Thursday, October 29, 2009
On 28 October 2009, after a 31 year wait, the Departnent of Interior announced it will not recognize Montana's Little Shell Tribe. The Little Shell are a tribe of landless Indians who have struggled to stay together through more than a century of poverty, dislocation and oppression. Members of the Little Shell Tribe have said they will push to circumvent this decision.
For more information please go to
Posted by Morgan at 4:14 PM
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
We are glad to invite you to the screening of „Lashi Vita – Beautiful Life", part of our Mundi Romani documentary series held at the National Theater, Brussels on Sunday 25 October at 7:15 p.m. 2009.
LASHI VITA - Romedia Foundation / Duna Television, Hungary, 2008
Lashi Vita means „beautiful life” in the mixture of Roma language and Italian used by Italy’s Roma immigrants. This news documentary was shot in August and September 2008 in Italy, where the November 2007 murder of an Italian woman by a Roma immigrant has sparked an unprecedented wave of anti-Roma hate speech, xenophobic policies and racially motivated violence reminiscent of the darkest days in European history.
Roma journalist Katalin Bársony reports from Naples in the Italian south to northern Italy through the capital, Rome. An explosive situation in which the rule of law seems to have become irrelevant. In which freedom of information is in danger as the television crew is arrested by police in Rome. In which mutual fear seems to have taken a whole country over. This reportage shot in one of the oldest and biggest democracies in the EU raises serious questions as to the meaning of democracy and the fragile basis on which European civilization and the European Union lie.
Posted by Morgan at 8:10 PM
More than 100 people demonstrate in Prague against racism and extremism
Prague, 25.10.2009, 10:10, (ROMEA)
Yesterday more than 100 people met on Náměstí Míru in Prague to demonstrate against racism and extremism. Romani women activists and civic associations working with minorities gathered to protest growing racial intolerance and extremism in Czech society. The protest was convened by the Slovo 21 civic association in cooperation with the ROMEA civic association.
"We feel the need to speak out and say we are not satisfied with the current situation,” Martina Horváthová of Slovo 21 told ČTK. Horváthová believes that if women find the courage to demonstrate their disagreement with growing racism and extremism, ordinary people may realize the results of keeping silent.
Speakers at the gathering included the chair of the Czech Helsinki Committee, Anna Šabatová, actress Táňa Fischerová, and representatives of the League against Anti-Semitism and Burma Center Prague. "I am here to say out loud that I want to feel safe in this country. I do not want to live in fear of attack when I travel home from work,” Marta Hudečková of Slovo 21 said.
Participants brought banners reading "We are extremely against extremism" or "Don’t raise your children to be racists". A declaration entitled Together against Racism and Incivility (Společně proti rasismu a neslušnosti) was available for signature. The organizers hope to collect even more signatures on the internet and to hand the declaration over to politicians in January.
Czech Human Rights and Minorities Minister Kocáb gave his support to the demonstration last week. "For quite some time I have been calling for the engagement of civil society against radical neo-Nazi or fascist extremism, so it is good the citizens themselves are stepping up,” Kocáb told ČTK, adding that he intends to double efforts aimed directly at extremist sympathizers to enlighten them about the harmfulness of their opinions. "Often such sympathizers are still children themselves,” he explained.
Hundreds of Roma demonstrated against growing extremism at the start of May in 14 towns around the country. The chain demonstration was a response to the arson attack on a Romani family in Vítkov, which injured three people, one of them a two-year-old girl who is still fighting for her life in hospital. In Chomutov and Ostrava those protests were disrupted by extremists, but in other places the majority population came out in support.
Posted by Morgan at 7:56 PM
Saturday, October 24, 2009
For many years The October 22 Coalition Against Police Brutality has peaceably protested police brutality.
This year in Seattle, several police cars were set on fire on October 22. The prime time evening news first reports stated that there was belief that the arsons were committed by the coalition.
All subsequent reports deleted the implication that the Coalition Against Police Brutality was involved in the arsons.
