world like a man hastening toward his own wedding-feast. And let us never cease to serenade beauty, honor wisdom and take pride in grand gestures and high aspirations. And remember that the setting of the sun is already a promise of its rising. Remember that though the snow may fall in thick flakes, it does not endure forever. One day frozen rivers begin to thaw, grass sprouts up on the winter ground, the trees begin to ripen and the world ferments anew. The caroling of songbirds greets the rising sun, and as our fathers once did, we begin to soar like the mountain hawk. May it always be so!
Hillary Rodham Clinton, Secretary of State Washington, DC - April 8, 2010 On behalf of President Obama and the American people, I offer warm wishes to all Roma as they mark International Roma Day... Like all citizens, Roma should have the opportunity to live free from discrimination, enjoy equal access to education, healthcare and employment, and pursue their full God-given potential. Through a range of initiatives, including development assistance, international visitor programs, and constructive interaction between law enforcement and minority communities, the United States is working with our partners to make respect for the rights of Roma the norm across Europe. Working with governments, international organizations, civil society groups, and individual citizens, we seek to help Roma chart their own destinies, with opportunity, dignity and prosperity.
“Gypsies” have been here for 200 years, and today there are about one million Romani people in North America. April 8th is an inspiration to celebrate Romani ethnic and cultural identity. Please join us for films, theater, art, drinks, music, dance and storytelling! There’s so much going on that at 6.30 you’ll have to choose between seeing a movie (Gypsy Caravan) or having cocktails at an art exhibition. There’s something here for everyone!
“Gypsies” have been here for 200 years, and today there are about one million Romani people in North America. April 8th is an inspiration to celebrate Romani ethnic and cultural identity. Please join us for films, theater, art, drinks, music, dance and storytelling! There’s so much going on that at 6.30 you’ll have to choose between seeing a movie (Gypsy Caravan) or having cocktails at an art exhibition (details below). There’s something here for everyone!
Columbia University student event – Theater, Discussion & Video Booth: 12-1pm
Jasmine:Romani filmmaker George Eli is premiering his first person documentary in NY and Florida. George is our friend and colleague (I am the executive producer of this film, and he recorded sound and helped a lot on Gypsy Caravan) - he is also a talented filmmaker. We are very proud of him! SEARCHING FOR THE 4TH NAIL www.4thNail.com
• NY, Cinema Village Feb 9th & 10th @ 7pm: 22 East 12th St (x Broadway)
• Fort Lauderdale, FL Feb 22 -> 24 @ 7pm Cinema Paradiso
Jasmine - I just stumbled on this poem and it felt so different to the norm...
"I don t like you spending more time with the Gadje than with me," Mama says in molasses English. I check my watch. Enough bean-counting for one day. It s time for some of Mama s lamb-filled grape leaves. Yes, I can smell Mama grinding up the long cinammon sticks. She ll hide her joy and surprise by bothering me about still being single. "When I am to have grandchildren?".....
BBC News - Czech schools are still riddled with "systematic discrimination" that ensures Roma children get an inferior education, Amnesty International says. The human rights group has called on the Czech Republic to end what it calls racial segregation in schools. ...
www.GypsyTown.com A new home for Roma on the web... by a Rom, for Roma. George Eli has launched a website to unite Roma from around the world - chat, photos, history, radio show, Gypsy films and books and news and more...
jasmine: The crowd came to Connecticut Film Festival... they clapped and cheered and asked a gazillion curious questions. I am incredibly proud of this film - "Searching for the 4th Nail" - directed by George Eli (who helped recording sound for "Gypsy Caravan" and in many other ways too). It is the first film ever made by and about Roma in America. Romani audience members also brimmed with pride - they thanked others for coming to see their film (I always think it's the highest compliment when others take ownership of your film!). One Romani man said that he felt proud to know that his people can do things like making this film and breaking from their family enough to insist on educating their children. He cited the example of President Obama.... A hundred years ago nobody believed there could be an African American president, he said. So, it may take us 200 or 300 years, but now I believe that at least we could get a senator or something. One non-Romani audience member asked how it could be true that Romani kids feel shunned from going to school when, in the USA, it's obligatory for all children to attend school; George responded eloquently that this is a wonderful way of thinking about education but it's also a slightly naive way of thinking because in many states there are a lot of children who don't go to school and the authorities don't bother about it at all. "This film should be shown in every school and kept in every library," said one person. Everyone clapped in agreement. Congratulations to George and his sons Alex and Christopher for setting such a brave example!
***EXCITING UPDATE*** 4th Nail just won the CT Festival Award for Best Filmmaker.. All our congratulations to George!!!
Ella: In Sighetul Marmatiei Mrs. Odarca Bout and fellow teachers presented Gypsy Caravan to their students at the Regele Ferdinand Highschool. This town is on the border with Ukraine and many of the students are Ukrainian-Romanian, so to witness their interest in another minority group was rewarding. Mrs. Bout said her tenth graders, "liked the movie very much and discussed it at length. Very many radically changed their opinion about Gypsy people."
skye: Fresh off a successful dance tour and launching a new bellydance instructional DVD, our very own Queen Harish shimmied & shimmered into the very hot Desilicious 7th Anniversary Bollywood Extravaganza last night at BB King's near Times Square! And what could be more exciting than a dance with the Queen!
This entry is a bit long, but it's just a small selection of student answers to the evaluation forms we created for screenings in Romania...
