Hungarian film on Roma killings at Berlin Festival

Associated Press
Film producer Monika Mecs, left, and the government commissioner in charge of the Hungarian film industry, producer Andrew G. Vajna, right, talk to each other during a press conference introducing Hungary's official entry for the 62nd Berlin International Film Festival in Budapest, Hungary, Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2012. Hungarian film maker Bence Fliegauf's film drama "Just the Wind" , which presents one day in the life of a Roma family, was invited to the Berlinale's Competition program. (AP Photo/Bela Szandelszky)
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BUDAPEST, Hungary (AP) — Backers of a new film based on the recent serial killings of Hungarian Roma hope to shine a light on an embattled minority group that is among the region's poorest and least-educated.

"Csak a szel" ("Just the Wind"), which depicts the life of a Roma family on the Great Hungarian Plain, ending with their murders, will be in competition at the Berlin International Film Festival starting Feb. 9, the film's producers said Wednesday.

Bence Fliegauf's film, a Hungarian, German and French co-production that cost around 150 million forints (€515,000, $675,000) and stars amateur Roma actors, was inspired by a series of murders that scandalized a country not always sympathetic to the Roma, or Gypsy, minority.

"I hope this film will be seen as a sign that Hungary is ready to confront these issues instead of just sweeping them under the carpet," said Zoltan Balog, head of the State Secretariat for Social Inclusion, a government agency focused on poverty and Roma integration that provided funding for the film.

Four men are on trial in Budapest accused of carrying out attacks in nine villages between July 2008 and August 2009 in which six Roma were shot to death, including a 5-year-old boy. Five sustained life-threatening injuries. Prosecutors said the accused were motivated partly by vigilantism and wanted to frighten and provoke the Roma community into acts of reprisal.

Roma, an estimated 5-8 percent of Hungary's 10 million people, battle deep prejudice and have been deeply affected by the loss of guaranteed jobs after the end of communism over 20 years ago. Unemployment among Roma is several times the national average near 11 percent.

The leading roles are played by amateur Roma actors, with professionals in the supporting cast, said producers Monika Mecs and Andras Muhi.

"Bence spent six months casting the film, traveling around the country to visit Roma communities," Muhi said.

About 45 percent of the film's budget came from Hungarian sources.

Andy Vajna, a Hungarian-born Hollywood producer who is now the government commissioner in charge of renewing Hungary's film industry, said the National Film Fund was ready to provide financial support to similar projects.

"We are interested in all sorts of proposals dealing with social problems," Vajna said. "If they are well developed, we will support them."

Muhi said the film's distribution was being handled by German company The Match Factory and there were expectations that "Just The Wind" would be shown in cinemas in some 40 countries after its Berlin premiere.

Fliegauf was in Berlin completing post-production work on the film and was not present at Wednesday's press conference.

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