‘I would recommend this film for its political relevance today.’
‘Anyone who comes back by force will not receive any help’, is a UNICEF expert’s Kafkaesque description of the situation following decisions made by European – primarily German – policymakers. In 2010, 671 Roma, Ashkali and Egyptians were repatriated to Kosovo, from Sweden and Austria but mainly from Germany. During this time, 11,000 other citizens, mostly children with ‘tolerated status’ (Duldung) were beyond all hope, waiting for the same fate.
Katalin Bársony an award-winning Hungarian filmmaker, sociologist and director of the Budapest-based Roma NGO, Romedia Foundation, and Verena Knaus decided to document the shocking consequences of these decisions towards children that were revealed in two reports: a UNICEF assessment by Verena Knaus and Peter Widmann called ‘Integration subject to Conditions’, and a report by the Kosovo Foundation for Open Society on ‘The Position of Roma, Ashkali and Egyptian Communities in Kosovo’.
The independent production company works with a Romani crew and primarily makes advocacy targeted documentaries. Uprooted: Children’s Perspectives on Europe’s Repatriation Policies consists of interviews with NGO members and introduces the viewer to three teenagers: Anita Osmani, who may be repatriated at any moment, and two brothers, Sedat and Nasmija Hasani, who have already been sent back to Kosovo with their mother, thereby becoming separated from their father and other brothers.
The interviews and voiceover narration reveal the background of this nightmarish situation as the children talk directly to the viewer about their lives and dreams. They speak overtly, showing trust in the filmmakers, who get close to the topic through the bridge of their common mother tongue (albeit spoken in different dialects).
Directors of Romani origin can clearly depict the situation of people stigmatised as ‘Other’ in a more honest way. More precisely, they tend to avoid the dehumanisation and exoticisation of Roma that people are used to seeing in mainstream media representation. Thus, characters and their contexts remain more realistic so that the viewers can understand the social and political conditions these characters face.
By identifying discriminatory practices and recognising their historical background, people might be able to understand the necessity of the emancipation movement and get involved or mobilised in order to achieve equality. In addition, this film is steadily gaining in political relevance as the refugee issue is foregrounded all over Europe.
Other documentaries (Kenedi se vraca kuci [Kenedi Goes Back Home] by Zelimir Zilnik and Trapped by Law by Sami Mustafa) take a different approach in an attempt to call attention to the same problems. As the film involves the viewer ever more, anxiety grows and the musical score simultaneously makes us feel relaxed and yet sad. Kosovatar Avilem, written by civil-rights activist Ágnes Daróczi with Izedin Alishani, and performed by Izedin Alishani and József Balázs, makes us feel well grounded and yet conscious of our inefficacy.
Nominated for an award at the 8th Aljazeera International Documentary Film Festival, 2012
Jihlava International Film Festival
Screenings in several cities from Doha to Washington