‘I like the fact that the camera is so close-up and even though the footage is simple, there is still joy in her narrative.’
The protagonist of this short documentary film is Alica Sigmund Heráková, who discovers at the age of twenty-five that she has Roma origins on her father’s side. Through the series of informal interviews and the personal narration, which are recorded either in Alica’s apartment or in assorted nearby locations, we feel ever closer to Alica, as if we were sitting with her at the same table and listening to her opinion on a variety of issues relating to the Roma minority in the Czech Republic, including segregation at primary school, negative prejudices and even racist preconceptions towards Romani people in everyday life.
The area where she has been living happily with her family since she found out about her Roma roots is still inhabited by Romani people, but gentrification has meant that the composition of the population has constantly been changing. We even get a historical insight into this part of Brno, which used to be populated by Jewish people before they were sent to concentration camps in World War II.
Alica also reflects on the perception and usage of public space by Romani people and how this attitude appears in their social gatherings, although it is not really supported by inappropriately designed public spaces (e.g. a lack of benches to prevent people from ‘gathering’).
Rather than talking of ‘we as Roma’, using the personal pronoun, Alica keeps saying ‘they are’ during the interviews, and comments that they perceive her differently. Despite this, Alica is aware of the complexity of her dual identity. The film applies simple filmic tools, but this is complemented by a highly authentic Roma character and a captivating personal narrative.
Alica is the first film by Vera Lackova, a young Romani female director who is also presented in the film while she and Alica are talking. She examines the question of self-identity and self-representation from an intimate perspective – the protagonist is physically very close to the camera – as if she had known Alica for some time. (Alica has more recently been working as a PR manager for the Media Voice production company, which was founded by Vera Lackova).
The film focuses on topics that do not have a voice within mainstream media, but thanks to Vera Lackova’s active participation in different film productions and social media projects her activities are now widely recognised.