Presented by The Belfast Film Festival, with The Mac and the Romanian Roma Community Association of Northern Ireland (RRCANI)
Our School follows three Roma children in a rural Transylvanian village who are among the pioneer participants in an initiative to integrate the ethnically segregated Romanian schools. When their school is desegregated, Alin, Benjamin, and Dana set out for the city school, optimistic for education and new friendships, even as funds earmarked for integration are questionably used to build a “Roma-only” school in their village. Their innocent optimism quickly sours when the children are met with low expectations and further isolation.
Shot over four years, the filmmakers’ tender portrait of rural village life and its rhythms fosters an intimacy in the children’s profound reality and admiration for their indomitable spirit, punctuated by shocking instances of prejudice and ignorance. Their story touches on issues ranging from institutionalized racism, public education, and the intractability of poverty, culminating in an outrageous finale that cements the Roma children’s struggle in the annals of egregious human rights violations. Our School is an absorbing, infuriating, and ultimately bittersweet story of tradition and progress.
“Mona Nicoara and Miruna Coca-Cozma’s documentary unfolds in Romania, but its depiction of multi-generational poverty perpetuated in part by substandard schooling could as easily have been set in dozens of other countries…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.”
Film Journal International