Audience Feedback to Gypsy Caravan educational Screenings in Romanian Schools and Cultural Centers
I’ll try and judge each person by his deeds, I won’t generalize based on his ethnicity. - Tania Larisa Gavriloff, Romanian student
My experience was very special, motivating and full of positive energy. THANK YOU! - Alina Iordache, Romanian student
A shiver of excitement that lasted for 120 min!!! I would have been so proud if I were a Gypsy! â˜º - Mihaela Kavdanska, Bulgarian visual artist/instigator
I didn’t expect to be so emotional. But I knew it would be a full house. Congratulations! More movies of this kind and other cultural events bringing to public attention the importance of Rroma, would help stop the discrimination against them. - Ela Duca, Romanian student
It made me realize again that God made us equal and we should not forget this. - Maria Cernatescu, Romanian student
At a certain moment one of the characters says that Gypsy music makes one shiver, laugh and cry, exactly what I experienced while watching this film: I got shivers, I burst into tears and I laughed with tears!!!!! We should get to know deeper their culture to better accept and appreciate them. - Sabin Rotaru, Romanian student
Screening this film in schools is the first step to improving the perspective of those who discriminate. It’s difficult to change an opinion once it is rooted in the way of thinking of the masses. It’s necessary to present more facets of Rroma life so that the understanding process becomes easier. - Roxana Caragea, Romanian student
Parents shouldn’t tell their children when they are small that, “The Gypsy will steal them,” because automatically the kid will have a bad impression of those people. Some are good, some are less good. They shouldn’t all be thrown in the same pot. - Alina Avramovici, Romanian student
Alone, as one person, you can’t do much to change the situation, but together with someone else, projects like this one could be launched to show the values and traditions of Rroma. - Andrada Petanec, Romanian student
This film should be watched by all high school students and, if possible, by the rest of the population. Then, it would be good if authorities would deal more with this problem and find a way in which to inform people about the Roma’s culture. - Andrea-Mihaela Popa, Romanian student
The film was awesome. For sure it has changed my opinion about Roma. I will tell many people about this film. For sure it will change their opinion about Roma. - Silvia Ulian, Romanian student
I was stunned. I didn’t expect that a film would change my opinion about Roma, but it did. The film should be screened more often, to show the other side of Roma. - Ana Ciuclea, Romanian student
We can show the real values of Rroma, not just the negative things. This film I think does exactly that, and I think it should be broadcast on national television too. - Alina Gal, Romanian student
Before this event I wished for the continuation of discrimination against Roma, because of those living in my hometown. But now I’m convinced that nomadic Gypsies truly know what life is and fully benefit from it. Even from death. So I propose that this kind of movie should be promoted to show us that real Roma know how to enjoy themselves and that their ways have benefits. - Andreea E. Lucaci, Romanian student
The film is very well directed and organized. It presents very beautifully the tour they made, and lets us get to know them a bit too. I enjoyed it very much. I think that a lot of people should watch it. Roma are not bad, but different, like everybody else. It is necessary to socialize with them, to become friends so we can communicate and get to know each other. - Cora Bundur, Romanian student
I felt intense emotions throughout the film. I haven’t seen so much passion for music in my entire life. And if the Roma, after the hardships they’ve been through and still are submitted to, can live so happily, we should all follow their example. Unfortunately I don’t believe that all Roma are like those in the movie... Were they to be so, the discrimination rate would be much lower. - Maria Serban, Romanian student
It was a wonderful experience (entertaining and all that) but foremost educational. We could make people understand that the Roma are people too, for God’s sake! - Diana Prioteasa, Romanian student
This film showed me that the Roma are very valuable, talented people who deserve to be appreciated. We need to learn to respect and treat them as normal people, not like savage beasts. We need to appreciate their musical talent, and not judge them based on their appearances and looks. - Andreea Georgescu, Romanian student
It was a unique experience. I’ve learned a lot about Roma through this film. Roma must be included in certain social integration programs. Not all of them are thieves. Just some, and the world thinks that they are all like that. - Andrei Alecu, Romanian student
I felt compassion for the Roma since they suffered so much because of discrimination. I think that it would be helpful to distribute materials like this, which show that Roma are not as bad as the world believes them to be. - Stefan Manea, Romanian student
It was interesting. Let us convince people that we are honest. - Larisa Zlotea, Roma pupil
I had a lot of fun, as if I was with them. I believe we should be educated. So we shouldn’t make bad and ugly things/deeds. - Alin Vaduva, Roma pupil
It was wonderful. Let’s tell them we are people too. - Amina Raduian, Roma pupil
I was very glad. I want to be the best Gypsy ever. - Carlitos Nicolae, Roma pupil
dear jasmine: today we went to the Aiud prison. it was a sight to behold. dancing, singing, standing ovations, like at a communist party meeting.... and it is very nice to see roma day celebrated on romanian tv. to my great excited surprise your film was on duna tv [hungarian/budapest station] with hungarian subtitles tonight around 9:30 ! Ella Meanwhile, Secretary Clinton encouraged the whole world to pay attention to INTERNATIONAL ROMA DAY: http://blogs.state.gov/index.php/entries/international_roma_day
dear jasmine: i went to cheud - a marvelous place. romanians speak romani language since childhood. model of integration. [photo of school screening] .....now i am in bistrita. gave them the dvd to show it tomorrow on romani day :) i've been in the gypsy quarters. horrible situations. 30 folks in one attic. some people want to talk hoping something would happen. others, especially those in authority, shut up. -Ella
Ella: we made many new friends while in romania. one of them, adrian voichitescu, presented the gypsy caravan to roaring success at the timisoara opera house! it was followed by a fiery discussion. also as a result he will be showing the film on july 23 at the International Romani Art Festival - Romania, Timisoara www.iraf.ro and we hope to be there!