How interesting that the media collectively jumped to that conclusion.
There is absolutely no connection between the coalition and the vandalisation of police vehicles.
And the beat goes on........
Posted by Morgan at 8:03 PM
Friday, October 23, 2009
On October 23, 1915 tens of thousands of women marched in New York City demanding the vote.
October 22, 2009 Soupy Sales died. If you don't remember "mister pie in your face" I won't bore you with memories.
October 22 was also the 90th birthday of Doris Lessing, a pioneer of the 196O's wave of feminism. It was also the 73rd birthday of Bobby Seale, cofounder of the Black Panther Party.
October 15, 1969---an estimated two million or more participated in the first national moratorium against the Vietnam War.
Oct 16 1973----War criminal Henry Kissinger was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize less than a month after he secretly oversaw the bloody military coup in Chile.
Posted by Morgan at 7:33 PM
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
On 20 Oct 1947 the House UnAmerican Activities Committee opened hearings into alleged Communist influence and infiltration in the United States motion picture industry.
These investigations led to the blacklisting of many progressives involved in the industry.
On 28 October 1886, President Cleveland dedicated the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor.
Cleveland refused to allow women to attend the ceremonies because he feared the festivities would be too rowdy for "ladies".
Suffragists who would not be silenced during the dedication of the ironically called "Lady Liberty" rented or hired boats and surrounded the statue. It was a sight to behold
Posted by Morgan at 7:21 PM
Sunday, October 18, 2009
Attempted pogrom against the Roma in Havířov goes to trial this coming Monday
Ostrava/Havířov, 17.10.2009, 14:02, (ROMEA)
This coming Monday, the trial of several neo-Nazis for racially motivated attempted murder in Havířov will begin in Ostrava. One of their victims has suffered permanent injury as a result of the attack.
On the night of 8 November 2008, a rather large group of young neo-Nazis met, agreed to physically attack any Roma they might come across, and set off into the streets of Havířov for that purpose. On Jarošová street in the Šumbark quarter, the young men, masked by hoods and balaclavas, jumped out of their car to attack two Romani minors, J.H. and P.S. After a brief chase they threw J.H. to the ground, beating him and brutally kicking him, especially in the head and legs. P.S. succeeded in escaping.
The attackers then moved to the quarter of Prostřední Suchá, where they noticed a young Romani man walking by. They chased him but were unable to catch up to him. They then attempted to attack another Romani man elsewhere in the same quarter, but he managed to take cover at the reception desk of a hostel. Ukrainian workers residing there prevented his being attacked.
According to the expert evaluation provided by the examining physicians, the attackers caused J.H. grave, life-threatening injuries. It was only due to the rapid provision of medical assistance that the victim did not die. His interior cranial injuries were caused not only by the kicking, but by the assailants’ use of a metal spanner called a “gola”, as well as a 65-cm long collapsible black-jack, both of which were confiscated by police. The victim has suffered permanent injuries as a result of which he must now halt his studies and will evidently never be able to work again.
The police have succeeded in identifying eight attackers, one of whom is a civil servant. They have been accused of the crimes of racially motivated grievous bodily harm and rioting. Prior to this attempted pogrom, all of the accused were already known to the police as either aggressive football hooligans or neo-Nazis.
The criminal proceedings involved sizeable delays due to the fact that homicide detectives at the regional headquarters in Ostrava did not immediately take over the case from the district-level detectives, even though it was clear from the start that this was a serious felony. The attack was conducted in such a way that the assailants had to have been aware that their exceptionally brutal treatment might result in the murder of their victim. However, despite the nature of the offense, the accused are not in custody. In the end the case was transferred to the Regional Court after the High Court in Olomouc came to the conclusion that the perpetrators’ behavior may be considered attempted murder.
The court proceedings will begin on 19 October 2009 at 8:30 AM at the Regional Court (Krajský soud) in Ostrava at Havlíčkovo nábřeží 1835/34, door number 10 on the ground floor of Building A. The victim is being represented by Mgr. Roman Krakovka of the Miketa and Partners law firm, whose work is being funded by ROMEA, o.s.
