Czechs Against Czechs: To live with the Roma
by Vladan Petkovic
- Tomáš Kratochvíl’s second feature-length documentary explores the racial issue in the Czech Republic with heart and conviction
Czech writer-director Tomáš Kratochvíl had to be noticed by anyone who saw Hives, an omnibus film by students of five European film schools, in which his short comedy clearly stood out as the strongest work. His first feature-length documentary film, Gadjo (2014), was broadcast as part of a series by Czech Television.
Now Kratochvíl is in the Czech Joy competition of the Jihlava International Documentary Film Festival, where his new film, Czechs Against Czechs [+see also:
film profile], a loose sequel to Gadjo, has had its world premiere.
When his wife leaves him after three years of marriage, and his film about a white Czech theatre working in Roma settlements gets negative reactions, the filmmaker decides to go and live in the “most notorious” Gypsy ghetto in the country, Předlice in the city of Ústí nad Labem. He wants to make a film that will show his critics, his family (who, he says, all hate Gypsies) and the large anti-Roma movement in the country that all the prejudices against the ethnic group are nothing more than that.
After some initial mishaps and missteps, Tomáš gets lucky. Asking around for an apartment to rent, he runs into the family of owners, headed by Jarda, a good-natured, intelligent and, above all, realistic man. He and his wife, who have no children, immediately take a liking to him and accept him as their own.
As Tomáš is settling in, the sudden 2013 explosion of anti-Roma sentiment starts, and Czech Television and human rights organisations start to become interested in his film project. He is trying to get to the core of the problem (or possibly just provoke the neo-Nazis?) by following both the Roma rights activists, led by Mira Brož from the city of Duchcov, and the right-wing Workers Party members, most of them former skinheads, during a series of demonstrations and counter-demonstrations in several cities in the country, reaching many expected conclusions but also, more importantly, unearthing unknown truths about himself, and about other people's way of thinking.
The filmmaker's personal approach is what stands out about this documentary. He does not press the issue of his own problems, but presents it so convincingly that there is no question about his motives. Acting as the director, editor, cinematographer and sound designer of the movie, he creates a logical, fluid, dynamic narrative that hits the right spots as it describes both “kinds of Czechs”. As much as the racist part of the story enrages the viewer, the Roma side warms the heart. And Kratochvíl does not refrain from showing that nothing is really black and white, finding the delicate balance necessary to remain on the side of the good people.
Czechs Against Czechs is a co-production by Hypermarket Film and Czech Television.