‘I think the film is shot from outside the community, not within. It does show the struggle of life but more as a journalist than a filmmaker.’
Artur Conka is a young filmmaker and photographer who has been living in Great Britain since he was eight, but he was actually born in an industrial region of Slovakia, near Kosice. The history of the huge Slovakian housing estate and its inhabitants – who are mainly Roma living in extreme poverty and other homeless people – shows symbolically how the socialist regime’s assimilative policies based on compulsory employment and equal rights to work failed after its fall. Closing down local factories but not offering new opportunities for employment or training, combined with not having the financial resources to provide social benefits tragically led to many thousands of uneducated workers becoming paupers, not just in Lunik IX but also in many other industrial regions of Central and Eastern Europe. Conka’s family escaped this fate and found a new home and a safe existence in London.
Having visited his hometown in 2009, Conka was shocked by the changes that turned Lunik IX into a ghetto and decided to return equipped with a camera. In reminiscing about his childhood he managed to get in contact with the locals and shoot a short, low budget documentary. The film strives to present a realistic image, yet its observational approach does not let the viewer overcome the deeply rooted stereotypes. We can undoubtedly label this first-generation intellectual filmmaker’s action as empowerment. And yet returning from Western Europe to a slum district makes it unavoidable that the lens will be turned into a distant gaze, even if the Romani language creates a crucial link between the interviewer and his subjects. Factual narration told by the author and emotional music score create a contrapuntal soundtrack for the stressed, journalistic-style pauper aesthetics of high-quality cinematography.
Aviram, Alon: ‘Artur Conka Photographs the Roma Poor He Left Behind’, Vice, 31 May 2013, https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/artur-conka-photographs-of-lunik-ix-make-me-sad
Conka, Artur: ‘What Is Life really Like for Roma Families Around Europe?’, Huffington Post, 13 May 2013, http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/artur-conka/roma-families-in-europe_b_3253404.html