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Sounds of the wanderers
October 15, 2013 5:37 AM   Subscribe

Whether or not all cultural historians agree with the premise that Rom people came to Europe originally from India, or whether or not the portrayals of Rom musicians in the film are always *accurate* or *authentic* ones (some have indicated they're not, or are too heavily draped in over-stylized Exotica), there is surely no denying that the film is a treasure trove of fantastic musical performances. You've probably guessed by now that we're talking about Latcho Drom, which you can see it in its entirety here.
posted by flapjax at midnite (36 comments total) 83 users marked this as a favorite

 
I love the fact that there is no dialogue in this gorgeously filmed movie. The history of the Roma migration is told entirely through music. One of my fave documentaries.
posted by mediareport at 5:50 AM on October 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


some have indicated they're not, or are too heavily draped in over-stylized Exotica

Do you have links to those, flapjax? I'd love to read some thoughtful critical reactions.
posted by mediareport at 5:51 AM on October 15, 2013


My dad (who claims to have some Roma in him), and I saw this when it came out. He was mesmerized, and said it was one of the best movies he'd ever seen.
posted by SPUTNIK at 6:22 AM on October 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


[Comment deleted. To the best of my knowledge there does not appear to be a consensus within the Roma or Traveller communities on whether the term "Gypsy" should be considered offensive. I do feel we should strive to use inclusive language on Metafilter; if my reading is outdated or otherwise inaccurate I would very much like to be corrected. However, within the context of this thread I believe this discussion is a derail and I'm going to ask you to focus your comments on the linked documentary. You are very much welcome to open a MetaTalk thread if you feel use of the ethnonym warrants further community discussion.]
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 6:32 AM on October 15, 2013 [7 favorites]


Do you have links to those, flapjax?

One that I can point to right away is from Mefi's own zaelic, who has spent years in Eastern Europe playing music with, hanging out with, selling hats to (!) Gypsies. This is what he had to say about it.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:41 AM on October 15, 2013 [5 favorites]


One of the more heartwarming stories to come out of the movie was the fame and popularity Nicolae Neacșu and the band Taraf de Haïdouks enjoyed after that. In the movie, Neacșu sings Balada Conducatorolui about the reign and fate of Nicolae Ceaușescu.

Anyway, Neacșu was launched into superstardom in his seventies after basically a lifetime of poverty spent making awesome music.
posted by KokuRyu at 6:44 AM on October 15, 2013


I give the soundtrack to true friends as a gift.
posted by acrasis at 6:51 AM on October 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


Oh, and I meant to add this from the outset: Latcho Drom previously.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:56 AM on October 15, 2013 [1 favorite]



Gatlif has made some truely beautiful films that really show the soul and humanity of an imperfect people. "GADJO DILO" with Roman Duris will show you exactly how sexy a woman can look while hocking and spitting. And if you want to be reminded of all your childhood summers AND cry your eyes out, you can't miss "SWING". Add the unbelievable music and I was hooked.
Honestly, I don't know why this guy isn't more famous.
posted by Lung the Younger at 6:57 AM on October 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


Wow, some great discussion and lots of fantastic links in that 2007 thread, from zaelic's blog post about the Gaboreste Roma (the whole blog looks great) to his link to a 1983 Robert Duvall-produced film about a Roma family living near him in Greenwich Village, Angelo My Love, also up on YouTube. Great stuff.
posted by mediareport at 7:03 AM on October 15, 2013


Saw this in the theater when it came out in the early 90s and fell in complete love. Even now, if one of its songs comes up in my random shuffles, I am compelled to listen.
posted by Celsius1414 at 7:04 AM on October 15, 2013


> Whether or not all cultural historians agree with the premise that Gypsies (or Roma, as you prefer) came to Europe originally from India

They didn't come to Europe directly from India, of course, but both genetic and linguistic evidence show that they came from there originally. ("India" in the historical sense, obviously, not the modern country.)
posted by languagehat at 7:19 AM on October 15, 2013 [8 favorites]


[Comment deleted; there is an open MeTa thread for discussion of the term "gypsy".]
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 7:49 AM on October 15, 2013


I'm very much looking forward to watching this when I get home! Thanks for posting.
posted by rebent at 8:27 AM on October 15, 2013


Have wanted to see this for a while. Thanks for posting.
posted by theora55 at 8:47 AM on October 15, 2013


Thanks for the link; I saw this on the big screen when it came out and it was incredible. It's beautifully filmed and the music is amazing. This is a good reminder for me to watch it again.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 10:17 AM on October 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


Wow. I'm taking a deep breath.

I stayed home from work today to tend to my flu-ridden children, ages 2 and 4. They've been glued to Curious George and I've been Metafiltering. (This is called "watching the children" in my house.) So I got sucked into the drama regarding this post over at Metatalk and started to play the film because I wanted to know how the film makers dealt with the term Gypsey (this is the word the film makers use, among others, and it comes up in the first minute, so I think flapjax' choice to use it is appropriate).

Anyway, it comes on and both kids are curious about the boy singing and they climb on top of me to watch. Their bodies are pressed against mine and we see something instantly recognizable.