Ella: In Craiova one of the inspiring Roma leaders, Romeo Tiberiade, and his assistants joined the American Corner screening. His words about his daughter, a young poet, who longed to be in a highschool with Romanian kids, ignited the conversation and made the students ask questions and share their opinions about Roma people. It reinforced my thought that turning the screening of the Gypsy Caravan into an event by inviting local Roma leaders and intellectuals to converse with the audience helps shattering stereotypes on both sides. The next day we presented the film at PS13, the largest school with exclusively Romani students. The principal and faculty were busy organizing the Roma art camp for the weekend of Roma International Day. The children were rehearsing folk dances swirling their gorgeous skirts. They all stuck out their tongues for our camera at the principal's request, being April Fool's Day. And here's some of what they wrote after seeing the film:
It was wonderful. Let's tell them we are people too! - Amina R. It was interesting. Let us show people that we are honest. -Larisa Z. At this event I found out very interesting things about my origins. It made me want to become like them. I will try to give a good example to those around me through my behavior. -Leia V. M. I felt bewildered because I found out new things about myself. -Emanuel M. I had a lot of fun, as if I was with them. I believe we should be educated so we wouldn't do bad and ugly things. -Alin V. I was very glad. I want to be the best Gypsy ever! - Carlitos N.
Finally a chance to show the film in Romanian to Taraf musicians! Today we created a cinema in Caliu's attic. And he was proud! Everyone rallied... Ionica drove us there in his taxi (he drives a new cab in Bucharest to bolster his income on the cymbalom); Caliu and his wife cooked up a barbecue; the neighbours flooded in, along with Neacsu's granddaughter Florentina; Ella and Radu set up the laptop and projector (loaned to us by Romani CRISS) and read out subtitles for children and grandparents gathered round to laugh and cry at themselves on screen. It was a happy occasion - but the village looks poorer than I'd ever seen it before. Everyone is talking about the financial "crisis", and some musicians are battling tooth and nail for the chance to play a gig and earn a basic living.
Caliu & his wife, Cathy, laughed at their son Robert's wedding scene... and we all welcomed the crowd to our white sheet movie screen (L to R: Ionica, Jasmine, Florentina, Caliu, Marius, Ella)
Romani CRISS & Magda Matache - wow, impressive! Calmly working on projects for education, housing, health, human rights and culture all round Romania's 41 counties, and internationally.
And Nicoleta Bitu's twin girls are two of the smartest coolest people I've chatted with in a while - not to mention their joint (giggly) simultaneous translation for me at the B-est Film Festival dinner event.
Some Taraf de Haidouks musicians played for the lucky crowd after a wonderful screening at B-est Fest, we were honoured by a long (long!) standing ovation. I think the public truly appreciates an effort to show Romani films at this festival. The prejudice about Gypsies in this country is everywhere - even among Roma, who seem relieved and often surprised by a non-negative image of their own culture. Our very own Ella... Ionita & his lovely wife
Gypsy Caravan has just screened to prisoners at Guerla penitentiary, near Cluj. Afterwards, we talked to 3 Romani inmates about their reactions to the film (very positive), and they outlined their own ideal films on Roma: more Romani success stories with kids in school. Rags to riches (and respect)... please!
Jasmine: I tend to criticize filmmakers for feasting on the cliches of colourful Roma. But it is easy to understand the visual appeal when you meet families like this. We spent most of the time letting them take pictures of each other (we will send them prints). I am not sure if this is just assuaging my guilty conscience - I hope not. There has to be a way to keep the rich culture, but not the dire poverty!
Jasmine: The children here are addictively cute and delighted to grab our attention - but the truth is that they live on piles of garbage and many of them are sick. Ella could not talk or eat much for a few hours after we left here (which is highly unusual! ;-D). She’ll be back in a couple of weeks to show our film to the community at their church.
This blonde wig is an endless source of giggles. But I think it covers a large bald patch like the ones i saw on a few little girls here...
We ended this evening with students in the prestigious university town of Cluj. The wonderful surprise came when a group of Romani students told us about their own experiences grappling with the common belief - within their community, as well as outside - that Romani kids cannot be academic. Suddenly the 'gajo' students in the room knew that they were not the experts. Very interesting. These students have their own student organization "Romano Suno" (Romani Dream).
A lucky day: Ella Veres has joined our crew... she wrote to us, and now she has walked in the door and started making good things happen. We are working to get a Romanian version of the film shown at schools, cultural centers, prisons, Romani community halls and more venues in Romania where people may be willing to think differently about the idea of being "Gypsy". Ella (aka Mihaela) is an award-winning playwright, a photographer, a writer, a poet and a warm human being. She is also Romanian/Hungarian, and has been in the USA for 11 years. www.ellaveres.com A tale she told when we first met: ...When I was about 20 years old, my mother told me by mistake that I was part Romani. I was shocked and didn’t really accept it or think about it because I kept thinking that all Gypsies are dirty and bad. Then one day I mentioned to a friend of mine that Gypsy women are all ugly. He simply replied, “are they?” It must have been the right moment, because suddenly I started to question the assumptions that I’d had all my life. I thought about my gorgeous aunts... I realized that many of them (of “us”?) are beautiful - and I’m not ugly either! But it is really hard to get rid of the stereotypes from your childhood. They are taking a long time to go away.
