‘The story is very heart-breaking. Showing the perspective from a single person is very important. This portrait style of film should be included.’
Only speaking out about the traumatic experiences of Pharrajimos many decades after the horrors of World War II is much more than a personal tragedy. Although the memory of the Holocaust and how it is represented has been widely researched and extensively discussed as a trauma related subject, the specific persecution of Sinti and Roma has been neglected for too long. Ceija Stojka the famous Austrian painter of Roma origin, started to recall her memories before writing her autobiography in 1988. Since then, as one of the central figures of the Roma and Sinti civil rights movement in Europe, she has actively taken part in remembrance politics.
In 1999, Karin Berger made a portrait about her life, family background and art, which led to her becoming a close friend of the protagonist. Then, in 2005, she decided to put together the documentary, Unter den Brettern hellgrünes Gras (The Green Green Grass Benaet It), of her recollections. Indeed, oral history plays a very important role in the memory of Romani people, given the lack of personal documents, written records and private archives. Remembering the past can function as an identity-building element in the present emancipation movement, especially if it is told by such an engaging character as Stojka.
The inscened (carefully staged) conversations were recorded in Stojka’s flat while she was painting one of her pictures, surrounded by personal objects. The traumatic narrative, which calls into being the horrific events in our fantasy, is juxtaposed by the artistic creation: sensory experiences of the death camps are added to those of the subjective body. As Stojka paints the background with her fingers, we can hear her breathing and the scratches she makes.
Lovara (also known as Lovari, the group of Roma she belongs to) folksongs create a nice musical tone, and Stojka’s singing brings us closer to a culture whose past is built with stones of joy and suffering.