At KVIFF a world premiere of long-awaited documentary by Tomáš Bojar and Rozálie Kohoutová FC Roma took place. The film tells a story about a football team consisting mainly of Roma people; because of that, other teams from Děčín local league refuse to play against it. The film was supported by the Institute of Documentary Film. A couple of experienced Czech documentary directors decided to explore one strange football season and to show the dark side of the poetic world of “redneck championship” as well.
How well did your cooperation go? What has been achieved thanks to the two different creative approaches and in which ways was it complicated?
R.K.: As for preparing the script and discussing the way of shooting, the cooperation with Tomáš was very inspiring for me. We based the script on the Děčín setting we knew from previous reconnaissance but the scenes were made up in advance. In Děčín it was often completely different but we already had a foundation to build on which we both agreed with. It suits me to have the situations ready in advance, including the way of shooting. However, the charm of a documentary lies obviously in the fact that a director has to be able to change everything anytime; very often in order to make it better or maybe more authentic. In Děčín we often repeated to ourselves that certain situations or dialogues happening in front of the camera could never be written from scratch. Then, a challenge was to shoot the matches; we used three or more cameras over the whole pitch. The characters' microphones had to be properly installed and all camera- and sound people had detailed instructions for there was no time to changed anything during the match. The film was cut with Evženie Brabcová and if any disagreements occurred, the rules were set naturally, simply, democratically – two against one.
T.B.: Our cooperation was surprisingly painless. As I'm thinking about it now, we actually had no blood-boiling argument. The basic questions of conception were cleared in advance, and the conclusions were then followed during the shooting, with the necessary dose of improvisation. Moreover, everyone often (mostly during the matches) directed their own crew and had no time to take care of the other one. In an editing room there were of course some scarce conflicts; this is almost inevitable. To sum up I do not feel there's anything in the film I could not identify myself with.
It was clear already from the presentation of your film at the Evening of Czech documentary in September that you were making a film with plenty of funny moments. Are you not afraid of the critical voices saying you play down the serious topic of cohabitation of the Czech people and Roma people?
R.K.:FC Roma undoubtedly bears some features of comedy but I don't think good humour plays anything down. On the contrary it seems to me that if humour is intelligent and not a cheap takeoff, it can be more powerful than crying. Spectators laugh but at the same time it makes them shiver. In the case of FC Roma we used up a lot the self-irony of the main characters, Patrik and Pavel, who jokingly and pretty improperly evaluated the status of Roma people and the Czech society in general, or the coexistence with other minorities. And it attracted me and Tomáš a lot.
T.B.: Hard to tell; if I should've been afraid of critical voices in advance, I wouldn't create films at all. The fact that someone does not completely like my work is totally common – I would tend to be nervous if it were different. The way of reading our film you offer is not absolutely shared with me. I do not think humour plays anything down. Humour is not a form of escape for me, rather a certain diagnose – I'm laughing mostly because I can see something real in front of me.
How did you meet FC Roma players for the first time? Were they happy that they would become “visible”, did the shooting bother them or did they take it as a funny element, an upsurge of the matches?
R.K.: Patrik was definitely more spontaneous at the beginning, perhaps also because he is as old as we are. We went for a beer for a few times or to the disco and found out quickly we have very similar opinions. The coach, Pavel, who enjoys a great respect in the team, was certainly more cautious towards “filmmakers from Prague.” X months after our visit told us laughing that he asked Patrik to take care of the children (i.e. us). He thought we were not older than 18 and was a little suspicious about us. Among both protagonists, their families and our crew there was a friendship during the shooting.
Roma people are known for their spontaneity. What was it like, working with them?
T.B.: Most of the time the work was perfect. There weren't any more serious problems and if, they were not caused by the protagonists but rather by the crew itself. For example, Patrik is sometimes far more rational, systematic and healthily pragmatic than all my Prague friends together. He understands everything immediately, speaks to the point, does not stumble upon details – without a considerable exaggeration I told him if he's bored with earthwork and garbage collecting, he could come to Prague to be a director's assistant in advertising and he would get a job very soon.
There are many stylized scenes in the movie. How did the main characters cope with the acting parts?
R.K.: The whole film is actually stylized to some extent. In the main characters, Patrik and Pavel, we discovered a natural acting, comedy talent which enabled us to stylize the scenes. Otherwise, it would definitely not be possible.
