Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Roma documentary premieres at One World fest


BUCHAREST — Romania's Roma community took centre stage at the One World festival in Bucharest with the premiere of a French film about the discrimation one community is facing in the centre of the country.

"Valea Corlatului" (the Corlat Valley), which premiered Sunday at the human rights film festival, provides an insight into daily life of some 600 Roma who settled illegally on the bank of a river separating two Romanian counties.

They soon find themselves rejected by their neighbours and the local authorities.

While villagers complain of a growing number of thefts, attributed to their new Roma neighbours, the prefect of Covasna county blasts their attempt to "infiltrate" into the majority ethnic Hungarian region.

"We joked a lot during the shooting but the authorities' lack of respect for the people's rights was appalling," said Stephane Lucon, the documentary's French director.

"The film talks about geographical and ethnic boundaries and about administrative chaos," Lucon said, blasting the authorities' readiness to, as he put it, "label people wholesale."

"I hope it will help change things and have an impact on people's lives." Though living in dire poverty and deprived of IDs, some of the Roma in this "village without a name" have retained a sense of humour, like one woman who thinks life without electricity is not entirely devoid of charm: "It's like having a candle-light romantic dinner every night. I bet not many people can afford that."

In Lucon's film, the prefects of Covasna and neighbouring Brasov counties eventually arrive at a rather crude solution: bulldoze a hill and shift the course of the Corlat river.

The win-win plan, at a cost of 400,000 euros (568,000 dollars), would help Covasna county "rid itself" of the Roma and earn Brasov county some 20 hectares (49 acres) of land, plus a "bonus of 500 to 800 Roma," as one local official put it.

Romania is home to the biggest Roma minority in Europe. Officially, their number is given as 530,000 but pressure groups put the figure as high as 2.5 million, saying most do not declare themselves, fearing discrimination.

The fourth edition of the One World festival is showcasing 37 documentaries from around the world under the theme: "What a wonderful world."

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