Best of AKE DIKHEA? Festival of Romani Film 2019

From 5th to 9th December 2019 we organised the third edition of the Roma film festival AKE DIKHEA? The festival, the title of which in Romanes means "You see?", is an international festival for films by and with Roma and Sinti. It presents the audience with stories that Roma and Sinti themselves have to tell - in front of and behind the camera. In 2019 the festival brought 15 feature films, documentaries and short films to Berlin.

 

„We are still alive“ – Opening night on the 5th December

For the opening evening the festival could win some prominent guests: In addition to the patron of the festival, Dr. Klaus Lederer, who gave the welcoming address, the Dutch Holocaust survivor and flower king Zoni Weisz also accepted the invitation. In the animated short film MEMORY BOXES, directed by Hamze Bytyçi, artistic director of the festival, which was screened at AKE DIKHEA? as a world premiere, he talks about how he dealt with his traumatisation by the Nazi genocide. Afterwards, historian Jana Mechelhoff-Herezi spoke with the survivor about his life and experiences.

Still from the film MEMORY BOXES, Drawing: Gabi Jimenez

 

Zoni Weisz lost his parents and siblings during the National Socialist regime. After the war he became one of the leading florists in Europe and worked for the Dutch royal family, among others. In 2011 he was the first representative of the Sinti and Roma to address the German Government on the occasion of the Day of Remembrance of the Victims of National Socialism.

Still from the film …THEY ONLY TAKE AWAY THE CRIMINALS

In addition, the second animated short film ...THEY ONLY TAKE AWAY THE CRIMINALS about the Auschwitz survivor Zilli Reichmann premiered. The opening event was attended by about 100 visitors.

Strong international feature films 

Following the opening programme AKE DIKHEA? presented the feature film SEULE A MON MARIAGE by Marta Bergman. Pamela, a young Romni

SEULE A MON MARIAGE by Marta Bergman

from Romania and single mother, fights for the right to self-determination and a better future for her daughter. The leading actress Alina Serban, a Roma actress from Romania, discussed with the audience after the screening and inspired, among others, numerous Roma youths from Berlin that evening.

FLOAT LIKE A BUTTERFLY by Carmel Winters

A young woman also plays a strong role in the feature film FLOAT LIKE A BUTTERFLY by Canadian director Carmel Winter. This gender-inverted version of the classic "Billy Elliot", is a powerful and contemporary story about the 15-year-old Frances' struggle for freedom, belonging and the right to resist. After the film, 16-year-old supporting actor John Collins discussed the story with the audience, bringing in the authentic perspective of a young Irish Traveller. 43 tickets were sold for the performance.

The successful Hungarian Roma director Árpád Bogdán and winner of the AKE DIKHEA? 2018, his feature film GENESIS deals with the racist

GENESIS by Árpád Bogdán

series of murders of Roma in Hungary in 2009 and presents a dramatic portrayal of the sudden end of the childhood of a small Roma boy, of sin, catharsis and rebirth. Unfortunately, the director had to cancel his participation in the festival on short notice for family reasons. The film had to be spontaneously moved to a larger cinema to meet the demand.

 

Successful documentaries and short films 

In addition to the three feature films, the documentary MARGINA by Macedonian director Ljupcho Temelkovski was also very well attended: 60

MARGINA by Ljupcho Temelkovski

visitors created a cozy atmosphere. The film offers an intimate insight into the life of Menan's family, which lives on the edge of European society in Macedonia. This documentary establishes a connection between an individual history and the global structures of injustice, exploitation and racism that force many people to flee their homeland. Besides the director, the main protagonist himself was available for a conversation.

The short film section on Monday at 6 pm was also very successful with the audience, presenting the four films MOUSIE by David Bartlett, 2ND OF AUGUST by Charles Newland, ROADS FROM THE PAST by Grant Black and SA O ROMA by Daniel Petrovski. 46 visitors also followed the subsequent discussion with the three directors (Bartlett, Newland, Petrovski) and the British Roma activist Lisa Smith.

