‘The movie is very important, dynamic and visually compelling.’
Mihai Catalin Cazacu
There is still much we do not know about the systematic extermination of Roma during the Holocaust. The Exile from Bessarabia, a documentary directed by Sergiu Ene and Natalia Ghilașcu in cooperation with an NGO, depicts the suffering and extermination of Roma during World War II in Bessarabia and Bucovina (today Ukraine, Moldova and Romania) – a tragic event that is even now often overlooked (some notable exceptions to this absence are A People Uncounted by Aaron Yeger and Romane lasfa [Roma Tears] by Luminita Cioaba, two documentaries exploring aspects of the Pharrajimos). Thus, this visually compelling documentary makes an important contribution to the remembrance of Roma history, realistically portraying the sufferings that Roma endured. The film powerfully combines original footage from the past, expert interviews and memories from survivors to create a personal lens that depicts the Romani community authentically by allowing them to define their own past through their memories, experiences and enduring pain. An important part of Romani culture is its centuries-old rich oral cultural tradition, making films such as The Exile from Bessarabia all the more essential in capturing and digitalising such traditions for future generations. Testimonies from the Pharrajimos survivors are presented as lived memories, carefully matched with archival findings as well as black-and-white images from the past. Elderly Roma vividly share their recollections from the time: a ninety-two-year-old survivor struggling to remember the details of the deportation, the route she walked, and the pains she witnessed is particularly moving. As her biography is narrated, the camera – as a guest in the elderly woman’s house – shows her modest living conditions and colourful belongings. Finally, a close-up view of the woman follows as she recounts the details of the darkest years of her life. Nevertheless, the cinematographer’s position remains distant from the subjects. One of the most painful stories is a Roma woman recalling her mother giving birth with no assistance, no water and no medical staff; even in such vulnerable situations, Roma could only count on their own strength and power to endure. These seemingly ordinary people are shown doing routine chores such as cleaning clothes in a washbasin, yet they have such horrific memories from the past. A side view or head-on frontal view of their facial expressions, the pain ingrained in their eyes, and wrinkly skin underlines how important it is that their difficult memories be preserved and appreciated for generations to come.
Awarded prize for best documentary film at the Cronograf International Film Festival (Moldova), 2013, https://cronograf.md/Films_1405518496.php?id=199
Film screened at the International Film Festival for Human Rights in Arizona, USA, 2016, https://en-us.fievent.com/e/6th-annual-human-rights-film-festival/2788375