‘This is a great film which has important historical relevance in portraying the struggle for equality through the portrait of a female Nordic Romani activist.’
Exceptional people make a lasting impact on their society, but what makes them so outstanding? The self-portrait documentary Taikon, directed by Lawen Mohtadi and Gellert Tamas in 2015, depicts the life of Katarina Taikon, one of the most important Roma woman in modern history. The directors spent years getting to understand the Romani culture and Taikon’s character. Although Taikon initially struggles with various forms of marginalisation and poverty growing up as a Roma girl, she later turns into a charismatic and empowered woman – completely breaking with the usual representations of Roma on screen. Consequently, this documentary is important for the Roma emancipation movement in portraying the struggle for equality through the life of a Nordic Romani woman. A sequence of original footage of Katarina Taikon herself as well as contemporary interviews with those who knew her best paint a comprehensive picture about the life of an extraordinary woman, who pioneered the rights of Swedish Roma. Her journey from illiterate girl to well-known book author, political activist and advocate for Roma issues is astonishing.
The documentary gives a human and realistic portrait of her life, taking a chronological approach from her traumatic early life right up to her death. Fleeing her forced marriage as a teenager, Taikon had a brief career as an actress and quickly became a strong and prominent figure. Her grim and difficult childhood undoubtedly inspired her later career. The story of Katitzi in a popular book she authored is a reflection of her own life, and is read by the author herself in the documentary; the book was written as therapy for coming to terms with her past. Images and footage of Taikon show her as a cheerful and very confident person, who preserved her modesty even after she had gained a reputation and respect for her political efforts and literary work. She tirelessly fought for Roma rights to education, housing and access to work.
The documentary powerfully shows that Taikon’s remarkable strength and stamina drove her to educate herself and become a public figure. No wonder she was nicknamed ‘Sweden’s Martin Luther King’; indeed she met Martin Luther King personally in the 1960s. Her fight to build a more just Swedish society with equal rights and opportunities for Roma, as well as her tireless devotion to the cause ultimately exhausted her, and after many years in a coma she passed away. At the end of the documentary, a series of images once again reinforces Taikon’s lasting contribution to Roma rights and Swedish society at large. The last shot is a black-and-white image of her face – the strong look, powerful eyes and gentle facial characteristics embody the endurance, determination and dynamism that guided Katarina Taikon throughout her life.
Tempo Documentary Film Festival (Sweden), March 2015 https://tempofestival.se/en/program/taikon-2/
Sweden’s Way Out West Festival, August 2015 http://www.screendaily.com/festivals/way-out-west-to-host-jonas-akerlund-world-premiere/5090802.article
Screening at the NYC Scandinavia House, 2016, hosted by the Consulate General of Sweden in New York http://www.swedenabroad.com/en-GB/Embassies/New-York/Current-affairs/News/Screening-of-Documentary-Taikon-at-Scandinavia-House-sys/
Screening at the Washington DC House of Sweden, 2016
Social Justice Film Festival in Seattle, USA, November 2016 http://www.socialjusticefilmfestival.org/?tribe_events=katarina-taikon
Unspoken Human Rights Festival, Utica, NY, USA, October 2016
Screening at the Compact Roma Film Night (Romedia), Budapest, Hungary, 2017 http://www.cei.int/sites/default/files/file/compact_with%20logo.pdf