Sunday, November 10, 2013

Our School London at DocHouse

We are thrilled to announce that Our School will have its London premiere on November 28, 2013, in the wonderful DocHouse series, a year-round showcase of independent documentaries that fosters community among filmmakers and seeks to develop new audiences for non-fiction cinema. We are honored to be included in this year's line-up and to be able to present the film to the general public, the filmmaking community, the press, and, last but not least, the Roma / Gypsy Traveller and human rights partner organizations in the UK. 

The screening is, unfortunately, timely: It comes at a point when anti-Roma discourse in the UK seems to have reached a new low. Media and politicians seem to compete in spreading stereotypes and inflaming spirits against a perceived influx of Roma from new EU member states like Romania, Bulgaria or Slovakia, in anticipation of the lifting of work and travel restrictions for citizens of newer EU member states.

A Skype Q&A with Director Mona Nicoara and Editor Erin Casper will follow the screening.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Our School Supports Making Waves!

The Our School team has been involved with the Romanian film festival in New York for a few years now. This year, we helped put together a short fundraising video for their new Kickstarter campaign, launched at the Transylvania Film Festival, its partner festival, in early June. The festival, now in its eighth year, depends for its survival on the support of its audience and that of the Romanian and American artists who make it happen. All major figures of the new Romanian cinema and visual arts have contributed to the festival - from Cristian Mungiu and Cristi Puiu through Dan Perjovschi and Adrian Ghenie. Without community, we cannot survive in these times of budget cuts and brutal government attacks on independent contemporary Romanian art.

Please help support the festival by donating to the project and sharing it with your friends. Every bit counts! Hope to see you in November at the Lincoln Center Film Society in New York!

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Our School Is Out on DVD in Switzerland!

Photo (c) Miruna Coca-Cozma, 2011
After a long theatrical run in 2012, Our School is out on DVD in Switzerland! Thanks to Co-Director and Co-Producer Miruna Coca-Cozma, the film came out on DVD in late May - and is now available at all major vendors in Switzerland, with French subtitles. The official launch, hosted by our partner organization MESEMROM, will take place on June 26, at 7pm, at Théâtre Cité Bleue in Geneva. Miruna Coca-Cozma will be there to present a screening of the film, answer questions after, and welcome our audience with a drink and her trademark energy. Thank you to all who made this happen and supported the film in Switzerland over all these years during its making and its release - and a big thank-you to our lovely audience there!

Monday, April 15, 2013

Our School Screens in the European Parliament!

On April 11, 2013, Our School finally screened in the European Parliament. It's been a long time coming. This was one of our goals with this film from the very beginning, even before we shot the first minute for it. And thanks to Member of the European Parliament Monica Macovei and her wonderful staff, we were able to finally make it happen during a week-long series of actions centered on the International Roma Day (April 8) in Brussels. 

Monica Macovei has been a long-time advocate for human rights. Director Mona Nicoara first met her in the early 1990s, when they were both working with the Romanian Helsinki Committee. Over the years, Monica Macovei has shown an unwavering commitment to human rights and rule of law principles, even as she entered into politics, first as Minister of Justice in Romania and now as an elected member of the European Parliament. 

We are so grateful for this opportunity to show the film before members of the European Parliament, their staffers, and other decision-makers in the European Union. This is a crucial year for Roma integration in Europe, as the European Commission and its member states finalize and begin to implement continent-wide integration policies. We were thrilled to see a full house turn up for the screening - including activists and journalists who made the trip to the Parliament building for the specific purpose of attending the screening and meeting European representatives and their staffers. We were also pleased to see the Roma interns at the European Commission come to support the film - as they always did over the past two years. The questions after the screening showed a keen interest in the key challenges to integration: project implementation at the local level,

Friday, January 18, 2013

Our School is a New York Times Critics' Pick!

