Our version of the truth – culture, identity, media and filmmaking in 2014’s BUVERO
Holding on to your version of the truth is absolutely the hardest thing you might ever have to do in your life.’ – Roy Cohen, BUVERO closing ceremony
BUVERO: the concept
Romedia Foundation’s work has been focusing for more than two decades on empowering the Roma people and creating a safe place in the media for their voices and perspectives on the world around them to be heard and seen. Empowerment is a long process – especially for a minority whose history of oppression is so entrenched in the mere history of our societies. Empowerment refers to a state of mind that takes its condition of possibility from a society that allows for unrestricted access to dignified existence and the elements for a balanced personal and communal development. Some of principles behind empowerment practices include – though are not limited to – equality of opportunity, inclusion, nondiscrimination, gender equality, access to health services, nonviolence, access to proper and competitive education and training, community engagement.
In this context, the BUVERO project comes as the necessary commitment to provide young Romani women with the skills and knowledge to break the limits imposed by the pervasive structural inequalities and take their future in their own hands. What Romedia Foundation wishes to achieve through the BUVERO media camp is to make a step towards influencing the context that hinders the version of truth of the Romani women in Europe. Media literacy offers unprecedented opportunities to be explored as tools to build solidarity networks, to create a space for debate, for a plurality of opinions and experiences, to bring people together and allow them to get to know each other, before taking for granted the mainstream portrayal of entire groups. The idea came as an attempt to empower one of the most disadvantaged groups, situated at the intersection of the vulnerabilities that come out of gender identity, ethnic belonging, and socio-economic status. BUVERO responds to many of the pressing needs of the Roma in our societies, especially in the Central and Eastern Europe. First and foremost, it addresses the concept of representation and recognition, in and through the media.
So, what happened in the camp?
The second edition of the project just finished, on the 23rd of August 2014, after 14 days of intense work. To the last years’ network of 36 young Romani women, from Hungary, Serbia and Germany, 24 more Hungarian participants were introduced to the world of online activism, citizen journalism, film-making, cross-media, all in relation to what it means to be of Roma origins, and most importantly, a Romani woman. Sixty BUVERO girls share now, after only two years, a platform for communication and action, part of the broader grassroots network established since 2009 with the “I’m a Roma woman campaign”.
The 24 girls arrived on the 9th to Dunavarsány, the venue of this year’s project. This day N°0 was dedicated to get-to-know-each-other activities, to ensure a friendly atmosphere for their education-oriented weeks of the camp, and develop the team spirit which generally guides our projects. From the 10th to the 16th, the girls participated in lectures and workshops, held by our guests and tutors.
BUVERO’s professional director, Kristóf Asbót was responsible for arming the girls with fundamental, general information and knowledge about media (picture, voice, and video), storytelling and filmmaking. Vera Munk, Index.hu’s journalist held introductory courses on journalism, blogging, reporting and the portrayal of minorities in and by the media, while István Síklaki, clinical and social psychologist, masterly guided them through the cognitive and social processes behind prejudices and identity, from the perspective of a community organizer.
Ágnes Daróczi, journalist, editor and presenter held lectures about Roma traditions, culture and identity. Ágnes’ lectures tremendously inspired our girls, through the stories she shared, her examples and experiences which helped them to finally find some of the answers to the questions they had about themselves, about their identities, about how to deal with being Roma, and most of all a Romani woman. As one of the participants, Szabina Csömör puts it: „For me the experience and knowledge I got here is what Ági told us about our history, our culture, what have we done for this country, our homeland and that yes, indeed we should be proud that we are Roma!”. Krisztina Balogh, of both Hungarian and Roma origins, one of the 24 participants said: „…it was always harder for me to understand who I am. But now I tell to myself: I am a real Roma woman!”
One of the most altering moment was when Ágnes shared a Roma myth of origins during one of her lectures, entitled ’Once we were birds’, as part of the returning to the roots, understanding of the Roma history. In her interpretation, the myth is not only about the Roma, the ’gypsy wanderers’, but about the human kind – once all of us were birds. ’And – as she says – birds also have the ability to connect worlds.’ Her story hints at the absurd processes of identity as difference, through which the Roma are constructed as an unknown other, and how humanity shares the same roots, we should embrace.
By the 8th day of the camp, the girls had the necessary theoretical and practical background for the work ahead them, so after forming four groups – each led by two tutors – they spread around Hungary for a couple of days, shooting, putting into practice their creative ideas and getting to know the subjects of the stories they chose to present. After three days’ of work on location (in the surroundings of Pécs, Debrecen, Székesfehérvár and Miskolc,) they returned to Dunavarsány, to put together the last and most important task: creating their first short film.
During these long, high-toned days which were busy with intense work, the girls had a very precious help: Roy Cohen, a young talent of great promises in the field of documentary filmmaking, arrived in the camp straight from Israel. Roy’s incessant assistance with the edition was accompanied by his lecture about documentary filmmaking, and his continuous support of the groups with useful advices on the final form of their films.