Today, the BBC reported that work has begun in the German capital, Berlin, on a memorial to the hundreds of thousands of Roma killed by the Nazis in World War II. It will feature a square well brimming with water and bearing an inscription of a poem about the Holocaust. A leader of Germany's Romani community, Romani Rose, praised the government for "recognising its historical responsibility" to those persecuted. The memorial in Tiergarten park, to the south of Berlin's parliament building, is scheduled to be completed in 2009. Berlin already contains a memorial to the millions of Jews who were killed in the Holocaust and another to the thousands of homosexuals persecuted by the Nazis during the war.
Skye writes:Gypsy Caravan just screened in the Sights for Rights film festival, organised by students of the European Inter-University Centre for Human Rights and Democratisation in honour of the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. I wanted to know how it all went, in view of the tensions that have erupted this past year throughout Italy.....
a note from the student organisers: Everything went very well, the film ended the Saturday night of the festival and opened up a lot of discussion mostly about the diversity and richness of the Gipsy people. Many of those that saw the film knew nothing about the roots of the Roma people, so I think that from that perspective it was mostly enriching. Then, the part about how the 5 groups collaborated and rediscovered themselves was largely debated, and there was somebody who compared their nomad history with the one Jews had, going from one place to the other and feeling so excluded. But they also touched on the fact that through this International Decade of the Roma Integration maybe more consideration will be given to them and people will be more interested in integrating them, rather then discriminating against them. All in all it was a very touching and entertaining night, that made a lot of people reflect on their attitude towards Roma people. In the context of Italy, it was a quite daring thing to show it, as the situation is very negative for them and everybody, especially the authorities, have their eyes set on Gipsies...."
Skye writes: This is what we want to be a part of - undoing the shame of being who one is, in this case Romani, for fear of the encompassing stigma and being able to embrace one's heritage as every human being should without recrimination... All our lives, my siblings and I were told we were Italian. Only after our Mother passed did we learn the truth that we were Roma. I say it loudly and proudly, and hope to educate my own children and confront some of the myths and prejudices surrounding us. Rebecca-USA
Skye writes: reading this article has me relieved to hear voices rising, alerting Romani youth to the dangers they face, yet left me wondering how it comes to pass that violence becomes an accepted method of dealing with cultural differences.
Fiddler on the hoof: Romany rights activist and musician Kerieva
Romany musician and activist Kerieva is everything a modern Gypsy activist needs to be. Musical, lyrical and media savvy, she can entertain one moment and inspire the next. She’s equally at home playing the violin or singing on a stage or rabble rousing in Romany slums from Glasgow to Budapest. And she’s packed a lot into her 34 years.
Her heritage is as diverse as her interests, she’s part Irish and part Manouche (French Romany) has a degree in performing arts and masters degree in human rights. She’s sings fluently in several languages, and is still on the move between Spain, Hungary and Scotland. As she prepares to release her first album in early 2009, she’s recorded a song she hopes will inspire Romany youth to resist the frightening tide of anti-Gypsy racism.
The song is called Dikhen Ande Italia in Romani, which means "Look in Italy" in English and is a reaction to the racist violence experienced by the Romany community in Italy earlier this year. Its words also refer to the indifference Italian sunbathers had to the corpses of two dead Romany girls washed up on a beach. But Kerieva says the song was directly inspired by a visit to Austria last summer.
Italian officials agreed to call off fingerprinting the Roma, but will take a census
On the 70th anniversary of anti-Jewish decrees in Italy, an Italian Auschwitz survivor has said the Roma population faces discrimination similar to Jews in Nazi Germany.
"History is repeating itself" in Italy, Piero Terracina said Friday, Nov. 14, at a conference marking the 70th anniversary of the notorious racial laws targeting Jews, which were approved by the Italian cabinet on Nov. 15, 1938. "Everything started with the census of the Jews and the terrible consequences to which this led us," said Terracina, reported AFP news agency. The 80-year-old Holocaust survivor was freed from the Auschwitz concentration camp in January 1945, shortly before the end of World War II. The discriminatory decrees introduced in both Nazi Germany and Italy under then leader Benito Mussolini included the prohibition of mixed marriages between Jews and so-called "Aryans" and economic restrictions on Jews, among other measures.