Posted by Morgan at 5:05 PM
Friday, October 16, 2009
On October 16, 1968, United States athletes Tommie Smith and Juan Carlos sparked controversy at the Mexico City Olympics by giving the BLACK POWER salutes during the awards ceremony after they'd both won medals in the 200 meter race.
This was a pretty brave thing to do considering the blatant attacks on Black Pathers, Angela Davis and many others involved in the struggle for basic rights.
Posted by Morgan at 8:21 AM
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
Madonna to sell autographed shoes to aid Gypsy children
The Denver Post
Posted: 10/14/2009 01:00:00 AM MDT
BUCHAREST, Romania — Madonna is putting her shoes where her mouth is, offering one of her favorite pairs of Christian Dior shoes to a charity supporting Gypsy child education.
Organizers said Tuesday that the skyscraper gold heels, autographed by Madonna, will be sold at the Ovidiu Rom annual ball this month. Vanessa Redgrave has donated a necklace to the auction.
Madonna drew international attention by saying during an August concert in Bucharest that widespread discrimination against East Europe's Gypsies, also known as Roma, should end. Thousands of fans responded by booing her.
FROM The Associated Press
Posted by Morgan at 5:46 PM
Monday, October 12, 2009
FROM THE LA TIMES
In Hungary, far right is making gains
The radically nationalist Jobbik party won 15% of the vote in elections for EU delegates. The popularity of party leader Gabor Vona, who has started a militia, hinges on hostility toward Gypsies.
By Megan K. Stack
October 11, 2009
Reporting from Komarom, Hungary
The right-wing demonstrators have gathered here on the fringe of a long-lost empire, near the border with Slovakia, the banks of the Danube, along rusting train tracks that stretch northwest to Vienna.
They wear wraparound sunglasses, leather vests and combat boots; and they knot around their necks the red and white striped flags reminiscent of Hungary's pro-Nazi party of the 1930s and '40s.
"Take your guns in your hands," rasps a singer. "This is the last fight we're going to win. Endurance."
And then: "I may have big boots. You may throw a stone at me. But this is still my country, this is where my cradle lay."
The crowd has gathered in the September sunshine for the main attraction, Gabor Vona, a charismatic young nationalist who heads Hungary's newest, fastest growing and most controversial political party -- and founded its affiliated militia.
Vona steps out of a minivan, a slight young man with a few shoots of gray in a crop of dark hair. A passing driver leans furiously on his car horn, and the young woman in the passenger seat shows Vona her middle finger as they careen past. Vona blinks and turns away with indifference. He's ready to face his fans.
"You should know that Hungarian policy may change in the very near future," he tells them. "Everyone knows that for the past 20 years we kept silent and bowed down, but this will change."
Vona is riding high these days. His radically nationalistic party, Jobbik, picked up nearly 15% of the Hungarian vote in June elections for the European Union parliament. The Hungarian Guard, the paramilitary organization founded by Vona and his party and distinguished by its Nazi-like iconography and menacing marches through Roma, or Gypsy, areas, is locked in conflict with police and courts.
But if anything, the Hungarian Guard's clashes with authorities appear to be feeding Jobbik's popularity among a disgruntled populace.
Jobbik is quickly gathering strength by galvanizing all manner of conservative Hungarians, especially the young and rural. Analysts say its popularity hinges on its antagonism toward the Roma minority, and party leaders' incessant talk of "Gypsy crime."
The party's rhetoric paints a picture of an isolated Hungarian people and a neutered, ineffective police force at the mercy of robbing, violent Roma. The rise to prominence of Jobbik and its Hungarian Guard has come in tandem with a spate of ruthless attacks on Roma, including children. Analysts say this is no coincidence. They also blame Jobbik for spreading thinly coded anti-Semitism and unsubtle hearkening back to Hungary's Nazi past.
