Anti-Roma racism in Hungary on film

This video from Hungary is called Film Trailer: Csak a szél / Just the Wind.

By Richard Phillips in Australia:

Sydney Film Festival—Part 3: Some naturalistic and mostly credible depictions

10 August 2012

This is the third in a series of articles on the recent Sydney Film Festival. See parts 1 and 2.

Among the more interesting features screened at the Sydney Film Festival were Just the Wind, by Hungarian filmmaker Benedek Fliegauf, this year’s Cannes Film Festival Jury Prize winner The Angels’ Share, by British director Ken Loach and his long-term screenwriting partner Paul Laverty, and Captive by Philippine director Brillante Mendoza. While all these filmmakers clearly and compassionately identify with the oppressed layers portrayed in their work, their ability to take this concern to deeper artistic insights was problematic.

Benedek Fliegauf’s Just the Wind is an unsettling exposure of the poverty and racism confronting the Roma minority in Hungary. Running for only 87 minutes, the movie is a fictionalised account of one of a series of targeted attacks on Roma families during 2008-2009.

Just the Wind

With the collapse of the Hungarian economy and government austerity measures, crimes—petty or otherwise—and every other social ill were blamed on the Roma and a lynch-mob atmosphere was whipped up against the community, which only constitutes about 5 percent of the Hungarian population. Homes were fire-bombed and Roma men, women and children shot and killed by extreme-right terror groups operating with the tacit support of the police and state authorities.

Just the Wind is filmed in documentary style with hand-held camera, natural lighting, sparse dialogue and non-professional actors. It chronicles 24-hours in the life of one Roma family—Mari (Katalin Toldi), a single mother, her invalided father, Anna (Gyöngyi Lendvai) and Rio (Lajos Sarkany), her two school-age children. The family is part of a small poverty-stricken Roma community living on the forested outskirts of a Hungarian town.

Poverty dominates every moment of their lives. Mari works two low-paying cleaning jobs, including one at her daughter’s school, to try and make ends while hoping that her husband, who has emigrated to Canada, will send for the family.

Mari leaves for work in the early hours, with her children more or less left to their own devices, and returns after dark. Anti-Roma slurs and institutionalised racism confront them at every turn—whether at school or in the work place. The entire community, in fact, is under threat following the recent murder of a neighbouring family.

Ugly incidents build throughout the film. Anna witnesses a rape at school but is too afraid to report it to the authorities, probably because she has been subjected to the same brutality. Eleven-year-old Rio does not go to school, plays video games, and spends time in a secret hideout he has fashioned in the nearby forest. He hopes it will protect him in the event of any violent attacks.

Rio later overhears two Hungarian policemen examining what remains of the home of the murdered neighbouring Roma family. One of the cops tells his partner that this family were “hard-working” and should not have been killed. “They are shooting the wrong families. I could show them who to shoot,” he declares.

The film’s climax occurs at night, after Mari has returned home and they are preparing to sleep. There is some rustling outside their rudimentary home but they reassure each other that it is “Just the wind.”

Fliegauf is measured in his approach and does not idealise the Roma family or sensationalise the tragic story. While the film’s closing credits provide some limited factual details on the anti-Roma attacks there are no references to the role played by Hungarian governments—past and present—and the mass media who are politically responsible for extreme-right militia thugs‘ attacks on the Roma.

Despite this, Just the Wind is a compassionate work and hopefully will encourage audiences—especially outside Europe, where there is virtually no reportage on the Roma—to investigate these issues more deeply. (See: “Wave of violence against Roma in Hungary”)

30 thoughts on “Anti-Roma racism in Hungary on film

  1. Tue 14 Aug 2012

    Roma victims remembered as racist violence returns

    Romanian Roma and others gathered at the Hyde Park Holocaust Memorial in central London on Friday two weeks ago.

    They were there to remember the murder of thousands of Roma in the Auschwitz concentration camp on 3 August 1944. The Nazis killed some 500,000 Roma in the Holocaust.

    The Metropolitan police have brought in ten special officers from Romania to make fortnightly sweeps of the Marble Arch area near the memorial, to “engage, disrupt and deter” Roma from the city’s streets.

    Hundreds had been rounded up, or had their belongings destroyed in the run up to the Olympics. London’s Evening Standard newspaper called Roma beggars “disgusting” and a menace.

    There has been an upsurge of racist and fascist anti-Roma violence across Europe. In Bulgaria five days before the anniversary, Malin Iliev, a candidate of the Euroroma Party, died of the injuries he received in a bomb attack.

    In Paris the police have just pulled down more makeshift homes and in Ostrava, Czech Republic, 40 families face imminent eviction.

    The time has come to get out in the streets and physically demonstrate our opposition. The next big opportunity will be Roma Nation Day, on 8 April 2013.

    Grattan Puxon, spokesperson for the 8 April movement


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