By Jake Bowers. Travellers’ Times Online Editor (UK news for/about Roma & Travellers) When he stepped up onto that stage in Chicago, around the world the tears started flowing. Born into a country that still officially segregated its black and white citizens, President-elect of the USA Barack Obama is Martin Luther King’s dream come true. Forty years after King dreamed of a day when black children would be judged “on the content of character rather than the colour of their skins”, few would have predicted that that day would have been as soon as November 4th 2008. When I heard the news on November 5th I was overjoyed. But like others, I’ve also started wondering when that change might come to Europe. In Britain, we’ve had Black and Asian MPs and even cabinet ministers and many are now wondering when we might see a Black or Asian Prime Minister. But, as ever, few have even begun to consider the Romany people. Together, the Romany people make up Europe’s largest and fastest growing ethnic minority. In many European countries we make up to 10% of the population, just as Black people make up 13% of the US population. ... polls in Europe regularly reveal that most Europeans would not even want a Romany as a neighbour. Read the full article: <http://www.blog.travellerstimes.org.uk/>
There's a flip side to everything, I suppose. My own view is that cultures can always adapt - as long as it's done from the inside, not forced on people by outsiders. While so many fight to preserve the right for Romani culture to be celebrated, some people may also feel trapped by parts of it which aren't moving forward with the times. There's a lot of debate in the USA about the pros (education) and cons (cultural contamination) of Romani teenagers staying in schools. George Eli is making a film about his people, and this is the school essay that his son Alex sent to him:
Fear to me would mean that you are frightened of something. I know that when I feel nervous, depressed, not focused, and sad, these feeling often mean that I am really frightened of something. When I was a child, my greatest fear revolved around heights. Usually high things that moved fast, like rollercoasters. When I had to go on one I really didn’t want to. After many tries I finally succeeded. How did I ever do this? I did this by talking myself into it because I didn’t want to be teased by my friends. What causes me to fear is still like a rollercoaster which is my future and my life. My life is pretty different from a typical teenaged boy. Why you might ask? Well mostly because of my culture. My life really is like an arranged life. It’s been picked out for me in a way. I really want to choose for myself, but it looks like to me I’m not going to. To me, I feel like I have no choice. This is frightening. It's frightening to me because, how would you feel, thinking that you only have one choice, knowing that there’s so much more out there but when really you think about it you know you only have one choice. The choice is predetermined. Who I marry, what I do for work, and how I live my life are told to me and that is scary.
This is a video for change for women. I just saw it and found it powerful. There's a lot of talk in Romani communities about how the role of women can change and grow, without disregarding the culture. My guess is that the change will come from the inside. Women. Girls.
Almost 300 delegates from 28 different countries attended the VII World Roma Congress in Zagreb, Croatia. They discussed the role of Romani leaders and the best strategies for advancing the situation of Roma today. Mr Stanislaw Stankevic was voted in again as leader of the International Roma Union. Esma Redzepova performed the Romani anthem (also heard in the Gypsy Caravan film).
The first Romani Congress was held in London in 1971.
a few of our crew helped create this salsa video "Respóndele a Obama" to get out the Latin vote for Obama. Song rewritten, video created, posted on You Tube - in 48 hours... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-ycu0sy5RW8
Harish is touring Japan - and it helps that his eyes are half of the Japanese poster! Fanfare Ciocarlia are in Japan at the same time and they've performed together since meeting on the Gypsy Caravan tour, so now they teach some classes together - and he's dancing with them on stage.
Friday night may have been a bit damp and grey, but it was very sparkly at the United Nations Association Traveling Film Festival, where Romani speakers Saniye Jašaroska and George Eli led a lively debate after our film. Skye took some notes...
George Eli introduced the movie and invited the audience to not only enjoy the wonderful music, but to see the connection between the Romani people from different countries.
Q & A: An animated exchange turned to the idea of oppression: is it an internalised phenomenon, a view George appeared to espouse, or applied from external sources with discrimination in access to proper healthcare, education etc, as Saniye suggested? Our host Jasmina Bojić asked if the problem stems from the political system, and Saniye replied with personal examples of discrimination: being kicked out of a restaurant in Macedonia, a sister growing up in Macedonia forced to sit in the back of her classroom for being Rom/Gypsy. George used this example to explain his view that in America, oppression became tradition. So deeply has discrimination been internalised, he argued, that the experience of being thrown out of a restaurant would not only be accepted but taken as being right: the Romani person would have felt that he or she should not have been there anyway.
What's In a Name? There's much talk of the words "Gypsy" vs "Roma" - is there a preference or are they interchangeable? Saniye talked about the origins of some of the well-known labels used for Roma - most of them coming from misconceptions or prejudice. George made an important observation that any time a group is named by those outside, it becomes derogatory. Although the word Gypsy is used out of ignorance, both he and Saniye agreed that non-Gypsies need to be informed and steered away from the term. Maybe it's a question of choice: can I choose my label ("woman" "chick" "Yank" "American"... and we know there are more extreme examples)? Can you choose yours?
thank you for gypsy caravan, when the road bends. i have been waiting a couple of years to finally see it - i saw posters all over a small maine town about 2 years ago and have been anxiously waiting for it's release, here in boston, or on dvd. i am of indian descent and visited jaisalmer, rajasthan in 2003. being around the 'gypsies' and their music, even for such a short amount of time, gave me the comfort and sense of belonging that i had been searching for all my life. i have always carried an unknown sadness inside of me and visiting rajasthan somehow made that emotion seem logical - i somehow felt connected to the people and the music in a way that made the sadness feel justified in a most beautiful way. so i thank you for making this movie and sharing this music in a way that more people can experience it as well.
Another day in the life of Romanipen: http://www.johanlundberg.com/AdoLife/ I just saw these stunning photos ...and then you think about the fact that there are poor settlements like this all round the world, and we accept it as "normal." I admire the resilience of people who live there, and stay alive. I'm embarrassed to be part of the society that allows it to happen. Humans are bizarre creatures!
I'm over the moon to be in Japan helping open this film in cinemas. This is one of a few countries in the world that has no Romani population, and yet people are seriously interested - in the people as well as the music! What a pleasure to work with a distributor who reaches out to so many different communities - they had a photo competition for people to send in an image of "your own cultural heritage"; a tasting of wines from Spain, India, Macedonia and Romania; a concert; talks with women and human rights activists. The whole panoply. And people are leaving the cinema seats crying at what they feel in the people and music on screen - then they ask what they can do to find out more, or to help. Thank you!
