“The Queen of Silence” is a co-production of Chili Productions, Majade and HBO Europe, produced by Agnieszka and Heino Deckert. To the rhythm of music, this documentary illustrates fragments of the life of a deaf Romanian Roma girl, who defies poverty and exclusion with vitality, curiosity and determination at all times. “The Queen of Silence” was presented in Belgium last March, at the International Documentary Film Festival (Millenium), and will soon be released on Belgian TV.

Denisa, 10 years old, lives with her family in a shantytown in Poland. In a day and age where Roma are the object of collective discrimination throughout Europe, this small community of parents and children has a hard time surviving in the heart of the city. Burdened by tardily diagnosed deafness, Denisa never learned how to speak but indubitably knows how to make herself understood. Passionate about the Bollywoord world, she expresses herself through the most universal language of all: dance. When she dances, Denisa seems to escape in her own imaginary universe, while simultaneously existing vigorously in the real world and in the realities of her daily life.

Denisa’s family faces a situation similar to that of millions of other Roma everywhere on the continent, who were constrained by centuries of stigmatization to subsist in contexts of extreme poverty. This poverty is all the more solid and chronic that historical processes of “otherization” caused structural poverty to provoke incomprehension, irritation, and even hatred amongst non-Roma populations. Year after year, the proliferation of explanations aiming to justify the material deprivation and the isolation of Roma communities ended up legitimizing negligence, violence, and overall treatments as second-class citizens.

One of the precious intakes of this documentary is that it offers a new perspective on the situation of Roma in Europe, by approaching the hardship of their daily life through the eyes of children. Beyond the very instructive dimension of such view point, it also appears very clearly that family is a treasure and a vital source of resiliency, to the parents as much as it is to the kids. This outlook replaces the much institutionalized “Roma Question” to the nub of the much more universal questions of humanity, dignity and survival. More broadly, in illustrating the daily lives of a few families, “The Queen of Silence” managed to put a humane and moving face on one of the biggest injustices of current Europe, and reveals the incoherence, the effects and the stakes of a two-tier European citizenship system.