Originating as a small student movement in 2002, Jobbik has moved quickly from the extremist fringes into the mainstream -- or perhaps has managed to drag some of mainstream Hungary to the fringes. As the party continued to grow, Vona founded the Hungarian Guard in 2007.
Jobbik is poised to take on even greater power in next year's national parliamentary elections. Analysts attribute its popularity to a mix of factors: rising economic difficulties, growing distaste for the political elite of both the left and right and a widespread sense that the government has failed to deal effectively with crime and ethnic tensions.
"Jobbik intends to change the shy, cowardly Hungarian policy," Vona says, finishing with a salute: "God give us . . ."
". . . a brighter future!" the crowd roars in reply.
This too has the ring of a resurrected Nazi call and response.
For all the retro symbolism, Jobbik is a distinctly modern organization. There are websites, YouTube videos and a vast array of nationalistic merchandise, such as T-shirts depicting clawed hands grabbing at chunks of formerly Hungarian land in a nod to the territory lost at the end of World War I.
"Now in Budapest, you see these young people wearing the Hungarian Guard logo and the Jobbik scarf," said Peter Kreko, an analyst with the Budapest-based Political Capital think tank. "The main threat is that, even those who don't agree with their ideology, they catch them also by creating this fashion trend."
Zoltan Kiszelly, another political scientist in Budapest, agreed.
"Ten years ago teenagers had Che Guevara on their shirts," he said. "Now they have Greater Hungary."
Young people are particularly attracted to nationalism, he said, because their expectations are clashing painfully with the reality of a country hammered by financial crisis.
"It's a generation of disappointed people," Kiszelly said. "Everybody attended university and now they're starting life, and they say, 'I have no connections. I have no chance to enter the system. So I have to blow up the system.' "
Riding a wave of popular discontent, Vona and the other party leaders tell people they are poised between two looming menaces: Gypsies from within, and globalization from the wider world. They keenly sense the shifting demographics as Roma become a larger minority within Hungary.
In convincing Hungarians that they are at war to protect their way of life, no tactic has been more successful than the deployment of the Hungarian Guard. Police are too overwhelmed to deal with crime in rural areas, analysts say. Into the vacuum surged the Hungarian Guard, announcing that they would protect their countrymen against the criminal Roma.
Ask the people who turned out to hear Vona speak and you'll be told that the guard is delivering a crucial warning to the Roma.
"If you behave properly, Gypsies will understand not to bother you," said Andras Lipovics, a young Jobbik supporter with combat boots, head shaved and arms swathed in tattoos.
"It was there, it was building, and now the levees have broken," said Gergely Romsics of the Hungarian Institute of International Affairs. "I'm not saying they're Nazis, but they're using the same strategy as the Nazis: creating a parallel paramilitary which is more efficient than the government itself."
Paused on the roadside after the demonstration, Vona gripes that Hungarians are "second- or third-class citizens" in their own country.
"If a Gypsy is killed, then the whole government is represented at the funeral," he says.
"But if a Hungarian is killed by a Gypsy, there is deep silence.
"We're gaining popularity because we have unity between our words and our actions."
Budapest's appeals court this summer upheld the banning of the Hungarian Guard on grounds that it created a climate of discrimination and fear. But both the party and its paramilitary refused to bow to the court's ruling, and have continued to hold public gatherings.
Vona scoffs that his party was "preparing to govern," and boasts that lawmakers from the party would go to parliament dressed in Hungarian Guard uniforms.
Gaining status as an outlaw organization may be working in favor of Jobbik. Opinion polls track a growth in the party's popularity since the Hungarian Guard demonstrations were dispersed by police, Kreko said.
"It's a warning that, unfortunately, public opinion has moved toward a more radical position," he said. "It shows people tolerate clashes with police by this so-called party of order."
