A Hungarian film with an amateur Roma cast that takes its cue from a 2008-9 series of deadly attacks on Roma, or Gypsies, is making its debut at the Berlin film festival, and its director hopes that it will "make a difference" in the face of discrimination.
Bence Fliegauf's "Just the Wind" showed Thursday at the festival, where it is one of 18 films competing for the top Golden Bear award.
It depicts the life of a Roma family — long-suffering, grimly silent mother Mari (Katalin Toldi), her elderly invalid father and two children who struggle to make ends meet and dream of emigrating one day to Canada — against the quietly menacing backdrop of a series of murders in their out-of-the-way neighborhood.
Roma, who make up 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.
"Of course I hope that this movie is going to make a difference," Fliegauf told reporters at the festival, though he stressed that he hadn't embarked on the project for any ideological reason.
In tackling the problem openly, "I hope my movie is going to do something for the image of Hungary," he added.
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 serious injuries.
Prosecutors allege the suspects were motivated partly by vigilantism, and wanted to frighten and provoke the Roma community into acts of reprisal.
Toldi, who said she had never acted in a movie or even rehearsed before, recalled facing such discrimination.
"We were scared," Toldi said of her reaction to the 2008-9 killings. "I was wondering what would happen if they came to me."
Director Fliegauf said getting the cast together was a complex challenge and a "very long process," requiring him to go out into the country to find actors.
"I said, why not me? I could be part of this movie," Toldi said. "I was a bit scared because I had never done anything like this before."