‘Even the Roma themselves don't know about these facts.’Petro Rusanienko, filmmaker
03 Breaking with the Past
‘Roma do not talk about the sufferings of the past. This would be bibaxt – unlucky – according to the old rules.’George Eli, filmmaker, in: Searching for the 4th Nail
The role of film in the construction of a collective memory is essential. Therefore, it is crucial to challenge conventional representations in order to rebuild a community’s history, especially a community that relies on oral traditions. As Mac Ferro noted in 1992, ‘thanks to popular memory and oral tradition, the historian-filmmaker can give back to society a history it has been deprived of by the Institution of History.’ The films in the ‘Breaking with the Past – Revolution’ subsection are part of an emancipation movement that breaks with the homogenous image of the minority, clearly demonstrating the diversity of Romani communities and individuals. In this way, the RomArchive film collection wishes to promote both appreciation and cultural competence (a term coined by Hans Blokland).
Romani people have experienced various forms of suffering throughout history. From slavery and the sufferings of Roma during World War II to the difficulties of present-day discrimination and segregation, these experiences are part of personal memories. While these memories are passed on from one generation to another, they remain within the family and are rarely communicated to the outside world. Filmmakers are, in fact, rewriting history from this particular viewpoint of the Roma by cultivating a space for self-representation and reconciliation regarding issues once considered taboo.
It is important to emphasise the ideological and economic barriers surrounding film production and the underlying power structures behind each film production. Given these factors, it is clear that authors have a long road ahead to reach mainstream audiences. The stories they tell, inspired by family stories, fairy tales and myths, are refreshing and modern, allowing us to see and understand diverse Romani communities. Furthermore, they indicate that there is a great deal of motivation to counter negative representations of Romani communities.