The film opened in cinemas around Poland in October with wonderful distributors. It took me 3 days to learn to pronounce the film's name in Polish. This is a society where I could really feel the stigma about Roma - and Jews.
And the family tale:
my mother was born in Poland but her parents left when my mum was only three years old. My mother's first trip back was with me for the Polish film premiere - hence photos of proud smiling Mama by film posters. My sister came along too and (in between film screenings and interviews) we tried exploring to recapture memories my mother had never really had because she was too young. You know that feeling of chasing memories... but you don't know if you actually remember them, or if it's just the fact that your parents told the story so many times that you think you were there too...
I would like to thank you for making this film. I am Romany, born in the US to Slovak parents. It was wonderful how the Macedonian woman (Esma, I think) spoke about her father’s experience during WW2 and her benefit concert for the Roma from Kosovo. Some politics without making a political film out of it – great job! I don’t agree with the critical remarks I have read about how not enough attention was paid to the plight of the Roma – why does every film made have to hit everyone over the head with our problems? – please make more films.
I grew up in the US and understand the importance of having positive role models in education, literature and film. My experience with this concept has primarily come from the perspective of African Americans in US society. Roma are facing the same issues in Europe that African Americans did 40-60 years ago in the US. Despite the fact that I am fully aware of this, I couldn’t help letting buckets of tears from rolling down my face as I was watching this. Real people, positive role models, acknowledgment and treatment on a fair and equal level (no condescension, no romanticism and no overbearing political overtones) of the individual subjects of this film --- I have never seen that done anywhere in public on such a scale before seeing this film. Thank you for treating my people like normal people and showing them as human individuals. When this film comes out on DVD I will buy a copy for my mother to see it. She needs to see in her old age that finally someone in this world is treating us fairly and acknowledging our value as human beings and contributors to society.
When I lived in Prague in the 90’s, I met a Romany man who didn’t think I was Romany – because I was a foreigner with a bit of an accent when speaking Czech and I had a university degree. When I told him I was a Roma and my mother comes form the same country, he remarked sincerely,” Then it can’t be true. We aren’t genetically inferior and incapable of intelligence.” My jaw dropped and I wanted to cry that someone could live for 40 years under such imposed restrictions, without realizing they were only a result of the messages to which he was constantly exposed in Czech society. Your film needs to be subtitled into Czech, Slovak and other languages, especially for those Roma who don’t speak Romany and may think as this man did. My people need to see your film. They need to see the greatest restriction is the one they accept by not realizing their potential. There is a world out there beyond their ghettos (shtetls, osady) that values their heritage.
I wish I could financially afford quit my job and make films with you. There is no greater value on earth for me than to do what you are doing. I didn’t expect it, but the tears are rolling down my face again as I think about what you have done and how happy it has made me. Thank you.
Back in my old home, where the journey really began with AMERICAN GYPSY years ago... And happy to be collaborating for the premieres with Voice of Roma, Andrew Raible (setting the Standard41), Belic brother Wonders, Gaeleee, Eiji and many, many more...
Madonna's Live Earth concert-closer in London featured 2 guests from New York's own Gypsy punk band Gogol Bordello I was driving across the Golden Gate Bridge to present GYPSY CARAVAN and i got an over-excited phone call from my sister in London: "Madonna's just introduced 'my two Romani Gypsy friends on guitar and violin' ... yeah... scream... shock... happy laughter...." Eugene Hutz & Sergey Ryabtsev even had Madonna sing Romani language llyrics for part of La Isla Bonita. But Baxt to all!
At the opening screening in Pasadena today, audience members met Tom Merino - a Romani filmmaker based in Los Angeles. The moments that make me feel proudest of this film are when other people take ownership of it. Tom hadn't seen the film before so I smiled at the 8 minute phone message and a blow-by-blow account of the questions and of how he pointed some things out to the audience: - notice how Esma says that "we never started any wars" - notice that the film is dedicated to the Decade of Roma Inclusion, because Roma need to be included in the societies where they live - notice that the singing is beautiful, but it's not just song and dance.
Today, June 27th 2007, I honour the life of Jimmy Marks. He was a man who had the courage to sing with meaning.
Jimmy had been struggling this year with heart problems and diabetes. And he spent at least a decade of his life locked in a very long struggle against the government of his hometown, Spokane, Washington. It was a battle that some people felt was a symbol of Roma standing up against a prejudiced system. He also knew that many people disagreed with his claims, his methods and his madness. He knew that he was a complicated character in a complicated situation fighting a controversial battle. I spent a long time with Jimmy Marks during the making of my feature documentary AMERICAN GYPSY, in which he featured. If he had his choice, I think he would like to be remembered for the moments when he said he felt like David fighting Goliath.
Last week Jimmy went to have dental surgery. He suffered a cardiac arrest at the dental office. Jimmy never regained consciousness and died this morning.
-- post script: When I came back to my office after traveling, I found that Jimmy had left me a voicemail shortly before his death. He began by saying, "21 years yesterday. 21 long years." He was referring of course to the day when police raided his family home in June 1986. The raid and ensuing legal battles had consumed Jimmy's life since then. His moods swung up and down - like an elevator, he said. The last words on his phone message were, "I'm down again. The elevator is down. Down to the carpet."
My thoughts and love go out to his family and all that he loved and lived for.
