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FOCUS! Roma youth cinema project
We believe deeply in using the power of culture and films to fight for human rights. Films and images shape our imagination, our identities and our narratives. The impact of government initiatives and policies will always be limited as long as the root causes of exclusion – stereotypes and racism – are not tackled. Based on years of incredible work done by the Rolling Film Festival in Kosovo, the Roma cinema youth project provides a lens through which we can discover the diversity, richness and humanity of this community by promoting grass-roots cinema from inspiring filmmakers. During the last two years (2016-2017) Somany (France), Romawood, & Rolling Film Festival (Kosovo) and Phiren Amenca (Hungary) have worked together to create this online resource center for use in various educational and cultural contexts. The objective of this project is to combat stereotypes and racism against Roma communities through increasing the number of quality film events and associated educational activities. It has been supported by the Erasmus+ Programme in the field of youth under key action two strategic partnership.
What you will find on this website
A database of films made by and about Roma selected by Roma & non-Roma youth targeting especially the education, film and youth sectors;
> Education screening kits on various topic that educators/film professionals can freely download to help design an educational program around the screening;
> A five-day training curriculum for youth workers;
> Tips on how to organize film screenings and film festivals on Roma issues;
> Resources on the topic.
Ten years ago, I told myself, “My life heading is to make films about Roma so people can understand Roma culture, history, art – and also the struggle that we are facing in everyday life. But films that are not watched are not films that we can learn from. I needed a place where I could show my own films about the Roma community but also the work of hundreds of other filmmakers around the world that are questioning the misrepresentation, stereotypes and social injustice towards Roma. These films need to be shown; these stories to be listened to,” and that’s how it all started with Rolling Film Festival (RFF). Since then, four different editions of RFF took place, every second year, gathering every time more and more local and international audiences, and designing innovative programs: on the road, open air, school programs, debates, youth programing session, workshop film production, community screening, and other side cultural events. Along the way, Rolling has created a database of over 400 films, screened more than 150 of them in front of audiences of 7000, and also involved roughly 2,000 youth in human rights programs. Finally, RFF has also produced 56 short films made by Roma and non-Roma youth.
From Rolling to Focus
In the last few years, festivals & organizations from all over Europe have asked the Rolling team for support for various tasks such as building meaningful thematic film programs and/or designing film workshops — confirming the uniqueness of RFF resources and expertise. Responding to such demands, our team started developing ways to make RFF past experience and ongoing resources more accessible to the wider community of educators and cultural actors to support other emerging Roma cinema initiatives. And that’s how we decided to create Focus.
100 Movies 100 Years
An important part of this website is our film database. Of course, it will grow in coming years, as new films made by and about Roma are produced or as we discover old films. But for the launch of this resource center, we decided to start with a selection of 100 films. 100 for the 100 years since Roma appeared on screen for the first time with Chaplin’s film “Making A Living”. As I came across of more than 400 titles as the artistic director of RFF, some choices were obvious. I think for example about films such as The Gypsy Caravan by Jasmine Dellal, Gypsies are Found Near Heaven by Emil Loteanu, the Kenedi trilogy by Želemir Žilnik and many other that portrayed Roma communities as the heroes of their own stories in their own diversities. Clara Farkas worked on the selection of older films from the 1920s until the 1980s while the other members of the Focus team supported us looking for more recently produced films. Our selection is diverse but often inspired by character-driven stories that go beyond characterizing an individual as “being Roma”. Those films provide us with greater insight in to the personal stories of people. We aimed while putting this first 100 films list together to select films that would be accessible for screenings as our main goal is to increase the number of quality Roma cinema events. We also wanted to put a spotlight on youth project films, so we could in particular include films produced in the frame of workshops with Roma youth throughout Europe.
Of course, there are many more films than these 100 deserving to be part of the database, but this is a start!
A big thanks to the Focus team who contacted individually the 100 production houses, filmmakers, distributors for their work!
If you would like to submit your film or to be part of the selection committee in the future, don’t hesitate to get in contact with us!
Sami Mustafa, Clara Farkas and the Focus Team
 To name a few: Slovenia – DZMP; Germany –Hungarian Cultural Institute in Berlin, Cottbus Film Festival; Austria – Studio West / Romano Centre; Romania – IRAF Festival; Hungary – DEPOK Festival; France – Festival de Douardenez, Fnasat, Itinérances Tsiganes; Croatia – Motovun Film Festival; Serbia – SCI Novi Sad, Phiren Amenca, etc.