I’ve just released a film commissioned by the European Roma Institute of Arts and Culture and the Regional Cooperation Council’s Roma Integration project in order to boost Romani pride ahead of the 2022 censuses across the Balkans.
Hurjasa is directly inspired by the Black American poet Maya Angelou’s civil rights anthem “Still I Rise” and was shot entirely in the Romani language. The epic poem looks at the troubled history and roots of the Roma as coming from India before powerfully calling on Roma people to match the success of all the Roma role models featured in the film. Shot by award-winning British cinematographer Stuart White, the film is a beautiful cinematic portrait of Europe’s largest and most misunderstood ethnic group. Subtitle are available in English, Romani, Serbian, Macedonian, Albanian and Montenegrin.
The full text of the epic poem is available here.
For me the line ‘instead of going onwards, it is upwards we must go’, describes the challenge Roma people across Europe now face to educate, integrate and liberate ourselves from outdated stereotypes that simply hold us back. We filmed over 30 amazing role models in the Western Balkan region in just eight days and we just sampled the variety of amazing Roma role models living in Belgrade, Skopje, Prizren and Tirana.”
The film features Roma thriving in a dazzling diversity of professions like lawyers, doctors, government ministers and journalists, but also covers the long-standing Roma contribution to the arts by featuring actors, musicians and artists. The central importance of Roma homes and family is also underlined by featuring Roma grandparents and children living in Roma mahallas (neighbourhoods) across the Balkans.
The film is narrated in Romanes by Romani language teacher Alen Umer from Skopje and activist Fatma Azemi from Tirana. They came together to perform it for the first time in Shuto Orizari, a Roma majority municipality near the North Macedonian capital of Skopje. Beating stiff competition from Roma people across the Western Balkans, they were cast to perform a poem designed to inspire Roma individuals to proudly declare their ethnicity.