THE DIRECTOR’S PERSPECTIVE ON THE FILM
The movie The Band (Kapela) came about as a loose sequel to the time-lapse documentary All My Children. I was inspired to make it by the audiences I was meeting at sold-out theaters during the Q&A sessions after the screenings of All My Children. That documentary sparked an immediate response - audiences were shocked by the harsh reality of the East Slovakian Roma settlements, where thousands of families with children live without electricity, without water, in shabby huts. They were immediately motivated to help the poorest Roma in some way, and overwhelmed me questions about how they should do it. I have presented 27 screenings in the Czech and Slovak Republics, Poland and Germany. When the theater audience learned that the musicians who had come to play for the pastor to thank him for his help, had to borrow their instruments (double bass and accordion), they decided to take up a collection in the parish, to purchase these instruments for the Roma.
I thought it would be interesting to follow the story of a newly emerging Roma band and the fate of the musical instruments that the Roma received as a gift. To give them a chance to stand on their own feet and enter the world of the "gadjo" (Romani term for the "white" people of the majority). I became enthralled by the characters of the individual players. They represented a sociological image of the Roma community. One of the musicians is an undergraduate, two are employed in a nearby auto parts assembly factory, three are not looking for work at all – they don’t want to work, choosing instead to live on welfare. None of them can write music, and they’ve had no musical education. However, they seem to have inherited an ear for music and a special talent from their forefathers.
Stano used to be the parish priest’s right-hand man, but now, in the role of manager, he sets out to help the musicians on their way to accomplishing their big dream. His son, Denis, realizes that if he wants to change his life and dig himself out of poverty, he must do it all on his own – so he’s boldly started his own business, setting up a food store for the poorest residents of the settlement.
I tried to show the Roma people as they really are. Without glossing things over, without stereotypes. I have been shooting in the Nový Dvor (Velká Lomnica) settlement since 2010, and almost everyone there knows me already. This was a prerequisite to being as discreet, empathic and sensitive as possible.
I relied on the creativity and versatility of each individual performer. Everyone is a different but distinctive type. They all have a sense of humor, a hidden talent for acting and a knack for improvisation. Gusto - a saxophonist is a natural-born showman and a comedic actor. At the same time, however, they are themselves, very natural and authentic.
I set a goal for myself: I would not shoot the film in a time-lapse, observational way, but instead use the medium of film to tell the story of the Roma who want to break out of their difficult social conditions and make their dream a reality: to live the kind of dignified life that we take for granted. I wanted to see how they will use the chance we gave them. They don’t have it easy, they must overcome the predetermination of the environment in which they grew up, but also win the struggle with themselves. The village of Nový Dvor is home to over 2,000 Roma, who live without water, without sewerage, without bathrooms, and where only some homes have electricity.
"Our boys" want to show off their talent and shine on the "big stage", to show that they’ve got what it takes. There are thousands of unknown talents living in Roma settlements. We don’t give them a chance, because, a priori, we don’t expect to see great talent in a person who lives in a shack.
I want the viewers to really feel the raw essence, the animality, the electrifying temperament and the joie de vivre that the Roma put into their music, independently of any difficult life situation.
I would like this film to inspire viewers to take an interest in Roma talent in East Slovakian settlements, opening the door for other Roma kids, and giving them an opportunity to break through and shine.