Our School: Seriously, People Still Hate Gypsies?


Movies prefer to reconfirm that education can be inspirational and enlightening, but the documentary Our School focuses on an insoluble case. Beginning in 2006, Mona Nicoara and crew started shooting in the Transylvanian hillside town of Targu Lapus. This was shortly after Romania had received a windfall of European Union funding, contingent on their integrating a school system that had traditionally separated the dusky-complexioned Roma children, better known as “Gypsies,” into third-rate classrooms. Nicoara highlights three Roma subjects, Dani, Beni, and Dana, who are respectively eight, 12, and a comely 16 as the movie begins. While focusing mostly on their first year at school, as the system is tasked with overcoming the Roma background of incredible poverty and ignorance, the film checks back in on the kids over the following four, as they slip back toward status quo. 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. Nick Pinkerton