The image of Roma in films

One aspect of contemporary globalisation is that the media have become increasingly important in the life of all societies. The media and new communication technologies have enhanced their ability to influence public opinion in social events.

In addition to historical analysis and sociological study, the view of the media conveys an image of reality which is now unconsciously accepted by the vast majority of the planet. They decide what does and does not exist, often becoming controllers of what is honest, and therefore the phenomenon has its virtues and its flaws. Social relations are based on power, so these power relations are also reflected in communication. Speakers are not always on a level playing field.

When looking at the social image of the Roma we need to bear in mind that intercultural communication lies in the delicate balance between the universal and the particular, between the common and the different. Furthermore, it is decontextualised in specific circumstances that change the characteristics of the communication process. The Roma have become a subject conducive to saying anything about them, almost always from a folkloric, picturesque, spectacular and even grotesque perspective.

The cinema, in feature films, shorts and documentaries, has been and is the means by which many people have approached the Roma and where the vision they have of them has been built. The complexity of audiovisual products is that they are industrial art par excellence, the most subject to the financial demands of their creation, agreements and commitments that are required to complete the process of putting meaning into pictures.

Audiovisual products are a tool with an enormous capacity to penetrate the imaginary of their spectators, a powerful instrument to explore and understand the world. Yet they are also one with which to impose certain visions, to rewrite reality and influence its development, especially when it comes to minority groups with little political and economic influence.

Until now the Roma have not been able to depict themselves with their own images and instead have had to put up with being a recurring motif represented with the images and gaze of others.

Depiction of the Roma in European films

In countries where the Roma are more numerous, such as Hungary, Poland, France and the former Yugoslavia, it is relatively easy to find films that cover all or part of the Roma:

  • Kriss Romani (Gypsy Law) 1963 Director: Jean Schimdt. Won an award at the first festival of human rights.
  • La course du lièvre à travers des champs (And Hope to Die) 1972 Director: René Clément. France
  • Le gitan (The Gypsy)   1975. Director: José Giovanni. France
  • Les princes 1982. Director: Tony Gatlift. France
  • Little Minister 1934. Director: Richard Wallace. UK
  • Madonna of the Seven Moons 1944. Director: Arthur Crabtree. UK
  • The Gypsy and the Gentleman 1958. Director: Joseph Losey. UK
  • The Raggedy Rawney 1989. Director: Bob Hoskins. UK
  • Skupljači perja (I Even Met Happy Gypsies) 1967. Director: Aleksader Petrovic. Yugoslavia
  • Dom za vesanje “Time of the Gypsies” 1989. Director: Emir Kusturica. Won the Best Director Award at Cannes. Yugoslavia
  • Black Cat, White Cat. 1998. Director: Emir Kusturica. Yugoslavia.
  • Baro drom heißt Weiter Weg 1982. Director: Ewa Cendrowska. Poland
  • And the Violins Stopped Playing 1988. Director: Alexander Ramati. Poland
  • Hello Budapest 1935. Director: Ladislao Wajda. Hungary
  • Dankó Pista 1940. Director: Laszlo Kalmar. Hungary
  • Gypsy Legend 1974. Director: Imre Gyöngyössy. Hungary
  • Porträt Tamas Peli 1978. Director: Laszlo Hadhazy. Hungary
  • Zigeuner 1982. Director: Sára Sándor Hungary
  • Gyerekgyilkossagok (Child Murders) 1993. Director: Ildiko Szabo Hungary
  • Maryza 1936. Director: Josef Rovensky Àustria
  • Kinder der Landstrasse (Children of the Open Road) 1992. Director: Urs Egger Switzerland
  • Dorogoï tzaneoi (The Horse that Cries) 1957. Director: Mark Donskoi USSR.
  • Laoutary “The Lăutari” 1972. Director: Emile Lotianou. USSR
  • Tabor ukhodit v nebo (Gypsies Are Found Near Heaven) 1976. Director: Emil Lotianu USSR     San Sebastián Award 1976
  • Asia’s Happiness 1981. Director Andrei Konchalovsky USSR
  • Prejde my byli Pitsami “Once We Were Birds” 1982. Director: Garri Bardine USSR
Written by Israel Ramírez.