Documentary film LETY captures the despair and the hopes of those who fought to remove the industrial pig farm from the site of the former concentration camp for Roma
On Wednesday, 23 October at 19:00 at Kino Pilotů in Prague there will be a premiere of the feature-length documentary film LETY by Romani filmmakers who have captured the efforts made by many stakeholders to remove the pig farm from the site of the former “Gypsy Camp” and the ongoing debate about its history. The documentary was prepared by a team from the ROMEA organization beginning in June 2018.
Clips from the archives of Czech Television and ROMEA TV, augmented by footage capturing the events of the last two years, are also illustrated through testimonies from the Lety concentration camp survivors and interviews with those involved in post-1989 efforts to remove the industrial pig farm from the site. An investigation of some of the unclear facts that influenced the development of the buyout of the farm was also part of the work on the film.
“It is no secret that, through this film, we are communicating the opinion we have arrived at during the many years we have been documenting the events associated with Lety, ever since 2003,” says the director of the ROMEA organization, Zdeněk Ryšavý. One of the filmmakers, František Bikár, who is also the main camera operator and coordinator of the online television channel ROMEA TV, explains one of the motivations for producing the documentary: "Constellations of politicians came and went during the annual civil society commemorative ceremonies, but nothing ever came of their promises to create a dignified remembrance site."
"When it began to seem as if the pig farm would be bought out and the price was being established, we decided to show the public the story in a broader context,” Bikár says. His fellow documentarist Viola Tokárová says: “The most demanding aspect was choosing clips from the volume of archival material and interviews with eyewitnesses available so we could present the history of this place in 60 minutes while also outlining the deeper roots of Czech society’s unwillingness to come to terms not just with the events that transpired here during the Second World War, but also with those that Czech society could have directly influenced.”
The main character of the documentary film is activist and Romani community member Čeněk Růžička, who dedicated a big part of his life to fighting for the removal of the industrial pig farm from the site of the former concentration camp where his mother was imprisoned and experienced the death of her first-born son. “We sincerely appreciate all those who never gave up, during all those years, on their determination to create a dignified memorial to the Romani victims of the Holocaust, and we wanted to capture their efforts somehow, which very often seemed hopeless at the time,” says Romani Studies scholar Renata Berkyová, a co-creator of the film, of the motivation for making it.
“Today, for example, few people know what strong pressure was exerted during the 1990s by people such as Vladimír Mlynář, Petr Uhl or Markus Pape to see the industrial pig farm removed,” Berkyová said. The documentary film LETY by the ROMEA organization was produced thanks to financial support from Bader Philanthropies and the Embassy of the United States of America to the Czech Republic.
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