FILM SHEDS LIGHT ON ROMA HOLOCAUST EXPERIENCE
FROM THE STAR.COM
The idea to shoot A People Uncounted — about the often overlooked deaths of 2 million Roma by the Nazis — came two years ago after their encounter with renowned Romani jazz musician, Robi Botos.
On Wednesday, the film will be shown at a private invitation-only screening in Toronto to raise money for the Roma Community Centre in the city, home to thousands of Roma who fled rising neo-Nazism in Eastern Europe and sought refuge here. It is anticipated to be premiered in Toronto next year.
The production team of the movie, edited by Kurt Engfehr (producer of Fahrenheit 911 and Bowling for Columbine), also includes Aaron Yeger, Marc Swenker and Stephen Whitehead.
The Star caught up with Rasky, the film’s executive producer:
Q: What inspired you to pursue this film? Why the title?
A: Unlike the Jews, the Romani have few resources to address the extensive racism they continue to face. Lenny and I feel a responsibility as Jews not to forget when others are targeted.
The whole team was honoured to help bring their plight to public awareness. The term “Uncounted” works on many levels. Foremost is the fact that the Roma have always lived on the margins of society since leaving India a thousand years ago.
Q: How have Roma been both romanticized and vilified at the same time? What have you learned about the Roma?
A: The stereotypes of the Roma as Bohemian artistic wanderers on one hand and as indolent thieves on the other, are alive and well today. Historian Gerhard Baumgartner says it best in our film — “it’s all bullshit I’m afraid.”
The most shocking thing was learning that many Roma have little knowledge of their own history. Believe it or not, after WWII, the small percentage of Roma that survived, mostly the young, were left to languish in the concentration camps as, unlike the Jews, they had virtually no resources. Add to this the historical racism that predated the war and you had a recipe for disaster.
Q: What do you want the audience to take away from the film?
A: It was important to place their story within the broader context of systemic racism not exclusive to any one group. The names and the faces of the scapegoats change, but the genocide continues to this day. We hope the audience can see that the root cause of these horrors is the worshipping of our own groups at the expense of seeing our common humanity.
Q: What kind of future lies ahead of the Roma?
A: Whenever economies take a significant downturn, this is historically when racism rears its ugly head. That is what’s happening today as the Roma and others are once again being scapegoated for society’s ills.
As our film points out repeatedly, persecution happens at the local level. We must all not be complacent, but act locally before the roots take hold and start to grow.