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V 35 Issue 29

 
 
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Gypsy Caravan: Documentary features Roms Singin' & Dancin' on Tour
Gypsy Caravan: Documentary features Roms Singin' & Dancin' on Tour
by Derich Mantonela - SGN A&E Writer

Opens Today at the Varsity Gypsy Caravan, Jasmin Dellai's documentary of Roms on a weeks-long singin' and dancin' and jammin' tour of Europe and America, was a bit of a "reverse guilty pleasure" for me. Friends who saw it at SIFF numbered it among their favorite films. so I expected (and wanted) to like it a lot, but instead I found it, overall, to be rambling, overlong, and frequently tediously pedestrian.

Shot in Gypsy (Rom) homelands India, Spain, Macedonia, Romania, and, yes, USA, Dellai follows the participants around as they make music but more often chat and interact backstage and on the road and in family settings and where-ever. More often than not, the conversation and interplay are no more colorful or "ethnic" than anyone else's - which maybe is more to the point here, that Roms in the modern day are pretty much becoming homogenized and in danger of being integrated into mass marketing categories along with the rest of us.

Not that they don't try, very hard, to maintain their once-unique culture and to present it to the world in a show-biz context, and there is plenty of lively entertainment on display but not nearly enough to carry this meandering, rather unfocussed road show.

Most intriguing for me was eavesdropping on Roms from the countries mentioned above, as they compare notes about the various laws and social attitudes towards them in their home countries. Centuries of persecution and outsider status have, quite understandably, created an "us against them" mentality which persists to this day, and in which Roms have--in some cases--been able to turn to their advantage: as children of oppression who have attained a certain glamour in their struggle, and as lively and talented purveyors of their multi-national musical heritage.

Several legendary Rom performers strut their stuff in Gypsy Caravan, reason enough, at least for some of us, to sit through the bland filler tossed at us along the way.

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