Posted by Morgan at 11:11 AM
Wednesday, October 7, 2009
INTERNATIONAL ROMANI UNION
MAŚKARTHEMENGO ROMANO JEKHIPE
Member United Nation (ECO-SOC, No EE-3377) Social Consultative Status (NGO No D9424)
HUMAN DIMENSION IMPLEMENTATION MEETING
Warsaw , 28 September – 9 October 2009
The Roma Question
Migration and Countries
Roma have lived in Europe for centuries, and it goes without saying that they are true Europeans. When they have arrived, most nations had not existed and the concept of a country as a nation had not existed.
Roma have lived for centuries in Europe without borders yet with a culture that they have not forsaken and with their own language and traditions. Having a different culture within a country does not mean that the person is not a citizen of his country. They are actual citizens of the countries they live in, often proud ones, they have papers, pay their taxes, work and, in fact, they are like everyone else.
Roma are citizens. They have the same duties and rights as others in the same country.
But what does it mean in the reality? Are they citizens or are they discriminated? There is little need to speak about the actual events, to speak about the facts in Europe or about the nature of the issues and social problems. It would be futile to speak about respecting the countries’ constitutions and laws or about applying the recommendations and directives of the European Union.
The question is a different one. One always speaks about the Roma problem, but what about the problem that the European nations seem to have regarding the Roma? That, after more than a thousand years, the Europe seems to have an issue with a transnational minority? Are European nations only doing a lip service to the principle of diversity and integration? Or are they just engaged in alibi exercises while thinking that Roma are actually an “issue”?
In most countries, where Roma live side by side with the general population, the question is as follows - what are the governments doing to further integration and improve the situation? Which programs are they engaged in? We have to remain critical and keep an open eye for those misbegotten policies and programs that existed and, unfortunately, continue to exist.
The currently burning question, especially after the events in Italy , is why the Roma immigrate to other countries. An actual monitoring and thorough analysis is required, as, de facto, the Roma are no less and no more mobile than the rest of the population. Both Roma and non-Roma seek places to make their life better, and the places to make the life of their children better than it was at the places they used to live in.
The Roma are no more “mobile” than other Europeans. There is a small percentage of the Roma, who have been traditionally travelling, but the vast majority was always sedentary, and so it was for centuries. Looking backwards into the European history, we easily see that it is a human constant to seek a better place, a better life. After all, would we have Germans, Slavs, and many other Europeans in nowadays Europe if they had not migrated away from their original homes? Not to mention wars and other extreme situations that force or forced entire populations to migrate. The last example thereof is the war in Kosovo that de facto cleaned the country of its Roma population.
Unfortunately, nationalism, especially the thoughts that are profoundly ingrained nowadays in Europe, that a nation is one “race”, have found their expression in extremism, populism, in various movements such as the Skinheads and the Neo-Nazi groups. In such states, that have defined a long and, often, a false “ethnic” line, the Roma have no place. This phenomenon is not limited to Europe but can also be seen in other countries, such as the USA and Canada .
Most European nations do not even attempt to improve the situation. To improve the general situation of the Roma or even to make them “feel” at home is often an empty promise. The politics towards the largest European minority is often improvised, passive or at most reactive, and most of all, populist. It seems that the Roma are almost perceived as a threat, and that being “different” is a threat to their country. Does the population fear integration? Do they fear that the Roma could take their jobs? Is this the reason why many countries tend to send the Roma to “special” schools (read: schools for mentally retarded)?
Actually, one should create programs not only for the Roma, but mainly for the general population, to help them realise that their myths about country and nation are actual myths that prevent true integration of all minorities within one country. The barrier between the population and the Roma has to be broken.
What countries are actually furthering the acceptance and integration of Roma or the integration of people with a different culture? They are neither demons nor bandits, they are citizens.
On the Roma part, the Roma need to know and believe that the cultural differences and old prejudices are not preventing them from being citizens of the countries they live in. Should this belief in integration fail, then Europe will be facing a major migration in the coming years.
