This is where it all began


This is where it all began

A small Rom girl finds an injured little bird, unable to join those already in their long migration towards distant coasts. Once a teenager, and guided by the dream of flying to that same far sea, she will begin an uncertain trip, ignoring that only the help of a boxer could take her finally there.

Víctor Bárcena on the logbook of 'Épiphanie'

After following at such a close distance, during two intense years, the trajectory of my previous short film, 'The hands of Abel', experience of which I could not keep a better memory, something had been settling in my spirit in an unavoidable way. That story ended with a halo of despair and tragedy, of bitterness, and precisely because of that I determined to focus all my efforts, already closed that stage in which I devoted them to my first work of fiction, in procuring the discovery of a new one that, fundamentally, transmitted a vigorous sense of hope.

During so much time as it has passed since that decision was made I have not ceased of creating new stories, discovering new tales, some of which I don’t doubt to consider the origin of what eventually could become a bundle of some new good films, but I was not able to approach the discovery of that hope I so deeply needed to be able to transmit, or, at least, I was not being able to do it in a clearly intelligible form for those many sensitivities too distant from my own way of facing the world.

It was quite a long time ago that I began to work in the screenplay of 'Épiphanie', and it was not until a few months ago when the conjunction of elements that finally has been appointed to structure the tale took form in front of my eyes, sense in front of my determination, entity in the end, and finally closing, for the moment, that research.

Some of them were there since its very beginning, as it was the case of the evoking image of the crowded migrating flocks, so beautiful and pregnant, or even of an element, so radical from the perspective of the characterisation as delicate from that of the sustainability of the narrative tone and pulse, as the tattoo is, conceived as marginal and majestic at the same time, and so accurately able to embody the longing hosted by those who bore through their own skin with it as their voluntary stance away from certain aesthetic canon of normality, tacitly accepted by the vast majority of the people. To sum up, that iconography of the winged was always there, from the very beginning, reclaiming the preponderance of its signification as the cause for this tale’s structure, for its dramatic advance.

But something was impeding that the story composed by all the elements mentioned above moved forward, making it remain under the form of a project that seemed unable to finally gain its own entity, lost in the attempt of forcedly make room for a symbology as evident and declared as undesiredly intricate, almost able to force the tale to twist around itself without allowing for its reaching of serenity, of light, even of that hope I had been needing for so long to be able to find.

Until the memory of a fact that shaked me when I knew about it came to randomly conjugate with the rest of elements present at the time, and allowed me to reinterpret them with a strength and with a revived signification I had not been able to reach before then… And that was no other than the deportation of that Rom girl, Leonarda Dibrani, of Kosovar origin, from the country in which she might had found the chance to begin to walk in so many fields and so relevant ones in order to cosolidate the hope in which her futre life could be: France.

Guided by this memory I rewrote much of what has already been written, and I discovered the need for structuring the tale as it has been finally possible to do it. Only then I knew that 'Épiphanie' had already begun to be shaped as I had been needing for so long... although there is no need to say that not a single one of the characters depicted in the story is intended to resemble any given living person. They are built as archetypes, as pure human symbols, whose iconic strength comes from the dramatic reflection in our bare reality of all the pain they suffer, and from the strict naturalism that inspired some of their features.

From the very moment of that discovery, all the facts I refer to below succeeded each other in a natural way. Already with a shaped project in my hands, I was determined to begin its pre-production process, guided from scratch by the will of finding an almost documentary truth that could be transmitted during the very beginning of its running time, focused in the reinterpretation of an experience such as that of this little Rom girl was, and in the same way it affected my sensitivity so many months ago.

Consequently, my first effort was to contact associations which, working in France, focused their activities in supporting the Roma community living in that country. After an apparently haphazard chain of communications, that procured several altruistic clues provided by people I could not be more grateful to, and of whom I may never get news again, I finally contacted a group of social workers and educators residing in Longjumeau, in the south of Paris, being part of the association Intermèdes Robinson. And so I got ready to travel there on July 18th, 2014.

My experience during the days I shared with this group of people was overwhelmingly revealing to me. Not only because I had the chance to visit in their presence, and for the first time in my life, some settlements, or, if you wish, shanty towns, as so many of those we already have in Spain, more precisely in the locations of Ballainvilliers and Champlan, but because I directly witnessed a human testimony I felt the need to transmit as vividly as possible.

Thanks to them, I found there a little Rom girl whose family I had the chance to meet, since she seemed to be very enthusiastic about the fact of taking part in a project like the shooting of 'Épiphanie' could be, playing the main role in its initial part, as I had already been told by some members of the association, that had let them know about my project before I arrived in France. Sharing her illusion, because it is childhood the stage of our lives, if any, in which the expression of our emotions is still absolutely pure, made me know for sure that I had to shoot that part of the short film in France, in the very places in which, day after day, so much of which is told in it takes place. In fact, this little girl, Ana Aniela, who was nine years old, had already suffered the expulsion from a previous settlement in which she lived, with the consequent impossibility of maintaining her school attendance.

All the procedures I followed while still being in France in order to advance as much as needed so that the shooting of my short film there was possible, allowed me to be absolutely conscious of the great difficulties this part of the filming stage might present, in a deeply marked way so in all related with the involvement of children in it, and very specially in this case, due to the extremely difficult circumstances in which Ana Aniela lived… But, far from dissuading me from considering it, it only reaffirmed my will to follow that way. Until the harshness of reality, the very same that had allowed me, some weeks ago, by recalling my memories of a fact so publicly relevant as the expulsion of the Kosovar girl was, find the way to develop the tale that during so many months had been seeming to oppose resistance to me, but accompanied this time by the absolute silence surrounding so many tragic events around us that don’t even count with our vague will to notice them, came across my way.

Ana Aniela, together with her family and the whole Roma group with which she lived in Longjumeau, was invited to leave the settlement in Ballainvilliers at the beginning of the recently past month of august, as it was reported to me, by the French gendarmerie, in scrupulous observation of the democratically approved laws regarding such situations in France. As far as I could know, the whole Roma group headed north, to the town of Meaux, about seventy kilometers far from Ballainvilliers. Having already come back to Spain, I tried during several weeks to contact Ana Aniela’s parents again, until they told me that her family had decided to go back to Romania. From that moment on, broken the link she had maintained with the association I contacted, and thanks to which I could meet her and her family, I could never know anything about her again.

Ana Aniela will very likely come back to France with her people, sooner or later, as so many Roma coming from Romania decide to do repeatedly after they suffer an expulsion from that country. Or, who knows… perhaps the boredom due to such an insistent harassment will make them try any other place. She may even go back to school, where she could go on improving her knowledge of the French language, that, together with Roma and Romanian she seemed to speak quite fluently when I had the chance to meet her. But, should nothing change, she will be forced, once and again, to abandon the places where she settles, the classrooms where she studies, and the continuity of her school attendance and her learning process. And, very likely, it will force her own children, in a not so distant future, to live exactly the same she finds herself now living, the very same I had the chance to witness.