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Hot Docs 2015 Review: The Queen of Silence

10 year old Denisa Gabor lives in an illegal Roma camp with her parents in Wroclaw, Poland. The camp is grim, the children play in dirty fields with garbage or with toys that they steal from the local donation box. Denisa relishes in this play but more than anything she loves to dance. One day she finds some discarded Bollywood DVDs from the donation box and she is hooked.

Denisa also happens to be deaf. Because of her circumstances she has made it to the age of 10 with no formal diagnosis for her hearing and no help in the way of hearing aids. As a result she has never learned to speak and instead communicates with hand gestures and grunts. Even amongst the outcasts she is an outcast. The other Roma children call her mute, stupid and crazy. Dancing provides her with an escape and even though things get progressively worse for Denisa a huge smile is almost always on her face.

Denisa’s future is even more uncertain than her fellow Roma. It is hard to say if her deafness will make her immune to the early marriage often forced upon Roma girls, or if she will have to deal with this in addition to her deafness.

Some might think that the orchestrated dance sequences – in particular the large one set in the basketball court – have no place in a documentary. However, this is director Agnieszka Zwiefka’s way of making Denisa as much a part of the filmmaking process as possible. This is huge, especially when you consider just how little power Denisa has over her own life.

[star v=5]