While I was doing research on the Roma people for an upcoming film project, I learned a great deal about this oft misunderstood group. For instance, the reason they’re called Gypsy’s is despite being from northern India, they entered Europe through the middle east and were thought to be Egyptians.
Besides the misnomer, they’ve faced centuries of extreme discrimination (Over 500,000 died in concentration camps alongside the Jews) which has led to a cyclical poverty and continued societal injustices. Just like the Cher song says “Gypsies, tramps and thieves…” These people are grossly misunderstood.
I discovered a bunch of really interesting facts about their music, language and customs, but mostly I learned that these folks have had a rough time being accepted in the world. Shorter life spans, higher infant mortality, inability to get decent education or jobs, denial of health services and the current trend of deportation are among the many challenges that now face the Romani. (recent report from EUROPEAN ROMA INFO FFICE)
In the midst of reading articles, papers and blogs on the Roma people I discovered a new documentary by director Aaron Yeager which is worthy of note. Despite having done months of research and scouring the web for information (I’m a relentless fact finder) I learned more about the Romani people in 99 minutes than the previous several months. Too bad I didn’t find the documentary first, I could have saved myself a lot of effort.
It’s clear that’s what the director had done for ‘A PEOPLE UNCOUNTED‘. He had researched relentlessly. Insightful and interesting interviews, expert testimony, historical footage and stunning cinematography, archival photographs… all arranged for a generous outpouring of factual information.
It’s not surprising the film is doing so well on the festival circuit since unlike many documentaries it tells a genuine story about a uniquely interesting race. We’re all familiar with the plight of the Jewish and the genocide of Rwandan’s but few are aware of the truth behind this disjointed community of people. With Romani scattered around the world it’s pretty much the same, they are looked down on, accused of being murderers and thieves and have trouble getting decent work.
No one wants them. France, Italy and Germany are all campaigning to have them deported… but to where? And then what? Like all races and cultures there are good and bad. I’ve learned that it’s important to put the history books aside and look beyond the stigma placed unjustly long ago. While many associate music, flamenco dance and pick-pocketing as the primary activities of the Roma, there’s a lot more to be discovered.
If you get the chance to see A People Uncounted, I highly recommend it.