Gypsy Caravan: When The Road Bends

Gypsy Caravan: When The Road Bends


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

"How can I walk straight when the road bends?" asks the old Roma proverb quoted at the start of this film. It's a question which sums up the gulf between Western and Roma culture, despite the fact that many Roma people - or Gypsies, as the are better known - have lived in the West all their lives. Director Jasmine Dellal's previous film, American Gypsy, explored the life of such a man. Gypsy Caravan, by contrast, follows a group of Roma musicians from diverse backgrounds who have come together for a tour of the 'States. After seeing them perform, we then return with them to their homelands - in Macedonia, India, Romania and Spain - to learn about their day to day lives.

The first thing that blows one away about this film is the quality of the musical performances. Singers Esma and Juana perform with a passion rarely encountered in our own culture, their powerful voices expressing all the joy and pain of their existence. Antonio, who also teaches Flamenco, performs stunning dance routines, and young Harish whirls around on his knees in a fantastic bridal gown. All of this is captured brilliantly, with incisive photograhy which gets us really close to the action, showing us the tiniest details of the musicians' movements without ever losing sight of the big picture.

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It makes for a powerful opening to Dellal's story, and returns throughout to remind us what it is that brings these people together. But when it comes down to it, we've all seen concert films before. Many of us have had our fill of tour bus stories and would rather listen to the music we enjoy in the comfort of our own homes. What else does this film have to offer to make it so special?

What's fascinating about Gypsy Caravan is the way Dellal becomes involved in her subjects' lives, enabling the viewer to do likewise. Though they live in very different environments and each have complex stories of their own, we see the cultural threads which connect them. It's a potent tale of diaspora and of the human beings affected by it. And despite their cultural difference, and despite the remoteness of some of the places where they live, most of these people's concerns are universal. Laced with humour and full of acute observation, the film is never trite. Its subjects have plenty of opportunity to comment on the way they see the world, as it watches them. Through their music, they express their own attitudes to it, intensely personal and courageously uncompromising.

This isn't a film for Hollywood stars, but it does feature a brief appearance by Johnny Depp, who once spent several months sharing a trailer with some of the performers whilst researching a film. "It would be great if by experiencing the Romani people and their music, people could learn more about them and understand that what they've believed about these people has been a lie their entire lives," he says.

Reviewed on: 26 Sep 2007
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Gypsy Caravan: When The Road Bends packshot
Documentary following a group of Roma musicians from diverse backgrounds who get together to tour the US.
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Director: Jasmine Dellal

Starring: Fanfare Ciocarlia, Taraf de Haidouks, Esma Redzepova, Antonio El Pipa, Johnny Depp, Maharaja

Year: 2006

Runtime: 110 minutes

BBFC: PG - Parental Guidance

Country: US


CFF 2007

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