I don't know how to describe my thoughts after the film premiere of Šišanje (Skinning), but I'll try. On our second more extended trip to Belgrade, we saw an excessively graphic movie that dealt with the increase of youth violence in Serbia specifically through the rise of the "skinheads", a group of white supremacists who identify themselves with shaved, tattooed heads and combat boots. In Serbia -- and other parts of Europe I presume -- this ideology brings forth that of neo-Nazism with the Roma population as the targeted minority. It goes without saying that this movie was absolutely sickening, but the most unnerving aspects of this experience were seeing clans of people with bare scalps take their seats and hearing laughter during sections where we were repulsed beyond words. There was an indescribable knot of pain and distress that our group couldn't shake when leaving the theatre, and honestly it hasn't dissolved since.
I know very little about this issue but my host family and co-workers have informed me of its continuing prevalence in Novi Sad and Belgrade. According to them there was a large-scale attack on one of the major Roma camps in Belgrade a few years back and at the time newspapers and other media outlets looked to it as a social problem and excused the skinheads for lack of sound judgment. Now, fortunately, it is considered a more serious political issue and though their beliefs are unabating, there have been fewer violent instances. This movie also highlighted the corruption within the police forces through their ruinous cooperation with the skinheads and cover-up of their hate crimes.
This anti-Roma mentality is hardly shared solely by the skinheads. In fact, most people I've talked to have negative and sometimes slanderous remarks in regards to the Roma and their way of life. When we mention that helping the Roma is our focus next semester in Nis, people often can't help but automatically show disgust. Obviously these people wouldn't dare to act on their aversion as the gang in this film did, but just seeing variations of this distaste in most everyone is simply sorrowful. I'm ashamed at how little I knew about this issue before I got here and how little I still know as each new opinion just adds a new layer of prejudiced information and leaves few traces of validity. Perhaps this can be a topic for study before we move to Nis in three months.
The film took four years to be realized, in part because of serious threats from skinheads throughout Eastern Europe. If you are interested, here is the trailer:
There are English subtitles which we weren't so lucky to be granted while watching it, but somehow we understood nearly everything. As terrible as it is to admit, violence has become a universal language.