The Macedonian Tendency: "Gypsy Caravan" Documnetary Opens in Toronto

Friday, August 17, 2007

"Gypsy Caravan" Documnetary Opens in Toronto

By David Edenden: Also See Previous review: Esma in Land of Gypsies

Opening new ears to gypsy music:

"Gypsy Caravan (out of 4)
A documentary about gypsy music and culture. Directed by Jasmine Dellal. 110 minutes. At Canada Square.

Documentarian Jasmine Dellal pursues an agenda beyond musical appreciation in Gypsy Caravan, a tuneful study of a diverse people more accurately known as Romani – or simply Roma or Rom.

Like Buena Vista Social Club, Wim Wenders' celebration of Latin music diversity, Gypsy Caravan seeks to bring a wider audience to an under-appreciated musical form, in this case the minstrel traditions of the Roma. Dellal also has the ambition of addressing 1,000 years of stereotypes. The Roma still suffer from Hollywood depictions of gypsies as rogues and thieves. Indeed, we are told that even the term 'gypsy' is vaguely pejorative, a word coined by outsiders.

Still, it is tolerated and even exploited. Gypsy Caravan was the title of a 2001 North American tour by five bands from four countries – Romania, Macedonia, India and Spain – whom Dellal and her cameramen (Albert Maysles among them) documented both onstage and backstage. Their tour included a Toronto stop; there are also scenes from the mother countries.

We meet the 18 members of Romania's Taraf de Haïdouks, aged 22 to 80, whose use of strings is complemented by the 11-member Fanfare Ciocarlia brass band of their accompanying countrymen. Their admirers include actor Johnny Depp, who appears on camera briefly to praise them and to bemoan stereotypes.

From Macedonia there is a group led by colourful singer Esma Redzepova, the "Queen of the Gypsies," who tells of adopting and teaching dozens of homeless children and even including them in her band.

India is represented by the group Maharaja, racially diverse and including a female impersonator. Spain presents Antonio El Pipa's Flamenco Ensemble, as an on-camera announcer notes that many people don't realize that flamenco music is gypsy music.

Gypsy Caravan succeeds in its primary goal to open ears and minds to Roma music, accurately described as being about "the rhythm, the language, the feeling."

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