The Romanian community’s expansion in the UK transcends into a big voice. Csilla Kulcsar meets with two Romanian producers and discusses their upcoming documentary, ’13 Shades of Romanian’.
It is no longer unfamiliar to anyone that immigration in Britain has been a widely discussed topic. The national newspapers have been battered with negative headlines on immigrants and truth be told, Romanians have been a lot in the attention of the media.
Britain is known across the world as one of the countries that provide the strongest job market and opportunities for people from all cultural backgrounds. According to a study done by Migration Watch UK (March 2014) the net migration levels are five times higher than they used to be in the 1990s and 35% of the population believes that “immigration is one of three most important issue facing Britain”.
Also, 76% of the public opinion (by the same study) thinks “immigration has placed too much pressure on public services, such as health, transport and education”. It is understandable that the public opinion is concerned about their public services, however, the unnecessary false image built on immigrants is producing stir among Romanians.
Let’s take an example widely known to the United Kingdom.
Channel 4 has launched a few months ago a documentary called “The Romanians are coming”, which, in their own words is “a documentary series exploring the levels of Romanians trying to make a new life in Britain, and seeking out the truth behind the headlines about immigration”. As the documentary episodes’ unfolded, a narration upon the Romanian life described the poor conditions in which some communities live.
The Telegraph has stated:
“The argument made by the film was that the majority of Romanians come to Britain […] to escape lives of grinding poverty back home”.
Interestingly enough, this documentary triggered a debate about the Romanians in the UK and two of the biggest British newspapers – The Independent and The Telegraph – have given their review on the documentary and don’t agree either with the unapologetic views presented. The perspective that was created by “The Romanians are Coming” have offended most of the Romanians already established in the UK and some have even protested outside Channel 4’s headquarters.
While I was on a quest of finding answers for the stigma put on the Romanian immigrants, I’ve met two Romanians living in London whose project seeks to challenge the views of many people. Anda and Dragos Teglas are the producers of the upcoming crowd-funded documentary called “13 Shades of Romanian”.
The project came to life as an inspirational movement meant to change the perspective on the Romanians in Britain. In an interview with them, I managed to undo the woven threads of this project.
Dragos Teglas is the founder of the production house “This Is Insomnia”, where he acts as a Senior Editor, Post-Production Supervisor and Director and his unique style of editing along with his creative vision stand out in his visual work. On the other hand, his sister, Anda Teglas, has joined the company as Co-founder and Creative Director. With the aid of many years of experience in production and her bubbly personality, she oversees the creative aspects of the development, production and post-production stages.
The Teglas brothers are not new to the media world. They have many years of experience across the film, advertising and entertainment platforms. As Romanians themselves, living and working in the UK, the immigration stigma has gotten to their ears and have decided to shift people’s perspective about Romanian immigrants.
“13 Shades of Romanian” is a project that aims to shed some light on the lives of Romanians in the UK. When the campaign had started, Anda and Dragos hoped their project would successfully echo overseas.
People from all around the globe contributed, and the goal of £12,000 has been effectively achieved.
The idea of creating this documentary had come from the premise that nobody has yet tapped into the positive side of the Romanian community. The two brothers have said:
“ We wanted to showcase a different side of the Romanian community living in the UK and to start with positive stories, stories that people haven’t had access to before.”
They have considered of doing a project of this kind previously and they knew they had to wait for a perfect moment to put everything in motion. Projects of such scale take time and funds, but more importantly, it needs to be driven by good stories and motivation. Dragos believes that our entire knowledge comes from stories; however, some stories are not particularly factual or conclusive. The levels of migrant communities have significantly increased in Britain and so did their negative illustration.
“I think that right now, we don’t have a great image; and not only Romanians suffer from that”, is what troubles Dragos’s mind and it was vital for this project to be put forward.
The launch of the documentary has a particular personal connection to Anda and Dragos. They want to capture the main essences of the stories that the documentary will present, so that “people will be able to understand a little bit better what a nation like Romanians are doing in Britain”.
Anda talks about the context into which “13 Shades of Romanian” was born and she has mentioned one important thing:
“ As I said, we have thought of creating such a documentary for a long while, but we haven’t taken action until The Romanians are Coming documentary. Even though it was born at the same time, it is not meant to be seen as a direct reaction to it.
What we’re trying to achieve is a more balanced view of the Romanian community; but it’s not meant to have any political affiliations or implications.”
Whilst trying to maintain an objective course and to convince the audience to see it as an independent film, “13 Shades of Romanian” still manages to raise questions. The title itself is a reflective conglomeration of words and many of those reading it are probably thinking it might be something related to the famous ’50 Shades of Gray’ movie. However, it’s not.
“ Number 13 is in many cultures a superstition, perceived as having negative connotations without solid grounds, which has lead me to believe that 13 stories within our documentary will be a good link” Anda explains.
Furthermore, it’s all about marketing tactics. Anda wanted something that made people wonder and make them be interested. The two terms have been tied together in the hope that the wider audience will want to know more about this challenging project. And it is challenging, indeed; selecting the stories was not an easy task. Dragos considers that that was the most challenging part of their journey so far:
“ It is a hard job to select anything. I, myself, as an editor have to decide everyday from thousands of possibilities. It is not everyday that happens for someone to send you their personal story or to open up their heart and tell it.
It’s something quite special.”
Although hundreds of stories have been sent in, the documentary can only present 13 of them and they are going to be narrated by a British Journalist. The producers wanted someone passionate to be the documentary’s narrator; someone who could appeal to people and their choice had fit the requirements. Richard Green, a friend of theirs has been selected for this special task.
“He’s very talented; he worked with The Sunday Times for over 15 years and now freelances with over national publications.”
As a travel journalist, Richard has travelled all around the world, and, surprisingly, never worked in Television.
“He’s natural and knows how to get deep to the bottom of the problem when he speaks to somebody. We really wanted him”, Anda and Dragos have revealed.
The impact on the British audience might be very revealing and the creators of the idea are very optimistic:
“ People are much more open to see a positive and good story and we think we’re going to capture their souls.
As filmmakers, we hope that after they’ll see the film, they will say that their time wasn’t wasted.”
Immigration is a continuously widely discussed topic and through this project, the producers hope to bring transparency and straightforwardness towards the image of Romanians living in the United Kingdom.