Our School


Our School tells the story of Roma children struggling to break the barriers of segregation in a small Transylvanian town.

Roma, also known as “Gypsies,” are Europe’s largest and most persecuted minority. The descendants of former slaves, Romanian Roma continue to live in poverty, at the edges of society. They suffer discrimination in all areas of their life, and their children are often placed in segregated schools which offer no future. Our School documents one of the first integration efforts following a European Court of Human Rights judgment similar to Brown v. Board of Education in the United States.

Shot over two years, this feature-length vérité documentary focuses on three Roma schoolchildren—Alin, Beniamin, and Dana—brought into a mainstream school to learn alongside Romanian students. Weighed down by extreme poverty and a history of illiteracy, Alin and Beniamin struggle for acceptance. Where Alin falters in despair and isolation, Beniamin seeks opportunities to prove himself. Teachers, who resent being burdened with integration without additional support, would like to see them back in the segregated school, but the two Roma boys find the strength to stay through the friendship of their Romanian classmates. On the other hand, Dana, a young woman who was the best student in the segregated school, is driven by tradition into early marriage and she abandons school to become a mother.

Our School reveals the detailed and messy workings of race relations in a small Transylvanian town, following the lives of participants from up close in a warm, intimate visual style. The film builds the world in which the participants live by slowly drawing viewers into the minutiae and rhythms of the small Transylvanian town. The arc of the story is constructed around the hopes, wins, and losses of the children themselves. At the same time, the world of the adults who are making crucial decisions for these children (parents, teachers, friends, and neighbors), as well as the town as a whole (as represented bythe racist mayor or the sympathetic bookstore owner) are also explored to allow viewers to understand the intricate web of motivations which affect the main story line.

Our School shows the way in which human rights principles and well-intentioned policies play on the ground, in the daily lives of those directly affected by them. It takes a close look at the role that local context, history, and culture play in complicating and distorting the dynamics and outcomes of even the most basic and benign efforts for change. At the same time, by telling a compelling human story, the film hopes to extend awareness of segregation beyond a small circle of activists, mobilizing new energies at a moment that is ripe for change and providing a platform for the wider desegregation movement by means of a far-ranging web-based strategy linking audiences to activists and donors.

Principal photography in Romania was completed in 2008, and the project is currently in post-production in New York. With an anticipated release date of 2010.


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