Roma Visual Lab 1. (2011)
Representation of Roma People in Documentary Films
Founding on DocuArt Cinema’s film club traditions and commitment to the dissemination of the documentary film genre, we launched this unconventional film club in the spring of 2011, also as a course at the Department of Media at ELTE BTK Institute for Art Theory and Media Studies. The subject of the course was “Representation of Roma People in the Light of Contemporary Cultural Research”. The lectures were thus open to communication and film students as well as anyone interested in the topic. The program comprised documentary films that had some peculiar feature manifested in their approach, formal solution or choice of theme: they approached the subject of Roma people in unconventional ways. Our basic question, therefore, was how documentary filmmakers saw and showed Roma people. We included by now classic pieces in the program, but most screenings featured contemporary documentaries.
The screenings were followed by discussions with invited guests (social scientists, film experts), which were moderated by the teacher of the course and head of the film club Andrea Pócsik, and in some cases by a student. At the workshop-style debates we employed a method referred to as “anthropological image interpretation”, in the course of which we endeavoured – with more or less success – to interpret the idiosyncrasies, social positions and relations characteristic of the represented Roma community by analysing the means of expression and formal solutions used in the given film. The film club took place with a regular core audience and an additional group of alternating viewers (altogether 25-30 people on average). A video recording was made of each discussion by cinematographer Róbert Bordás. Once the film club was over, the footages were uploaded onto DocuArt’s website for archival and free access.
The purpose of the event – beyond its role in university education – was to provide a new forum of exceptional experts for the dissemination of Hungarian documentary films and the analysis of their formal idiosyncrasies. It was the film club’s weekly regularity and continuity that made it possible to keep returning to the discussion of diverse modes of expression with a mostly identical audience of university students and analyse them together with invited experts.
The event had ample media coverage, it was advertised across Roma online media and social media, and the Roma Magazine of MR 1 Kossuth Radio made regular spots heralding the event.
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