On the occasion of the International Day of the Roma People, Pablo Vega presents his emotional audiovisual piece Proud Roma (Gypsy Pride) in Barcelona, in which he appeals for the recognition of a common history of resistance and resilience against hatred, slavery and the genocide of the people roma
Vega – visual artist, film director, producer and editor – founded his own production company, Dika-Audiovisual, in 2003, and his work includes documentaries, video art pieces, theatrical productions, music videos and commercials. Many of his works have been awarded – best documentary award at the African Film Festival (Berlin, 2012), the special mention of the jury at the Pan African Film Festival (Los Angeles, 2012), the Young Creator award from the Institute of Culture Gitana (Madrid, 2012), the Enrique Maya Arts Award (Madrid, 2013), Best Content Award at the Luxury Advertising Awards (Madrid, 2019), among others– and revolve around the idea of achieving more open and plural, which guarantee the equality of all "both in the present and in the future".
In the case of his latest work, made with the support of the European Roma Institute for Arts and Culture (ERIAC), Vega fully enters into the subject of the Roma people – he is a member of the International Romani Film Commission and is part of the jury in the Ake Dikhea? Festival of Romani Film– through Charles Chaplin's famous monologue in The Great Dictator, updated in the body and voice of a Romani woman, Alina Servan, and a young gypsy, Toni Gabarri.
What connection do you think exists between Chaplin's speech in 1940 and Proud Roma's in 2022?
When I found out that Chaplin was Roma I began to understand all of his work and the stories he created with the most stigmatized people in society, but in the case of The Great Dictator it marked me as a before and after. In the context of the Second World War, that this great gypsy teacher bravely dared to stand up to Hitler from love and from humanity touched my heart.
In the context of the war in Ukraine, many Roma have not only been dragging the weight of hate crimes by neo-Nazi paramilitary groups for some time, but also continue to be discriminated against as refugees when they try to cross the border fleeing the war .
In Europe and in Spain, the situation of the Roma communities makes it necessary to denounce forced sterilizations, the segregation of Roma children in schools, and the barriers to access to fundamental rights. For all this, I think that the call that Chaplin made to us in 1940 is still more valid than ever.
You say that Chaplin stood up to Hitler when no European ruler had the courage to do so. Who do you want to stand up to with this piece?
I want to kindly tell the world that culture loses when we look from anti-gypsy stereotypes and prejudices. I think it is necessary to reflect on it in a sincere way to mobilize against the anti-Gypsy discrimination that we suffer structurally. It is a song to the union of the payas and gypsies so that we change this situation because it paralyzes the social and cultural development of all.
Ismael Cortés in his book Sueños y Sombras sobre los Gitanos analyzes the gypsy representation in the cinema from the Civil War to the quinqui cinema: he affirms that the gypsy stereotype is always situated outside the law and mobilizes affective reactions between fascination and fear. What is his opinion about gypsy representation in cinema and what does his work contribute?
Roma representation is always done from an external, rigid and poor perspective because it is based on anti-Roma stereotypes and prejudices. In my opinion, it does not represent the truth and the culture of our people. The internal perspective is much richer and more nuanced because it takes into account people's origins, journeys and processes. We have many interesting stories to tell and I am sure they would have a great impact on society.
Cinema is a great educational tool to create, put yourself in another's shoes and reach millions of people. I want to break stereotypes and give a more humanized, elegant and sophisticated aesthetic image. My look has a touch of magical realism and drama, but from a prism of sensitivity that all Roma people have due to our high capacity to love. When we have the opportunity and the space to transmit this, it reaches the whole world because you count from the heart and from love. That's what Chaplin does.
Right now the preliminary bill for the Cinema Law and the bill for the Audiovisual Communication Law are on the table. How do you think these laws could improve Roma representation in audiovisual products?
Positive action measures must be promoted, such as quotas, so that production companies become aware and allow Roma people to tell stories on equal terms with non-Roma people. In streaming broadcast platforms there is awareness to include this content; however, the producers miss the opportunity to support these types of stories. We need to promote cultural content that reflects the reality of the societies in which we live and allows us to dream of the world we want. For this, it is essential that our right to show the art and truth of the gypsy avant-garde be recognized.