 

Young, queer and engaged

 

WE, QUEER ROMA: VALENCIA by László Farkas

But also young and diverse voices of Roma and Sinti from different European countries could be heard this year. In the short documentary WE, QUEER ROMA: VALENCIA by Hungarian Roma LGBTIQ activist László Farkas, queer Roma from Spain deal with questions of multiple identities and life as a minority within a minority. The director was available to the audience for discussion. The short film was screened together with the Spanish documentary SARA of the

SARA von a Cruells Lopez

director and media activist Eva Cruells Lopez, in which a young Romni from Barcelona explores the oppression her people suffered during the Spanish Civil War and the Franco dictatorship - and decides to change the outdated structures of her community. After the film, the parents of Sara, Rafaela Salguero Moreno and Basilio Perona Cortes, who also play an important role in the film, discussed with the audience.

The short film TOBY G. STREET FACTORY by the Roma dancer, director and doctoral student Rosamaria E. Kostic Cisneros documents the dance group of the polish Roma

ALLA ZINGARA von Glória Halasz

immigrant Toby Gorniak, with whom he inspires and unites the youth of Plymouth, England. After the screening, the director was available via Skype for a chat with the audience. The short film was shown together with the documentary ALLA ZINGARA by director Glória Halász, in which she tells the story of the 100-member Budapest Roma Symphony Orchestra. Glória Halász was also present and discussed with the audience after the performance.

 

Screening and interview with a time witness for school classes

On Friday, 6.12., about 110 students from Berlin took part in the programme for school classes, exceeding the capacity of the cinema auditorium by 6 people. The event was opened by the short film MOUSIE, which was subsequently discussed by director David Bartlett. He explained to the young people present that his intention in telling the story of a 9-year-old Sintiza who hid in a Berlin vaudeville theatre in 1936 before being interned in the Marzahn camp was not to tell a historical document but to create a reminder for the present.

After the screening of the two short films MEMORY BOXES and ...THEY ONLY TAKE AWAY THE CRIMINALS, a 30-minute conversation followed between Zoni Weisz and the touched young people, in which he described his own persecution. He paid tribute to the film MOUSIE and the director by remarking that the fate of the young girl reminded him of his own, for he too spent many years in hiding.

 

Networking and offers for the professional audience

Networking between filmmakers, activists and professionals with and without a Roma background was one of the main objectives of the

AKE DIKHEA? Brunch, Foto: Stephanie Ballantine

festival. The festival brunch on 8.12. and the festival party on 7.12. in the Damensalon Berlin provided the perfect relaxed setting.

On 7.12. the festival offered two professional workshops: In the workshop "Reflection Room Film Festivals", led by film scholar and expert on German-Jewish film history Lea Wohl von Haselberg, about 20 festival organizers, cultural and media professionals and other interested parties reflected on questions concerning the organization, program, goals and audience of identity-based film festivals.

AKE DIKHEA? Workshop Reflecting Film Festivals mit Lea Wohl von Haselberg, Foto: Roberta Stein

In the workshop "Animated Documentary Films" the Macedonian filmmaker Zharko Ivanov gave a theoretical introduction to the topic, the history of animated documentary films and explained to the 15 attendees the analogue cut-out animation technique in practice.

In the panel discussion "Visegrad Forum: Self-Determined Stories", experts from Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary dealt with the question of how to tell self-determined stories in times of increasing racist attacks, smear campaigns against NGOs and right-wing populist politicians. The event was attended by about 30 people.

The highlight was the final dinner on 9.12., during which this year's prize winners were also announced: The film GENESIS received a Special Mention from the festival jury, the short film MOUSIE a Special Mention from the artistic director of the festival. MARGINA won the Best Film Award and the Audience Award went to SEULE A MON MARIAGE.