27 May 2009 – On the occasion of the launch, in France, of the film “All the invisible children”, Roma organisations from all over Europe have sent a protest note to the sponsors, UNICEF, the World Food Programme, and the Italian Development Cooperation, in order to express their grave concern regarding “Blue Gypsy” by the Yugoslav filmmaker Emir Kusturica, as one out of the seven short movies to highlight the violation of children’s rights around the world.

“Blue Gypsy” tells the story of a young Roma boy called Uroš who is just released from child detention to be immediately pushed again by his lazy and drinking father into stealing. Non surprisingly, he finally decides to return to detention, where he learns from another inmate that he has more freedom than outside.

The organisations, that do not entirely deny the existence of such a phenomenon, nevertheless express their disagreement with the fact that it has come to dominate the public representation and discourse about Roma. They say that this is also the consequence of awareness raising campaigns led by international organisations and NGOs, which have excessively focussed on the phenomenon of child begging and trafficking within Roma communities.

The organisations acknowledge that such an approach may indeed be powerful to attract public attention and funding, but has the negative side-effect in diverting attention from the root causes, i.e., the abject poverty and marginalisation of Roma families, to expose one of its possible consequences.” They also say that they would have welcomed if the film had shed light at the living conditions of Roma families as they may indeed by themselves constitute as a violation of children and human rights.

Chachipe, the initiator of the protest note, underlined the negative impact on Roma children and the community as a whole. “If the idea of this film was to promote children’s rights, we must conclude that for Roma children it entirely missed its target,” the organisation said. “Indeed, if it is the parents, who are the mainly responsible for the poverty and distress of their children, why should it be necessary to help them? Moreover, since no explanation is provided for the attitude of the parents in the film, safe for their alleged cupidity and egotism, it appears as inborn, endemic. Roma are thus doomed to be the eternal outcasts, and Kusturica has actually reified this idea.”

The organisations did not ask for the removal of the film form the production, which is to be presented in the context of the celebration of the sixtieth anniversary of the declaration of the rights of the child, but asked for it to be accompanied by public discussions together with Roma organisations. They also recommended that any further campaign on issues affecting Roma communities should be prepared in cooperation with Roma civil society organisations in order to avoid such campaigns to perpetuate stereotypes against Roma.

Chachipe a.s.b.l.

See also: Blue Gypsy: Reactions on a film