Gypsies of Svinia
Canada 1998, 95 min, Beta SP, Dir: John Paskievich
  • Friday May 17, 2002 at 9:00PM

Photographed and directed by John Paskievich, edited by K. George Godwin and Jon Paskievich. Sound by Rob Hanchar, produced by Joe MacDonald for the National Film Board of Canada Increasingly, Paskievich has erased the distance between himself and his subject. Gypsies of Svinia, shot with greater mobility and intimacy on digital video, not only bears witness to the squalid living conditions of the Gypsy (or Rom) community that exists on the outskirts of contemporary Svinia in eastern Slovakia, but becomes an act of human rights advocacy in the process. The film documents David Scheffel's persistent attempts to negotiate employment and better housing for the Rom in the face of nearly genocidal contempt by the indigenous population. Yet the film never feels didactic; Paskievich's camera gets in close to both the exuberance and melancholia of Rom family life, the film-maker himself enters the frame and makes an ally of the village leader, and as well he exposes the cracks in Scheffel's professional demeanour. Suggestively, Paskievich lets a blind girl's song of exile delicately temper the harsh realities at the centre of this unyielding world.

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