-- INDIEWIRE -- Hope for theatrical success for all types of non-fiction films, controversial or not, received a boost from the impressive $13,477 launch of Shadow Distribution's concert film "Gypsy Caravan" which jammed audiences on two New York screens, the Angelika and the Lincoln Plaza. Boasting camerawork by veteran filmmaker Albert Maysles and a cameo appearance by Johnny Depp, "Gypsy Caravan" follows various Gypsy bands, including Fanfare Ciocarlia and Taraf De Haidouks, as they tour Europe, India and the U.S. as part of their popular Gypsy Caravan concert tour.
For Ken Eisen, President, Waterville Maine-based Shadow Distribution, "Gypsy Caravan," a top earner among the weekend's new art-house releases, has the look of a classic documentary hit. "Right now, we have a boom or bust mentality; people only remembering what has happened in the last five minutes," says Eisen. "The huge successes of "Fahrenheit 9/11" and "An Inconvenient Truth" have raised the base for docs. But a film like "March of the Penguins," something that grosses $35 million or more, is an aberration and the number of documentaries capable of reaching that wide of an audience are still limited.
"A successful film in the art market is one that can reach a limited but still wide audience, one that will appeal to the general art house viewer if not the multiplex crowd. Thirteen years ago we released "Latcho Drom" and it earned more than $1 million and played in Berkeley for a year. "Gypsy Caravan is a film like that, a film that appeals to more than just Gypsy music fans."
"Gypsy Caravan" expands to Los Angeles and Washington D.C. on June 29, multiple venues in San Francisco on July 6 and more cities throughout the summer.
Lyon. 2nd biggest city in France. It's raining cats and dogs. Is there such a thing as chance? Directly across the street from the cinema is the opening of an exhibition "Le Peuple Tsigane" - it's in Klaus Barby's old headquarters which has become a museum center of memory. Old documents show Tsiganes being deported. Prison camps in France with separate quarters for Jews and Gypsies. Modern photographs of Auschwitz survivors - some of them have recorded oral histories. After the Lyon screening, one boy waits till everyone's left before he talks to me. His father is Manouche, he says, and he's always thought that the only thing of note about that was music. He loves and lives for music. But he never wanted to push open the door a little further and learn more about his roots. Somehow, he says the film has given him pride, and now he's enthusiastic about exploring and learning more about his people.
He's going to push open that door - with pride, not fear.
Paris premiere with our great team! After about 15 interviews in the space of 3 hours, we had a whirlwind visit to Nantes to screen the film to a very enthusiastic audience on late Monday night at the family-run Clochard cinema. (we're on the same screen as Spiderman 3 !?!) Plenty of good questions and an interesting moment of audience members debating aloud the different political implications of the words "Gitan" "Tsigane" "Rom" "Sinti" "Manouche" "Gens de Voyage"...
Next day is the Paris avant-premiere. My trusty distributor (James Velaise, Pretty Pictures) tells me that a taxi will be much slower than his bike in Paris, so i end up on the back of a Vespa wearing a long dress and the highest heels I've ever owned... swerving towards the 7 Parnassiens. And the best thing is that people have actually come to see the film! The ad is on the front of Pariscope and the lovely Cristina has been spreading flyers through all flamenco events and many Romani hang out places...
Check out that HUGE!!!!! poster in Paris... and the soundtrack is in shop windows
It's worked --- fingers crossed it keeps on going!
Meanwhile, back in a square in Romania.... Fanfare Ciocarlia and Esma Redzepova just let loose to a dancing square of film festival rabble rousers, and townspeople who couldn’t ignore decibels of loud brass in the center of Sibiu (a city proud to be cultural capital of Europe this year). And the whisper was that this is the first time that the musicians of Fanfare Ciocarlia have played in Romania without feeling that they were scared of the crowd - scared of the ever prevalent Gypsy prejudice. In fact, last year was their first official Romanian concert ever, but they were terrified.... Then they did another show but they weren't comfortable until they knew they would have guest performers on stage with them... And tonight, after a screening of our film, Fanfare played a fantastic concert! As one of their managers put it, they broke the ice and had a good time for the first time on stage in their home country. Definitely cause for celebration! I wonder if racism is the most multicultural and durable commodity on this planet... we've all got it and it sticks around for a bloody long time. Oops, i somehow forgot to mention that my film played on a huge outdoor screen in the same square last night - to incredibly fine reception. Thanks Transylvania.
I'm just rounding off a couple of days of dancing till the wee hours -- wednesday was with Fanfare Ciocarlia, Esma and their "all star" band. I don't think i've ever seen such a good concert anywhere. Everyone danced! all the way into the 3rd tier of the gods... and then we went back to the hotel with managers and musicians, one of them plugged an mp3 phone into some mini-speakers, the desk staff were kind enough to turn a blind eye, and we danced again till 4am. Ouch :-) Then tonight, Taraf tore up the place! ...and then we smiled and danced and according to this photo, Pashalan and Ionica grabbed me for a quick hug too :-) This was all part of London's Barbican festival celebrating a thousand years of Romani music - pulling audiences for a couple of years now. With Gogol Bordello too. And Balkan beatbox in London just a few days earlier. It was small for the film, but lovely to show it to my London friends and my father for the first time. A moment backstage with Oprica of Fanfare Ciocarlia:
Our film will soon be playing in the Krakow Film Festival and I’d like to make a special tribute to an impressive Romani man who was born in that city in 1906 and whose life’s achievements take my breath away. Jan Kochanowski (aka Vania de Gila) died on May 18, leaving behind one son who is a General in the French Air Force and another son who is a choreographer of the National ballet of Gabon. I can’t do justice to the summary I just read of this man’s life in an obituary (LINK) but Vania began life with his mother’s nomadic Latvian clan wandering from Poland to Biolerussia until age 9. His father died in the military defending Smolensk in 1942. Vania lost half of his family in WW2, he escaped twice himself and joined the Resistance. Eventually settling in France, Vania became a scholar, earned two PhD’s and wrote important books on sociology, anthropology, linguistics and Roma. He founded Romani activist societies and travelled the world representing his people from Paris to Delhi to UNESCO (bringing scholarship and dancing to most gatherings).
