‘An interesting story presented by interviewing survivors from the deportations in Romania. I really think this is one of the few movies where the main language is Romani. Most of the characters speak in Romani.’
It is our duty to remember those who were brutally exterminated for no other reason than their ethnicity. The documentary Roma Tears, directed by Luminita Cioaba in 2006, transforms oral traditions to history through the medium of film in order to discuss the important yet little discussed tragedy of Romanian Roma who were deported to Transnistria in 1942. The film is important for recalling the history of Roma and their suffering during World War II. Directed by a Roma woman, the documentary is hence categorised as self-depiction. With music playing in the background, it begins with a narration about ‘Romani angels’, talking about their exclusion and yet closeness to God. The same narration wraps up the documentary, giving it a poetic framework. The transition to old black-and-white footage is preceded by a shot of a crying survivor, singing about her memories that are ‘not a story but many, many tears’. Survivors in the documentary become political agents in a way, reconstructing their own past while contributing to the collective memory of Roma and strengthening the importance of historical remembrance. Victims of the deportation vividly share their stories while surrounded by children – the young generation that will carry on the collective memories of their seniors – while others are shown in the surroundings of their home environment. Recounting all the stages of the forced deportation, from depriving Roma of their belongings to placing them in inadequate and miserable huts, the survivors evoke the challenges: surviving in the winter, the diseases that were rampant in the camp, their friends, family members and loved ones who died. The storyline vividly depicts both the sufferings of Roma and their endurance. The recreated black-and-white images aid the visual depiction of the gruesome stories, while heavily relying on the rich oral history that remains from that time period. Cold, misery and severe hunger amounted to such inhumane conditions that even cannibalism became a survival mechanism. Escaping death by hunger was a constant struggle. The rampant violence against Roma was a constant reminder of their vulnerability. Dead people, according to one testimony, became a common sight. Although this dramatic phase of history is often ignored, the documentary nevertheless demands immense respect for the survivors, having recounted their struggles to survive through cold, hunger, violence and misery in 1942. The documentary was recognised and screened outside Romania as well, in countries such as the United States, England and Israel.
Screening followed by a conversation with the director at the University of Washington – Seattle, 17 February 2017, http://lolodiklo.blogspot.hu/2012/02/roma-tears.html
Presentation and screening during the International Workshop on Transnistria, 26 April 2007, Jerusalem, Israel, http://czernowitz.ehpes.com/czernowitz12/testfile2007/0418.html
World premiere at the ‘The London International Gypsy Film Festival: Finding Romanistan’, 16–30 March 2006, http://www.romanianculturalcentre.org.uk/event/the-london-international-gypsy-film-festival-finding-romani/?&v=1
Screening at Academy GRENZE, symposium ‘Identity-creating Collective Stories in Europe’, 12–15 May 2010, Evangelical Academy of Siebenbürgen, Sibiu/Hermannstadt, https://www.akademie-an-der-grenze.net/akademien/akademie-mai-10/programm/
University of Torino, conference ‘Genocide and Forms of Intolerance of Roma and Sinti’ and screening, 10–11 October 2011, http://www.ilnostropianeta.it/wp-content/uploads/2011/09/programma_convegno_aizo.pdf