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FILMS Romania

Our School: Portrait of a lost generation


Our School: Portrait of a lost generation

Presented as a special screening at the Transylvania International Film Festival (TIFF), after screening at Tribeca in April, the documentary Our School certainly hit close to home.

Set in the Transylvanian town of Targu Lapus, the nonfiction film directed by Mona Nicoara and co-directed by Miruna Coca-Cozma follows three children from the Roma-dominated Dileu neighbourhood, far from the centre, who are asked to start attending school in the centre as part of a European plan to stop Roma children from being segregated in Romanian schools.

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At the start of the film, which began shooting in 2006 and continued through this year, the protagonists are eight-year-old Alin, a mischievous little boy; rotund 12-year-old Beni and pretty 16-year-old Dana, a cow herder. As the story progresses, they grow older but not necessarily, despite going to school, much wiser.

All three have summarily attended a school in Dileu for Roma, which was far from the standard of regular Romanian schools, and they have trouble catching up with their peers to the point that some of them are placed in a separate group. Interviews with the city's mayor, the head of the school and some of the teachers reveal that prejudice against the Roma are very much part of life in Romania, even among those who say they want to help the Roma.

A prime example are the EU funds that are given to the town to help the Roma integrate into Romanian schools. Rather than funding extra tuition to help the children catch up, it is used to renovate the Roma school in Dileu, so the children can be sent back there, away from the Romanians (a 2007 European high-court ruling prevents this from happening, however, so the building remains empty).

Shot on video, the film showcases the stunted development of its protagonists and of a country that seems not entirely ready to let its preconceived ideas about the Roma go.

Though the directors are both Romanian, the film was made with funds from Switzerland and the U.S.

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