T.B.: As for “made-up parts” we absolutely insisted on Patrik and Pavel not doing anything that would seem strange to them. This is also why it was so easy to them, not speaking of a few exceptions. If there was a need to “replay” a scene, it was always a situation that had already happened in their own lives. It can seem deceptive to some radical fans of “documentary” ideology but I think these “made-up” sequences are as “true” as the rest of the film. In my opinion, “truthfulness” cannot be equated with “documentariness” at all. If it worked like that, we would have to see Michael Moore as a director of “feature films” whereas Robert Bresson as a “director of documentaries”. The only thing that really matters is to stay devoted to the basic spirit of reality as you recognized it. Which film means will be then selected is secondary. In the film FC Roma there are completely authentic observations mixed with sequences more or less stylized – in both cases ,Pavel and Patrik are “actors of their own lives”. The amount in which they realize their role is obviously different in each scene. With an easy conscience I can say, however, that there is not a single sequence in the film that would be in a considerable conflict in their real personal life, thinking and behavior.
Which are the worst obstacles that prevent the peaceful coexistence of Czech and Roma people? Is it, in the case of Roma people, the subconscious hate towards the majority society that keeps them from living their way of life (58 years ago the communists forbade the Roma people to lead a nomadic life) and pushes them to the edge? In the case of the Czechs, is it the dislike towards their current way of life? Or does the root of the problem lie elsewhere? Is it possible to overcome these prejudices?
R.K.: I definitely do not think Roma people would want back their traditional way of life. Before WWII, Roma people lived quite integrated in the Czech Republic (not in Slovakia), often in cities. From the Czech Roma community, three families survived the war. Others died in concentration camps. So let's not speak about hate but about the holocaust of a part of the citizenship.
After the war, Roma families from Slovakia move to industrial areas after the Germans; often they are illiterate with no education. This suits to the communist regime – they are all employed in heavy industry as manual workers. When the jobs are reduced after the Velvet revolution, these people are the first to be fired. They are undereducated and unemployed and not ready for the transformation from socialism to wild capitalism. NGOs have continually pointed at the danger of Roma ghettos emerging; nevertheless, the political representation absolutely does not feel like solving the growing problem that is partly social, partly ethnic. There is no political will to deal with the problem neither on the left side nor on the right. Fortunately, there are NGOs working in the areas – I would preferably name People in Need. In my opinion, the situation in these areas would be even more disastrous without their effort. If I am supposed to tell a very simplified evaluation: The Roma community in these areas is mostly deprived of education. Another longlasting problem is of course unemployment in the whole region of northern Bohemia. The general misbelief of Czech people to other cultures also does not contribute to a better coexistence. I think that the misbelief is also a heritage of the past regime.
T.B.: I completely understand that you ask but I cannot give you a generally valid answer. The whole business as far as I could meet it is complicated and very stratified and I can only understand a small part of it. If I understood it better, I would anyway answer you with an essay and not a few sentences. Still, I am pretty sure about one thing: Roma people serve in out society as a target of anger. They are easily available, they are visible and they cannot defend well. Therefore, they represent quite an easy target, and mainly frustrated people who feel put aside and not heard out use it up, in other words, dump the Roma on. The question is if pickpocketing, disturbing the night silence or violation of social benefits; for these things Roma people are blamed probably most often (let's leave aside if righteously or not); but are they such fundamental problems to cause so much riot? Obviously, these problems are pretty visible and specific enough so it is natural people deal with them. On one side I understand the society is not so worried by e.g. Putin's deeds at the east of Ukraine, is not interested in the way state helps the disabled or fights hazard although it seems to me much more important. However, the simple shortcut cannot be made so simply here – the people lack the feeling it affects themselves or their wallets. From this point of view, I am slightly astonished by the fact that the same effect was not caused by “methanol affair” or other obvious thieveries from a recent era when a legal state practically stopped operating here. If I remember correctly, there were no such massive marshes because of this. Perhaps because people cannot reach various members of mafia stealing from the state budget much better than all “lazy Gypsies” together, and people cannot fully comprehend this – in my opinion much more dangerous – form of parasitism. To sum up, anger mostly turns against the weaker which are nowadays mostly Roma people. It is a great irony that some of them actually welcome the refugee crisis as they hope that the attention will be finally paid to someone else and they will receive a few moments of rest.
Do you know any example from abroad where they work better with a Roma community and where we could learn from?
R.K.: Roma people themselves really like England because they do not stick out among other Pakistanis and Indians as when they go shopping in Ústí. They do not have a clear sticker on the forehead. Czech society is very “white” compared to the western Europe…
At the same time, we were not always so embarrassingly homogeneous. Unfortunately, the Jews died in concentration camps; Germans from Sudetenland were expelled, and we are afraid of people from the Middle East. Nevertheless, thanks to the fear of refugees we forgot about Roma people for same time which got funny comments by Patrik and Pavel – the scene, however, did not make it into the film. They say that when cars will be exploding, Czechs will happily remember Gypsies who were just stealing and having fun all night. I have absolutely no doubts western Europe is less racist than the eastern. Again I must repeat it is probably the heritage of communism; the level of media and populism of certain politicians contribute heavily, though. Unfortunately, we can see nowadays that the whole Europe is radicalized which makes me scared, of course.