Europe and the Roma Question
At a time of many nations' integration within Europe, especially those of the Eastern and the South Eastern Europe , when the people are being told they are Europeans, subjects to the same rule of law, to the same rules, one should not forget that the Roma are Europeans. They are such because this is their history, and as well because they are citizens of the countries they live in.
There are member countries in the European Union, though, who are advocating the “identification” of the Roma in their passports. Are we going towards a Europe where the laws and freedoms are only valid for the general population but not for selected minorities? Is it not this reminiscent of Apartheid, of segregation or of something worse? That is certainly not written anywhere in the laws.
Practically, however, the European law is not respected by the European countries. What else can one say when a European citizen from Romania or Bulgaria , someone that stays in Italy currently, is being deported for the sole “crime” of being Romani? And what is the reaction of the European institutions to that?
Actually and rationally, these Roma migrants are not migrants. They are exercising their rights as European citizens. The rights to travel and to live, the right of establishment as enshrined in the European principles.
The Italian situation actually shows that these principles are trampled in total impunity by a European government, that their actual laws are being disregarded, and we, as the Roma, ask what the consequences of tolerating such behaviour are going to be for Europe .
Migration and EU Policies
European policies on migrations are written in many documents, and these policies should be respected, when the emigration is illegal also. There are means to control the illegal immigration from other countries; these means should be enforced and are enforced.
But who are the migrants in integrated Europe ? Are the Roma in Europe defined as migrants? Other Europeans in Europe are at least not perceived as such. Nobody (or nearly no one) says that other non-Roma dwelling in the EU are actual migrants. Migrants tend to be defined as people from non-EU countries who come to Europe . As such, the Roma should not be considered as migrants, for there is no legal basis for this, but rather they should be considered as the other Europeans are.
The discrimination arises from the fear of the “others”, of a people who are “different”, and is often based on stereotypes. Italy is again such an example, where the Roma are defined as “travellers”. This definition stems from the Mussolini times, from the 1930’s.
If Europe continues to define people through old and inaccurate stereotypes, if Europe continues to see the Roma as travellers, then, there are chances they will continue to look at them as illegal immigrants.
Migration, Language and Xenophobia
In countries defined (albeit often totally arbitrarily) by a race and culture, a different culture or language, is often perceived as a threat. This is natural, although one should bear in mind that these countries did not exist as such 200 years ago, and that in most cases, their languages where unified even more recently. Confronted with another culture, the reaction is often an open xenophobia.
When groups of people of a different culture settle in another country, the initial reaction is often the one of rejection. “We do not want them here”… The smaller is the country, the more strident is the reaction. This is understandable, for if one’s identity depends on ones appurtenance and culture, aliens are a threat.
Europe needs a thorough discussion and a thorough program to counter these tendencies. These tendencies are all too visible, for instance, when a few Roma speak Romanes in a public place. Those who do not understand almost immediately have a fear reaction, are identifying them as dangerous aliens. This is the situation, although we have many different languages in Europe and always had/have.
Not speaking the local language is a source of discrimination, be it at the airport, with the local authorities, but also when seeking a job. The new (i.e. post XIXth century nations) actually do not tolerate diversity and require their citizens to speak a unified language. Bound by one language, restricted by one culture, most people feel threatened by a different culture and language.
Therefore, education, more education, knowledge, openness, and respect to your own and other’s cultures needs to be furthered, especially in a global world as we know it nowadays. Without this, there is no better future, no chances of improvement.
This will require a political will, this will require changes, and without that, there will be no improvements.
The Report of IRU President had been edited by Valery Novoselsky, Editor of Roma Virtual Network (RVN).
Posted by Morgan at 11:56 AM
Monday, October 5, 2009
Mercedes Sosa, 74, an Argenine singer who emerged as an electrifying voice of conscience throughout Latin America for songs that championed social justice in the face of government repression died Sunday in Buenos Aires. Thousands turned out for her funeral procession.
