Talking Romani director Jane Jackson talks about her continuing involvement with Romani cinema and the new collaboration with the Berlin based, Romani led, ‘Ake Dikhea? Festival of Romani Film’.
My first encounter with the Romani communities was when I joined The Rural Media Company in the mid 1990’s. From there, via the Traveller’s Times project and its many spin-offs, I embarked upon an extraordinarily privileged journey into the many different lives, histories and cultures that make up the British Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities. Over the next 15 years I got to meet Romani people from many walks of life, in Britain and in Europe, as well as witness the entrenched racism and discrimination that they face everywhere. Getting fair representation in the media is an almost impossible task.
In 1994, the Criminal Justice Act was creating extreme political pressure to reduce the number of Traveller stopping places and speed up the process of, in effect, outlawing their traditional nomadic way of life. At this point, Traveller’s Times began life as a research project and newsletter at Cardiff University’s Law Department, providing information for Traveller organisations and their legal advisors fighting prosecution, and in 1998 I found myself helping to transform this densely written legal newsletter into an accessible, full-colour, visually exciting magazine featuring the Traveller communities themselves with the aid of a Big Lottery grant.
It all made a deep impression on me, and gave me a determination to encourage and employ young Travellers as advisors, writers, editors and organisers, on the many projects, we managed and raised funds for at The Rural Media Company. Some of the young people who attended our media skills training have since gone on to make their own work, in print, in film and in media and the arts, and to progress into non-traditional careers. There is now a growing number of highly educated and culturally aware young Romani people in this country, their very existence in the public eye, ready to challenge the old stereotypes of Gypsies.
At Borderlines Film Festival we have always tried to screen films which present Romani people in an authentic way, from their own points of view, as a counterpoint to sensationalised TV shows like My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding. The Festival has screened films and digital stories made for Traveller’s Times, and by young UK filmmakers, as well as feature films, such as When The Road Bends – Tales of a Gypsy Caravan, The Green Green Grass Beneath, Jimmy Riviere, Papusza, Deathless Woman from Europe and the UK. In 2022, for the first time we have hooked up with Ake Dikhea?, the Romani film festival in Berlin, and we are delighted to be screening their prize winning films: How I Became a Partisan, Erode and Gipsy Queen.
The festival this year runs in venues and online from the 4th-20th of March 2022. https://www.borderlinesfilmfestival.co.uk/