Main hero in the next Batman film will be Romani - "Nightwing" to call attention to the rights of Romani people
Warner Bros announced in February that they will be releasing "Nightwing", a film that not only tells the story of the most popular characters in the Batman family, but also sheds light on Romani human rights issues through its title character. "Nightwing" (the superhero formerly known as “Robin”) could serve as one of the first times the Romani identity will be shown to the mainstream in a positive light.
The Romani people constitute the biggest ethnic minority in Europe but remain socially segregated in the countries they inhabit. "Nightwing" could serve to change their image.
Vicente Rodriguez is an organizer of the Romani advocacy group RomaPop, an international alliance working for social justice specifically in the narratives of popular culture vehicles such as comic books and the movies and television series based on them. The group has made presentations about the inclusiveness of the characters developed by popular franchises during various Comic Con meetings, sometimes facing antigypsyism themselves in the process, according to their Facebook profile.
In an interview with Comics Alliance, a website that is part of the TownSquare Media portfolio of sites covering the entertainment industry, Rodriguez said "Nightwing" could potentially change how the world perceives the historically oppressed Romani population. "This... could be an advancement for the rights of people of color in comic book narratives in Hollywood; and it could mark the way forward for the industry,” he said.
Chris McKay, director of the 2017 "Lego Batman Movie", is heading the project, a live-action film that will tell the story of Dick Grayson, an extremely likeable, attractive and strong superhero — a stark contrast to the unfortunate stereotype of Romani people as lazy, loud and unintelligent. The Nightwing character has previously been featured in movies like "Batman: Under the Red Hood" and television shows such as "Teen Titans" and "Batman Beyond", but in those productions the connection to his Romani identity, which has been established over the last 20 years of Batman comic books, was never part of the story.
This could be a chance for a major Hollywood production company to tell the story of the Roma the right way. Although the film is still under negotiations, a concern among many fans is how accurately the Romani identity will be portrayed in the film.
The production team will be tasked with authentically telling his story and staying true to the Romani experience. How successful the film is could have broader implications for how Romani people are viewed by future generations.
“Representation matters; it’s not a Romani issue, it’s a human rights issue,” Rodriguez said in his interview with Comics Alliance. “So far, nobody has had the courage to represent us in any positive light, in a human light; if it happens just once, we could have a precedent, a small light at the end of a very dark tunnel.”
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