Documentary film

Black And White In Colour


The documentary full length film BLACK AND WHITE IN COLOUR is a portrait of the Romany singer Věra Bílá and her band Kale. It is filmed like journey where one meets events and personalities en route from place to place, from one concert to the next. During this journey, the camera is a detached observer, watching happiness, suffering, personal encounters, seeing life without sentimentality but how it truly is.

Why specifically a portrait of Věra Bílá ? Above all because of her music, which stems from traditional Romany songs but has been changed to meet commercial standards. Somewhere along her path of adaptation, Věra has found a distinctive voice but also a certain cultural isolation. Her music is popular chiefly amongst the non-Romany majority Czech population who usually do not accept Romanies either as friends nor evenas acquaitances.

Besides music there is also another important element which interests me enormously and that is the human personality. It is human stories that provide the greatest insights. Věra Bílá and her band Kale are undoubtedly original and lively individuals. Their openness and integrity in sharing experiences and feelings provide a revealing perspective of the conflicts and contrasts of two cultures which meet in the small town of Rokycany.

In a single sentance BLACK AND WHITE IN COLOUR is a tale of living between two camps, of discovering how far can one compromise or adapt, and how far one should remain true to one's origins, traditions, character and rituals.. It shows a group of people negociating how to integrate whilst preserving their own identity.

"A good word is worth more than bread but I don't hear them too often. So I stay at home with my family and my musicians and I take refuge in a separate inner life, but I am neither a Gypsy nor a white woman I am simply myself and I am alone" says Věra Bílá. "Maybe I am a little more sensitive than others but then I have my music which fills me, frees me, renews me. I know I may present a facade that seems fairly well cared for, but inside are the heart, nerves and blood of an old Gypsy woman and she has her own tale to tell !"

Her statement is revealing and intimate. Her story is a human one of divided identity, caught between cultures each offering both good and bad aspects.

The film explores the everyday life of Věra and the band. It is only here that one can see the beauty and strength of their characters as individuals. If at times the Romanies are so full of spirit as to seem absurd, it is only because they are people with warm hearts and naive understanding.

The film explores many characteristics of Věra and the band Kale: fear, love, suffering, bravado, responsibilty and irresponsibilty, laziness, naivity, the urge to dance, self indulgence and rather less indulgence towards others.. all are captured in the genuine emotion of the moment.

What is my ambition with the film ? I think that one should not separate people, and if one has to then only as individuals. I want for the film to be seen as a wild, brave slice of life captured in front of the camera somewhere in between the world of Romanies and that of non-Romanies, a testimony to what cannot be divided.

Prague, November 1998