The Deathless Woman
2019, 89’. Writer-Director: Roz Mortimer
The Deathless Woman is a ghost story for the 21st Century.
This urgent and magical hybrid documentary fluidly interweaves fantastical re-imaginings of buried secrets with a ghostly narration and direct to camera testimony from survivors and witnesses of historic and contemporary crimes against the Roma in Poland and Hungary.
A Roma woman buried alive in a forest in Poland during WWII returns to haunt us, uncovering a history of atrocities against the Roma in Europe. She is the Deathless Woman. Motivated by rage, she rises from her grave to draw our attention to the persecution of the Roma people from the 1940s to the neo-Nazi hate crimes of the present day.
A powerful and poetic account of WWII Roma genocide and its contemporary resurrection. Hugely successful on both an artistic and a political level, it is a remarkable piece of work.
Trisha Tuttle (BFI London Film Festival Director)
Captivating experimental feature… Mortimer’s a supreme talent – few else could have made a movie quite like this.
Screen on Screen
The Deathless Woman was made after writer-director Roz Mortimer undertook a prolonged period of research in archives and travelled extensively in Central and Eastern Europe to interview people and uncover unmemorialised sites of atrocity against the Roma.
She participated in Roma memorial events in Poland, worked with Roma communities in London and Poland and Roma activists and academics, many of whom were attached to this project as consultants. Collecting testimonies from Roma and elderly witnesses who publicly shared their own family’s experiences during WWII and beyond for the first time left an acute sense of responsibility to make these stories heard.
Up to 500,000 Roma are believed to have been killed during WWII, possibly half of the population in Europe at that time, and to this day Roma activists battle for recognition of this event.
The Roma are today still one of the most marginalised minority ethnic groups in Europe. At a time when xenophobia and racism are rising again across the world, and a fear of the ‘other’ has been exacerbated by the largest refugee crisis in recorded history, it feels crucial to acknowledge their undocumented realities. More than 10 million Roma live in Europe, and continue to face segregation in schools, forcible evictions and racist attacks.
The Deathless Woman visualizes and connects the traumatic past of Roma to other traumatic pasts and to the traumatic present, offering a space for reflection on past histories and discussion about how we can move towards a more tolerant society.