“Our School” Follows Efforts to Provide Equal Access to Education
for Roma Children in a rural Transylvanian Village
**NOTE NEW ROOM LOCATION**
WASHINGTON–The U.S. Helsinki Commission will screen the winner of this year’s Silverdoc’s Award for Best U.S. Feature. Shot over the course of four years, the film “Our School” follows the attempt to integrate isolated rural Roma (or Gypsy) children into the mainstream school system of Romania. Focusing on seven-year-old Alin, 12-year-old Beni and 16-year-old Dana, this fascinating film takes an unflinching look at the challenges of a longstanding tradition of prejudice.
Following the screening of the film there will be a panel discussion.
Wednesday, June 29, 2011
NEW ROOM: 1539 Longworth House Office Building
Costel Bercus, Chair of the Roma Education Fund Board
Serban Brebenel, Embassy of Romania
Mona Nicoara, Director and Producer
About the film
Our School follows three Romani children in a rural Transylvanian village who are among the pioneer participants in an initiative to integrate the ethnically segregated Romanian schools. When their district is ordered desegregated, Alin, Benjamin, and Dana set out for the city school, optimistic for education and new friendships, even as funds earmarked for integration are questionably used to build a "Roma-only" school in their village. Their story touches on issues ranging from institutionalized racism, public education, and the intractability of poverty, and culminates in an unexpected outcome.
Roma are the largest ethnic minority in Europe and have historically suffered widespread4discrimination. In some areas, Roma were enslaved before 1865. During World War II, they were the victims of genocide. Romani organizations consistently identify equal access to education as essential for improving all aspects of life.
In several countries (including the Czech Republic, Croatia, and Greece), Romani families have sued their governments before the highest human rights court in Europe in an effort to end desegregation. Many Romani groups have taken inspiration from the U.S. civil rights movement and the 2007 case, D.H. and Others v. the Czech Republic, is often compared to Brown v. Board of Education.
Nevertheless, as in the United States, it is not always clear what measures will definitively lead to equal access to education, and sometimes efforts to improve education have unintended consequences.