  We are thrilled to be selected as a Critics' Pick in The New York Times today! Jeannette Catsoulis's review, published ahead of Our School's limited engagement presented by the Independent Filmmaker Project and the Romanian Film Initiative at the reRun theater in New York notes:
"Part case study on entrenched racism, part heartbreaking human-rights story, Our School observes the feinting of small-town officials in rural Transylvania as they try to duck a mandate to integrate Roma children into the regular school system. Following three Roma, or Gypsy, youngsters for four years beginning in 2006, the directors, Mona Nicoara and Miruna Coca-Cozma, record the spasms of desegregation with patient persistence... And as events gather tragic momentum, the filmmakers see no need to underline their shamefulness. There’s no shortage of Romanians happy to do it for them."
Two days ago, The Village Voice also published an excellent review of Our School, under the provocative title "Seriously, People Still Hate Gypsies?" Nick Pinkerton noted that: 
"Despite the efforts of many interviewees to seem broad-minded, Nicoara has a knack for ferreting out moments that reveal actual Romanian attitudes—there's an Audi-driving priest and his wife, whose great act of charity is letting Dana work for them for free, and the teacher assigned to a Roma classroom who exasperatedly says, 'They have violence in their blood!' The school director will later opine, 'They come from an environment that lures them into dropping out and into tribal life,' anticipating his failure, but Our School does much to establish how that Roma 'environment' is reinforced from the outside."
And Film Journal International pointed out in its review that: 
"Our School's final, four-years-later summation—more than a coda, less than a fully fleshed-out segment—falls somewhere between starry optimism and resignation, and it's remarkably affecting in the way real life often is. Dana, Beni and Alin's lives have changed...not dramatically, but appreciably, and it's hard not to come away with a new (or renewed) respect for the potential power of baby steps."
The film opens tonight at reRun (147 Front St in Dumbo, Brooklyn), with a special Q&A with Director Mona Nicoara and attorney James Goldston, who argued on behalf of Roma children in landmark desegregation cases brought before the European Court of Human Rights. Most of early screenings are already sold out online. The remaining tickets can be purchased here.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Our School at the ReRun Theater in NYC!

Image from of
Between January 18-24, Our School opens for a week-long run in New York City at the delightful reRun theater in DUMBO, Brooklyn. Tickets and showtimes are available here. Director Mona Nicoara will be doing Q&As after each 7:30pm and 12:30pm screening, with special guests as follows: 

  • Friday, January 18, 7:30pm: James Goldston, who litigated the landmark school segregation cases before the European Court of Human Rights; he is currently the Executive Director of the Open Society Justice Initiative;
  • Saturday, January 19, 12:30pm: Margareta Matache, who led Romania's largest Roma rights groups, Romani CRISS, and is currently a research fellow at Harvard University;
  • Monday, January 21, 7:30pm: Ethel Brooks, PhD, a Roma scholar from the US; she teaches women's and gender studies and sociology at Rutgers University;
  • Tuesday, January 22, 7:30pm: George Eli, NY-based Roma documentary film director, author of the charming Searching for the 4th Nail
  • Wednesday, January 23, 7:30pm: Bogdan Apetri, NY-based Romanian director of Thessaloniki Film Fest-winner Periferic (Outbound); on the faculty of Columbia University's film program;
  • Thursday, January 24, 7:30pm: Ted Shaw, who teaches a course on segregation in Europe and the US and the Columbia Law School, and has spearheaded many school integration cases while leading the NAACP Legal Defense Fund.

For us, this is a homecoming of sorts: The program of reRun is curated by the Independent Filmmaker Project (IFP). Our School has been in the IFP family since 2008, when Milton Tabbot selected us for IFP's Independent Film Week meet market at a crucial stage in the project; that helped us receive the support and visibility we needed to complete the film. Since then, the IFP continued to support Our School though its fiscal sponsorship program and the 2010 Documentary Labs.

Adding to the sentimental background for this week-long run is the knowledge that the reRun screening room is where we showed several work-in-progress versions of the project and received feedback from trusted colleagues who work in documentary film. We are very happy to offer the finished film to our home town Brooklyn and to show it in the same room where worked our way though the cut with the help of the wonderful community of documentary filmmakers here in New York.

Our School's run is also proudly co-presented by the Romanian Film Initiative. the brave and dedicated team behind the annual Romanian film festival in New York, organized together with the Film Society of Lincoln Center and the Transylvania International Film Festival.

So come see us in this lovely indie theater offering comfy reclaimed car seats and some very Transylvanian-sounding popcorn with duck fat and paprika!