Hot Docs 2015: The Queen of Silence – Agnieszka Zwiefka

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Screening today at the ROM theatre at 7pm, is this beautiful, joyous and heartbreaking film…

With an objective eye, Zwiefka plunges into the reality of an illegal, tiny Roma slum on the outskirts of a Polish suburb. Families struggle to survive, living in their shanty town, their children dumpster-diving for clothes and toys, while their parents beg on the street, unable to get a job without a permanent address. We are welcomed into the world of 10 year-old Denisa. Suffering from severe hearing loss, Denisa has never learned to speak, and as a consequence she is shunned and despised by many of her neighbors, and some of the other children of the slum pick on her endlessly.

Her life takes a bright and colorful turn when, after one day of dumpster-diving she comes home with a Bollywood DVD, and a whole new world is opened up to her. Enchanted by the dancing, the imagery, and the vibrations caused by the music, she flowers to life in a way she never has before, dancing, and embracing the Bollywood culture on the screen before her. The neighborhood around her comes to life as friends join in.

Add that to the possibility of being outfitted with a hearing aid that will not only allow her to hear, but will hopefully, at last, enable to learn to speak. The doctor helps get her set-up, and recommends a psychologist and a speech therapist to help her out, but what can a family do if they can’t afford these things?

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But her own personal life may end up being in upheaval as the locals have begun to complain about the little shanty village, the noise, and the presence of this society’s undesirables, and the police begin to arrive to make arrangements to clear out the slum. While her hearing aid opens up the world, society, itself starts to close it down, limiting her family’s options about where to live, where to seek work, and what to do about young Denisa.

Denisa has a tough time finding her way, and her innocence, joy and sense of discovery in the world seems to be under constant threat no matter how infectious her personality is. What is going to happen to her? What happens if the family has to move?

A tragic and beautiful film about a young woman, who finds magic, music and colour in the world, and deserves so much more than she has. Filed with light-hearted moments, and troubling,  soul-rending glimpses into a different kind of life, The Queen of Silence will stay with you long after you’ve seen it.

The Queen of Silence screens twice more during the festival, Saturday, April 25 at 5pm at the Scotiabank theatre and Friday, May at 1:15pm at the Isabel Bader theatre.

Check it out!

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3 Comments Add yours

  1. vinnieh says:

    This looks really heartfelt and moving, excellent review.

    1. TD Rideout says:

      Thank you. It was a beautiful film and heartbreaking – hope you get to see it!

  2. Charly says:

    I just saw the film, that little girl is so touching, she is brilliant, always smiling despite her terrible life conditions. But you can feel such a great potential, she is not only extremely talented as a dancer, she is also charismatic, and I think very smart even if her disability makes people think she is stupid.
    What a waste of talent, I really hope she can get out of her ghetto and become a professional dancer. Unfortunately as a Rom chances are very thin for her…

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