In his final speech at BUVERO’s closing ceremony he congratulated the girls on the amazing work they did, welcoming them to the world of storytellers:
’… the documentary filmmaker has an enormous power: he’s helping that person to tell his or her story. I’ve been a peace activist for 17 years and I lost Palestinian friends, I lost Israeli friends to the war. And I can tell you, that the main enemy of the people is the story. It’s the story that Palestinians aren’t equal, it’s the story that Roma people aren’t equal, it’s the story that Jews aren’t equal, it’s the story that women aren’t equal. And I hope that what you gained in the last few days is the tools, the beginning of the toolset to start telling a different story. Because the only way to fight that other story is with our own stories. And after seeing your work in the last few days (…) I have absolutely no doubt that you can do the work. That you can go and tell the world the other stories. (…) Holding on to your version of the truth is absolutely the hardest thing you might ever have to do in your life. (…) Keep telling to the world the truth.’
On the evening of the final event, on the 22nd of August, we brought together the entire Romedia team, the tutors and mentors, and all the people who put effort and dedication into this project, to celebrate the hard work of the 24 participants and the amazing 9 films produced.
The teams, films, and awards
The LULUDYA team, mentored by Kristof Asbot and Csaba Molnar, comprised Klaudia Judit Balogh, Georgina Laboda, Erzsébet Puporka, Szabina Csömör, Kata Godó, and Irén Godó. They surprised the dreams of a little Roma boy – JENCI – growing up in Miskolc, the location of their shooting session. The other short video this team created is ’Szamozott utca’ (the numbered street) – an investigation into the atrocious ways in which the Romani people from Miskolc are treated by the local authorities, which offered them compensations to abandon their houses and move in the villages outside the city. In the same setting, the story of Csabi Bacsi is said during the third video, a story about an impoverished community of Roma youngsters, struggling to make ends meet in the harsh environment that surrounds them.
Melinda Vajda, Edit Radics, Barbara Kerekes, Judit Jóni, Roxána Petrovics, and Dóra Káté with the guidance of Gyula Galyas and Peter Kohut, went to film in Debrecen, as the RROMANI ZORR team. They created ’Generaciok’, which skillfully shows the perspectives of the three women of the family – grandmother, mother, and daughter – on issues as belonging, traditions, and the future. The other story the team chose to present is the one of the Sanyi Bacsi who got accepted by the same community he rejected before, living the rest of his life peacefully in the religious community formed around the Salvation Army, in the ‘Istennek van humora’ (God has a sense of humor) video.
The HD-ROM! group, coordinated by Péter Dömötör and János Daróczi Joka, decided to discover Dunavarsány and its surroundings, footage put into beautiful exploration of the landscape and the rhythms of the place – ‘Valaha madarak voltunk’ (We used to be birds). The team formed by Krisztina Balogh, Leila Lázár, Linda Dacsó, Brigitta Berki, Szilvia Szűcs, and Heléna Kozák created a second short film, called ’Szódabikarbóna’ through which they told a heartwarming story of poverty and the value of integrity.
Dreams was one of the topics KALO BISORA team focused on in the ’Szuno’ video, featuring catchy interviews and confessions from Romani people living in Székesfehérvár. The BUVERO girls, Brigitta Gulyás, Alexandra Sőregi, Szandra Kovács, Cintia Szajkó, Krisztina Varga, and Diána Horváth, with the help of the mentors, Norbert Szirmai and Mark Asbot, also created the Pharrajimos-themed film, entitled ‘Muddy Blood’ which got the audience’s vote for the ‘Best Film’.
After the screenings, Katalin Bársony, executive director of Romedia Foundation awarded the 24 BUVERO girls. The prizes consisted in Lenovo tablets, for Szabina Csömör, Linda Dacsó, Irén Godó, Brigitta Gulyás, Dóra Káté, Barbara Kerekes, Szandra Kovács, Heléna Kozák, Leila Lázár, Erzsébet Puporka, Edit Radics, and Alexandra Sőregi, to encourage them to continue the work and further apply the knowledge gained during the camp, 3 subscriptions to kreativ.online for Krisztina Balogh, Diána Horváth, and Melinda Vajda, and an internship at 168 Óra to Brigitta Berki, for 6 months. Roma art albums, DVDs about the Roma history, and Roma traditional clothes, were distributed among Katalin Godó, Judit Jóni, Roxána Petrovics, Cintia Szajkó, Szilvia Szűcs, and Krisztina Varga.
An amazing VJ show followed, after the closing ceremony, the result of the workshop held by the Berlin-based artist Dávid Szauder, with four of the girls (one from each team), during which they synchronized the footage from their shootings to music, and marked the beginning of the much-deserved party.
BERLIN EXPO – the next step:
Klaudia Judit Balogh, Georgina Laboda, Edit Radics, and Alexandra Sőregi’s efforts and creativity were rewarded, the girls being selected to participate to BUVERO EXPO, the new feature of this year’s camp, for which the best reports are going to be exhibited in Berlin, in October 2014. The event is organized in collaboration with TAK Theater im Aufbau Haus, Galerie Kai Dikhas, the Roma Radio Project and Radio Chorel, as a complex contemporary art and media happening, organically built on projects already brought to fruition, new artworks and media created during this year’s Buvero camp and during the workshops of BUVERO EXPO, as well as new audiovisual performances that will stem from the collaboration of contemporary artists, musicians and actors. It will consist of cross-border cultural learning sessions, contemporary art exhibitions highlighting the Romani culture, a time-capsule installation and screenings and discussions.