Swedish street paper combats prejudice… with a makeover video

Makeover videos are a staple of YouTube – but instead of offering the latest eyeliner tips, Swedish street paper Faktum has used the format to challenge anti-Romani prejudice.

Their new video, released this week, features real criticisms that the Faktum team have heard from would-be readers: “They make our Swedish homeless go hungry.” “We’re flooded by the dregs of Eastern Europe.” “Why won’t anyone put Swedes first?”

A screengrab from Faktum's video.

The quotes follow a pattern of prejudice against non-native vendors that is seen by many street papers. But in the video they are undercut by 21-year-old Faktum vendor Liliana’s makeover to look ‘more Swedish’.

The video ends with her looking like a typical Swedish girl, and asks: “How Swedish do I have to look for you to buy Faktum?”

“The film is part of a larger campaign that we have started directed at the prejudices our sellers face,” explained chief editor Sarah Britz. “By making this film we wanted to create awareness around the prejudice that the public have toward the EU citizens of Romani background, but also inform the public of the racism they face every day.”

Britz said that they were motivated, in part, by the rise in hate crimes against Romani people. Reported crimes have increased by 23 percent over the two last years.

Faktum deliberately wanted to provoke a reaction with the film but – perhaps surprisingly – Britz said that the conversation has been largely positive.

“It has generated debate in social media, however it has been surprisingly calm,” she added. “Instead of spreading hate speech or anger, people are asking questions. Many people are positive, they think its great that we’re taking a stand on this issue.”

EU citizens have sold Faktum since 2007, but Britz said it was only recently that the economic crisis in southern Europe has forced more people of Romani background to beg on Sweden’s streets.

“It’s a pretty new phenomenon and seeing poverty upsets people,” she said. “It interferes with the image of Sweden and many feel that these people are not our problem. They also confuse selling a street paper with begging. But, as I mentioned before, most of the feedback has been positive.”

Watch the video here.