The leftist Sosa was forced into exile by Argentina's military dictatorship of the 1970s but never backed down, lending her voice to inspire many who suffered. Colombia's Shakira, who sings on Sosa's last, Grammy-nominated album, said "we are all better for having known her - she showed us that a song can teach us so much."
Compiled from Seattle Times and Canadian Press.
Posted by Morgan at 10:29 AM
Saturday, October 3, 2009
FROM THE EPOCH TIMES
Documentary Review: 'As Seen Through These Eyes'
Artistic Talents Lead to Holocaust Survival
By Joe Bendel Oct 1, 2009
"Self Portrait" by Samuel Bak is one of the chilling pieces in the film "As Seen Through These Eyes," which documents Jewish and Gypsy artists who were spared during the Holocaust, but were required to paint for their Nazi captors. (Courtesy of Menemsha Films )
The same talents that eventually lead to work in the Warner Brothers and MGM animation studios literally saved Dina Gottliebova Babbit’s life in Auschwitz. The sadistic Dr. Mengele spared the nineteen-year-old girl so she could serve as his personal artist, painting portraits for the Nazi guards and documenting his cruel experiments.
For many young Jewish and Roma artists, maintaining their creative voices during the Holocaust was a means of spiritual and sometimes even physical survival, and their work now serves as solemn testimony to the crimes of the National Socialists in Hilary Helstein’s documentary As Seen Through These Eyes, which opens this Friday in New York.
Babbit and her mother came to Auschwitz via Theresienstadt, a temporary camp dressed up like a benevolent Potemkin village to successfully fool guileless Red Cross inspectors in an episode that will forever shame the organization. As part of the Nazi ruse, prisoners were actually encouraged to participate in artistic endeavors, before their eventual deportation to the death camps. Of course, children like Ela Weissberger were also part of the elaborate illusion. Now a resident of New York state, she was one of only two cast members of Brundibar, a children’s opera produced and filmed for propaganda purposes, to survive.
"Gypsy Girl" by Dina Gottliebova is one of many gypsy portraits ordered by Dr. Mengele, whose fascination with genetics kept the artist alive during her wartime interment. (Courtesy of Menemsha Films)
Laudably, Eyes does not ignore the frequently overlooked Roma Holocaust. In fact, Helstein clearly tries to unite the Jewish and Roma experiences by presenting Babbit as the film’s touchstone figure. Bizarrely obsessed with the Roma people, Mengele initially forced Babbit into his service in order to better capture their skin tones through her paint brushes than was possible (in his judgment) with photography. She made a point of painting one young Roma girl, in hopes of saving (or at least prolonging) her life. Years later, Eyes shows her emotional meeting with Karl Stojka, a Roma artist who survived Auschwitz as Mengele’s errand boy and who did indeed know her short-lived friend.
The thoughtfully selected art displayed in Eyes runs the gamut from Babbit’s sensitively rendered portraiture to the grimly surreal. Some is the work of obviously accomplished fine artists, while other pieces have the blunt power of so-called outsider art. Further heightening the poignancy, the soundtrack features contributions from harmonica player and survivor Henry Rosmarin, who was spared thanks to his ability to play Schubert on his instrument.
Eyes is a respectful film that deserves credit for recording the stories of both Jewish and Roma artists. However, much of the material covered in Eyes might be familiar to some from other somewhat recent documentaries (such as Clarke and Sender’s Prisoner of Paradise about the Theresienstadt camp; Alexandra Isles’s Porraimos specifically documenting the Roma-Sinti Holocaust; and Berge, Newnham, and Cohen’s Rape of Europa, a truly outstanding film that illuminates the strange National Socialist preoccupation with art). Still, most viewers will find Eyes quite informative and at times genuinely moving.
As Seen Through These Eyes will open Friday (10/2) at the Cinema Village.
Joe Bendel blogs on jazz and cultural issues at http://jbspins.blogspot.com and coordinated the Jazz Foundation of America's instrument donation campaign for musicians displaced by Hurricane Katrina.
Posted by Morgan at 6:48 PM