still from the movie "Ceija-Stojka"
Portrait of Karin Berger
Poster Ceija Stojka
Karin Berger and Ceija Stojka

2 August 2022

Ceija Stojka

A movie by Karin Berger

A movie about the Holocaust on the Sinti and Roma | Holocaust Memorial Day for Sinti and Roma 2022

One of the central figures of the Roma and Sinti community in Austria (if not in all Central Europe) is without doubt Ceija Stojka, a famous painter and Holocaust survivor. Not long ago, in 2015 an exhibition in Wien Museum (Romana Thana) consisted of several installations and many of them was connected to the artist Stojka-family whose members (mainly famous musicians) are influential personalities of Roma emancipation. The portrait made by Karin Berger maps the relations between them and showing their family ties reveals the building stones of their identity. The film contains interviews, but records them in intimate situations. Following the everyday life of the protagonist it shows how one has to and can deal with traumatic memories long after the Pharrajimos. Recollections are embedded into family gatherings and thus traditions are also highlighted. Archival materials of all sorts (photo documents of racial hygienic researches during the Second World War and private pictures from the recovering years of the sixties, seventies) show the long process of identity reconstruction. The film introduces the audience with the outstanding personality and artistic ouvre of Ceija Stojka who uses painting as a self-expressive device, as a source of joy of life and therapy.  


Biographie of Karin Berger

Karin Berger, a director and author, comes from the northern Waldviertel in Austria. At the age of fourteen she moved to Vienna to attend boarding school at the Higher Federal Institute for Economic Women’s Professions. She studied ethnology and political science in Vienna until the mid-1980s. Subsequently she worked as a freelance journalist and researcher and completed several research projects during extended periods of study in the USA and Belém, Brazil.

It was during this period that her first work with Super 8 film emerged as well as her interest in and concentration on documentary films. Her first film, Küchengespräche mit Rebellinnen (Kitchen Talks with Rebellious Women), was intended for cinematic release and developed in cooperation with a working group on the topic of Austrian women who resisted Nazism. Karin Berger approaches the female subjects of her films with respect, but at the same time her work opens up an experiential context that goes beyond the respective individual biographies.

Karin Berger worked on very short films like O! Fortuna! as well as on full-length

documentaries. Her cinematic projects are often connected with the publication of books on the same subject, such as the Romní Ceija Stojka’s autobiographies, Wir leben im Verborgenen and Träume ich, dass ich lebe?

Berger first started focusing on Romani women with a look at one of the most well-

known Romani artists in the two films Ceija Stojka and The Green Green Grass Beneath. In her sensitive portrait of Stojka, Ceija, she follows her interest in visualising powerful women and explores her fascinating life as a ‘traveller’, author and painter. She manages to direct a film that opens up the world of Roma people and the conflict with the world of non-Roma prejudices. Her most recent film from 2008, Herzausreisser: Neues vom Wienerlied focuses on recent references to traditional music and, by extension, the Viennese mentality too.

Berger currently teaches practical and analytical approaches to documentary film-

making and gives lectures and workshops, for example, at the University of Arts in Linz, with a special focus on visual history and cultural history at the University of Vienna. In 2019 Berger was founding member of the Ceija Stojka International Fund in Paris. Her film The Green Green Grass Beneath becomes a part of the international exhibitions of Ceija Stojkas paintings: Friche la Belle de Mai Marseille 2018, La Maison Rouge Paris 2018, Museum Het Valkhof Nijmengen 2018/19, MUNTREFF Buenos Aires 2019, Museo Reina Sofía Madrid 2019/20, Malmö Konsthall Malmö 2021.


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