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Our Dream is a documentary in five chapters shot in five countries of Central and Eastern Europe in May and June 2013. Produced by a team of Roma, majority-community, student and U.S. journalists, the film is aimed at increasing the visibility of problems that Europe’s Roma communities face as part of the fight to end discrimination against the Roma and create conditions for their social inclusion. Often referred to as Europe’s largest minority, the continent’s 10-12 million Roma people continue to live on the margins of their countries’ economic, social and political lives. And, although the consequences of Roma social exclusion have never been more visible, recent statistics show few signs of meaningful progress.

While national governments have adopted policies aimed at integrating Roma, more often than not those policies are implemented half-heartedly. At the same time, political parties campaigning on openly anti-Roma platforms have entered national and European parliaments. Violence against Roma, often with fatal consequences, has now become an almost regular feature of Europe’s life.

Rich Beckman
Executive Producer
University of Miami
Knight Center for International Media
Tihomir Loza
Project Director

 Chapter 1 : The Choice

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In the town of Kyustendil, in western Bulgaria, 90 km southwest of Sofia, some Roma children are fighting age-old stereotypes by choosing to continue their education beyond the age of 16, as is mandated by law. With support from their poorly educated parents who have struggled their entire lives to find employment, there are now children who are excited about the potential that a high school and even a college education can provide.

In a society in which many Roma girls marry young and many Roma boys work alongside their fathers after finishing the eighth grade, the potential for a career provides these children with a path out of poverty and a realistic chance for a better life.

Lili and Raina are supported by their parents, who realize the power of education and are excited about their children’s future. Their parents encourage them to study and follow their dreams. Emil, who dreams of being a football player, doesn’t value education and has little hope of escaping a future in the ghetto. These are their stories.

 Chapter 2 : Because There Is Hope

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In the small town of Krupka, in northwest Czech Republic, on the border with Germany, lives Jožka Miker, a Roma activist who has taken it upon himself to mentor a group of teenage Roma boys, many from broken homes, who help him spread a message of acceptance through their rap and hip-hop music. Miker also teaches the boys about Roma history and culture as well as keeping them up-to-date on regional Roma issues.

Krupka and neighboring towns have been the site of numerous violent Neo-Nazi race-motivated riots in recent years as well as incidents in which Roma citizens were murdered. The boys credit Jožka with giving them a purpose in life and keeping them away from drugs and violence. They have become young activists by rapping against Neo-Nazis, poverty, drugs and life in the dormitories and hope their music can help unite the Roma people.

 Chapter 3 : Fading Notes

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For more than a hundred years Budapest has been the capital of Hungarian Gypsy music. Twenty years ago you could hear this music in more than 60 restaurants and inns along the Grand Boulevard (Nagykörút). At that time, more than 5,000 Roma musicians played for guests in more than 2,000 restaurants throughout the country. After the fall of communism, restaurants were privatized. Due to high taxes and financial restraints, most of the new owners did not employ Roma musicians any longer and thousands of acclaimed musicians lost their jobs. Many were forced to become street musicians to make ends meet. Today there are only a few places left where you can still hear the internationally acclaimed Hungarian Gypsy music and only the most talented young musicians can make a living playing Gypsy music today.

In the Romungro – the Hungarian Roma – community musician families have preserved this heritage for centuries. Now their children and grandchildren often need to leave the country or play a different style of music to survive. Hungarian Gypsy music is much more than a Gypsy tradition, it is an important part of the country’s culture that is in danger of fading away.

 Chapter 4 : A Tale of Two Villages

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Constantin Godelea is the Pentecostal pastor in the Roma village of Fântânele, 35 kilometers from Bucharest. He is a man on a mission, as he tries to convert Roma from Alunișu, an impoverished village seven kilometers away. Fântânele has been 90% Pentecostal since the 1970s and is a prosperous place by Romanian standards. Godelea believes that his brand of religion is the key to solving the major Roma problems across Europe. As a result of a few church rules – no alcohol, no cigarettes and no abortions – major health and education issues have been overcome in Fântânele. This unlikely source of change – converting to the Pentecostal religion – is a growing phenomenon among Roma communities.

Only seven kilometers separate the Dumitrache family in Fântânele from the Manea family in Alunișu, but otherwise they are worlds apart. The Dumitrache family has a steady income, their children all go to school and they follow the rules of the church. The Manea family has no steady income, the eldest daughter dropped out of school to care for her baby sister whose father was a drunkard and deserted the family and the mother searches each day for manual labor to buy food. They see converting as their only hope for a better life.

 Chapter 5 : Home is Home

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An accidental fire, likely caused by Roma children, that severely damaged the iconic Krásna Hôrka castle in the small village of Krásnohorské Podhradie, Slovakia on March 12, 2102, has elevated racial tensions within this small town near the Hungarian border.

As the population shifts to a Roma majority, the white people of the village have become increasing intolerant of the Roma settlement, a portion of which was built illegally on land now partially owned by Štefan Szaniszló, an extremist who seeks to have the Roma evicted from the homes they have lived in for more than half a century.

Threats to destroy Štefan Darvaš’ home in the settlement have come to symbolize the threat to the Roma community. If his home is destroyed, his neighbors know that it will only be a matter of time before the entire settlement is leveled and thousands of Roma are displaced.