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Screening aims to bridge schism between California Borough residents, Roma

Stephen Huba
| Saturday, Sept. 16, 2017, 11:00 p.m.

A group of California Borough residents hopes a documentary about the plight of Roma people in Eastern Europe will foster greater understanding for their plight in Washington County.

The group is hosting a free screening of the film, “Our School,” at 6 p.m. Sept. 28 at the California Municipal Building, 225 Third St.

California resident Carla Anderton said the documentary is a cautionary tale with themes of racial prejudice, segregation and discrimination that should be familiar to Americans.

“There was so much I didn't know. I thought there might be a real need to get this out to the public,” she said.

Anderton, editor of Pennsylvania Bridges magazine, said she became concerned after community opposition to the Roma immigrants reached a crescendo at a standing-room-only borough council meeting in July.

Roma families started arriving in California in the summer, prompting complaints by residents that they were creating a disturbance and not obeying local laws. Some of the Roma are asylum-seekers who are being monitored by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement while their cases are processed.

“I felt like I wanted to get to the bottom of the story,” Anderton said. “I wanted to reach out to someone who potentially could clear the air.”

Anderton contacted Roma filmmaker George Eli of the Romani Media Initiative, who made arrangements to show the 2011 documentary. The 95-minute film tells the story of three Roma schoolchildren and the efforts to integrate the school in their small Romanian town.

“Our School,” produced and directed by Romanian filmmakers Mona Nicoara and Miruna Coca-Cozma, was an official selection at numerous film festivals in 2011 and received positive reviews.

The screening is being held as part of an ongoing effort to bridge the divide between California residents and members of the Roma community who recently relocated there, Anderton said.

“It was simply a matter of me reaching out to George and asking what we could do to educate the community — to give people an idea of the persecution of the Roma people,” she said.

A panel discussion with Roma scholars Jud Nirenberg and Christiana Grigore will follow the screening.

Event sponsors are the Romani Media Initiative, the Law Office of Lisa J. Buday, Webchyk Design Studio and Pennsylvania Bridges.

Stephen Huba is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-850-1280 or shuba@tribweb.com.

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