ah ha, we've just figured out how to get the blog up again! So here's a snippet of festival catch-up: After about 6 months of hopping about the planet like a frog -or I hope like something else more elegant that jumps a lot - I ended up this month in Jeonju, Korea. I never could've guessed that Koreans would feel such a strong bond to Gypsies! Audience members came back to see the film twice in 2 days. A bona fide Korean movie star asked if he could introduce the film and talked about his people's ability to empathize with a history that contains great suffering... and the crowning glory was that we won a fine Audience Award! Bibimbop in Jeonju is also an award of its very own - so many varieties of it, so many flavors, a universal yum. Seattle is about the most friendly and clean place I've ever spent time (albeit just a couple of days). Don't skip the public library by mister Koolhaus! Of course the crowning glory is the festival itself, which must be the longest running festival on the planet - 3 weeks! (many film fests are only 3 days). Audiences are amazing too - a standing ovation never hurt anyone. And when i told the audience that I'd be seeing the musicians in a few days and would tell them about the great response - the audience whooped and cheered for them again.
other recent festival stops: Budapest, Amsterdam, Palm Springs, San Francisco, Prague, Nashville, Belgium....
happy, but dog tired (could sleep anywhere - a la standard41)
Thousands of people gathered in Sofia's largest public art space (MKZ) to see Esma sing before a screening of our film. I was nervous because it was also the first time that Esma had seen the completed film - and I knew she wouldn't hesitate to kill me in public if she didn't like it. Luckily, she cried with pride... and I lived to tell the tale.
New Roma radio program called “Pacto con Dios” on air every Tuesday from 9 to 10PM and Sundays from 2 to 4PM; www.radiomaranata.net
On June 1, 2006 European Parliament adopted the Resolution on the Situation of Roma Women in the European Union; Roma women are among the most threatened groups in Europe, especially in the ten new Member States and the accession candidate countries
On June 6, 2006 there was a public hearing at the European Parliament regarding anti-Gypsyism in the media
Romani Baht Foundation has changed its program priorities and structure to reflect Bulgaria's status as a pre-European Union accession country
Appelate court upheld the decision to acquit at retrial two Roma men who were wrongfully convicted of murder
European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg finds Macedonia Roma police brutality case admissible
European Roma Rights Center sent a letter of concern about anti-Roma hate speech to the Editor-in-Chief of the Russian daily paper Budni
British film director Hannah Collins and her Russian Romani co-writer and producer, Edouard Chiline, finished shooting their film “Current History” based on everyday life in Novgorod, Russian Federation. The film focuses on the relationship of Romani and non-Roma in the village.
Commission for Racial Equality released a report that reveals a “culture of oversight” has made it difficult to provide adequate services for Roma and Irish Travelers
Helsinki Commission called upon President Putin and elected officials to condemn the recent surge of ethnically and racially motivated hate crimes in Russia that included violence against Roma
Helsinki Commission is holding a briefing in Washington DC on June 16th regarding the situation of Roma in Europe
May 20th marked the CALIFORNIA HERDELJEZI FESTIVAL 2006, a benefit to help the Roma of Kosovo
General Roma Media
Roma News and related Forum on a website of the International Debate Education Association (IDEA). Read updates on http://idw.idebate.org/roma
Discuss issues according to topic on http://www.idebate.org/discussion/view_forum.php?id=54
Two Roma men convicted of murder have been acquitted
June 6-7th there will be a conference in Budapest called “The European Union and the Roma”
(Vienna) – European Monitoring Center for Racism and Xenophobia (EUMC) has released a report that finds that education systems throughout Europe are failing Roma students; Roma are subjects of systemic discrimination and exclusion from education.
The National Democratic Institute for InternationalAffairs (NDI) is conducting a political leadership training series for 25 emerging Roma leaders through its Roma Political Participation Program in Romania. NDI is now recruiting participants for the program.
Romania & Bulgaria
Both countries are waiting for the European Commission to finalize a report of their EU accession dates (report out May 16)
18 Romani children who were forced to go to segregated schools in the Czech Republic filed their final appeal today before the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.
European Court of Human Rights has declared admissible the application of Mr. Pejrusan Jasar against Macedonia in a torture case (this is the 1st time this has ever happened!)
On May 16th there was a remembrance ceremony to commemorate the first deportation of the Roma and Sinti into Nazi concentration camps
10th Annual California Herdeljezi Festival 2006 on May 20th - Roma festival that supports the Roma of Kosovo
Council of Europe recently started the implementation of a third joint Council of Europe/European Commission project called"Equal Rights and Treatment for Roma in SEE." It will last two years and will be implemented in Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Montenegro, and Macedonia. It will raise awareness of Roma issues and improve Roma participation in social and public spheres.
The World Bank’s Roma website has launched a publications page for past World Bank publications about Roma: