The Ones Who Didn’t Make It

A Review of Benedek Fliegauf’s Film, Just the Wind

Emily Loewen

When thinking of the refugees who come to Canada every year, Europe likely isn’t the point of origin you would picture. But in 2011 the largest number of refugee applicants came from Hungary, and almost all of them are Roma.[1] Immigrating and building a life in Canada is not easy, and likely will get harder as Bill C-31 is implemented. But for many Roma, going back to the alternative in Hungary in unimaginable.

A new film, Just the Wind, which had it’s North American premiere at TIFF, follows the life of a fictional Roma family living in Hungary, waiting to join their husband and father in Toronto.

Director Benedek Fliegauf follows a mother, grandfather and two children through the minutia of one day in their life. For most of the film the pace is slow. We follow the mother Mari’s early morning rise and a days work at two jobs. We go along with her daughter Anna for a day at school and then caring for a child who’s mother is too ill or high (it’s hard to tell which), to take care of her. And we watch Rio as he skips school and prepares a bunker in case something bad happens to their family. Not an unfounded concern given that several Roma families in the neighbourhood have been murdered.

The slow tempo of the film helps create a feeling of unease that comes with a fear of violence and never-ending encounters with racism. Much of the racism is small, a teachers pointed remark to Anna that computer equipment had been stolen, or one of Mari’s employers commenting on a bad smell in the room. Each is only a brief moment, but when seen in close-up (which Fliegauf uses frequently), and in combination with so many others they give the feeling of relentless discrimination.

One point of tension that stands out finds Rio hiding in the closet in the house of his recently murdered neighbours. As two police officers check out the crime scene, one shares his views on the kind of “gypsy” that should be murdered, and how if the gang had asked him, he could have pointed out the families to kill. The conversation is casual between the two, although the second cop does question those assumptions. But as the scene goes on the tension rises. It’s hard to know which is worse, the fear of Rio being found out, or knowing that he’s forced to listen.

The film is not all descrimination, however. While not simple, the relationships between Mari, Anna and Rio are both loving and lovely to watch. And there are lots of beautiful moments, like Anna playing with her neighbours daughter at the lake. But those moments of beauty are what make the stunning ending so much worse. You can feel it coming throughout the film, but hope that it won’t. The family never makes it to Canada.

While the film is not intended as a documentary, it is based on a series of true events in Hungary. The reality of this family is not so different from what many Roma in Europe are living. It’s helpful for us in Canada to be reminded where our new neighbours, the Roma, are coming from and why Europeans are asking for refugee status.

Emily Loewen is Young Voices Editor for Canadian Mennonite, and recently completed her Master of Journalism at Ryerson University. She is a member of Langley Mennonite Fellowship in British Columbia.


[1] A distinct ethnic group with origins in India that now lives throughout Europe. They are often referred to by the slang-term gypsy.

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