My boys' mother is from a rural Indian dirt farmer family and the boys took their first trip there last winter for Sankaranthi, the harvest festival. When we get to his uncle's house, my son makes fast friends with the families camped across the street who are obviously itinerant, living in tents while the men are working on a construction project. Despite not sharing a language, my son spends three weeks playing in the street with the kids, from dawn to bedtime playing cricket, throwing rocks, and chasing each other. The families sing and have cooking fires every night and my boy even starts eating dinner with them. As the festival days grow closer, the cows are painted, and the children are dressed in elaborate colorful outfits. The number of people gathering in their camp rises, as does the volume of the party. There are fireworks and bonfires. As our stay there ended, my son left some of his toys with them and brought home their plastic cricket bat. We were hoping to Skype with them using my uncle's wifi but shortly after we returned, they had finished their building and moved on.

It never would have occurred to me to call these people Gypseys (or Roma, or whatever -- my inlaws referred to them by their caste name which now escapes me) until just now. My son made the immediate connection -- "That boy looks just like Jawalla!" The music, the costumes, the language, the livestock and the carts, everything was the same.

Anyway, we watched the whole thing, and my family's life has been enriched and I wanted to thank you Flapjax.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 11:07 AM on October 15, 2013 [26 favorites]


The boys are now spinning around the room like the woman in the first segment of the film. I guess they're starting to feel better.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 11:12 AM on October 15, 2013 [10 favorites]


I have always been surprised that this film is not better known. Perhaps because it had such limited distribution when it came out? Nevertheless, it is a beautiful, mesmerising film and has always been one of my favorites. Thank you so much, flapjax.
posted by vacapinta at 11:53 AM on October 15, 2013


I've been playing little snippets of songs from the film with my fingers and palms on tables, counters, laps and any other resonating surface all afternoon. Thanks for posting!
posted by byanyothername at 1:07 PM on October 15, 2013


I wish people would buy the DVD rather than watching it on YouTube, where it was posted without the filmmaker's permission.
posted by Ideefixe at 1:08 PM on October 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


I have always been surprised that this film is not better known.

To the best of my knowledge, it has never come out on DVD in a format that can be played in DVD players made for the USA market.

Upon review: I see that this may have changed.

As for the film being on YouTube, as you can see below, Tony Gatliff's Vengo hs been onYouTube in its enterty for years now. I think if he had an issue about it, it would no longer be up.
posted by y2karl at 1:12 PM on October 15, 2013


And for a taste of that, see A Night in Andalusia.
posted by y2karl at 1:14 PM on October 15, 2013


I think that many filmmakers don't know that their work is on YouTube, and sometimes don't know how to complain.
posted by Ideefixe at 1:14 PM on October 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


Buy the DVDs. How can you keep working if you never get paid? And while you're at it, buy Tony Gatliff's Exils.
posted by glasseyes at 1:23 PM on October 15, 2013


I think that many filmmakers don't know that their work is on YouTube, and sometimes don't know how to complain.

This has not been my experience.
posted by y2karl at 1:24 PM on October 15, 2013


Buying it now (Amazon has a USian version). If it weren't for youtube, I'd never know about this, and Gatlif wouldn't get paid.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 3:09 PM on October 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


[Post wording nudged at poster's request.]
posted by cortex at 3:24 PM on October 15, 2013


Buy the DVDs. How can you keep working if you never get paid ?

Should we burn our library cards, too, then ? The first time I saw Vengo, it was because I ran across it at Capitol Hill branch of the Seattle Public Library, recognized Gatliff's name and checked it out.
posted by y2karl at 7:31 PM on October 15, 2013


I saw this when it came out in theaters also and it is still one of my favorite films.
posted by 3.2.3 at 10:00 PM on October 15, 2013


Oh yeah, great movie, thanks Flapjax.

(btw, in France, we use "gitans" = Gypsies for people who presumably came to Europe through North Africa (Egyptians), and "Rom" for those who came through mainland Europe. My understanding is that there are gypsyes and Roms in the movie. If I may, I'd compare this use to the Ashkenazi / sefharads dichotomy.) (Don't want to rekindle anything here, I was just a little frustrated = please delete if necessary or if bleeding obvious). (I would have liked to use very fine print here, but I don't know how).
posted by nicolin at 2:12 AM on October 16, 2013


Haha! Thanks, nicolin!

As for making small print, just type these symbols:

<>

and put the word

small

between them. Everything you type after that will be small.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 2:40 AM on October 16, 2013


This film has been widely discussed by scholars of Roma culture and music. It's hardly unknown in the world of ethnomusicology and Roma studies, and it is not so universally beloved out there as it is here on metafilter and in general among non-Roma audiences in Europe and the US, who appear to hunger for this sort f romantic indigenism when it comes to Roma people (see also Isabel Fonseca and 200 years of "Gypsy melodies" in European classical music).

Worth noting here, I think, that the film has also been criticized by some (including many Roma) for its romanticism, overstated historical narrative of the diaspora, and Gatlif's own (questioned by some) assumption of a Roma identity. No question it's beautiful, but beauty and truth can be mutually exclusive.

Seriously, plug "latcho drom" into Google Scholar. There's a lot to discover and 20 years on this film cannot be watched uncritically.
posted by spitbull at 5:39 AM on October 16, 2013 [3 favorites]


romantic indigenism ... romanticism, overstated historical narrative...

Yes, you'll note that the FPP was framed in such a way as to directly acknowledge the perceived problems that you've mentioned spitbull. A wee bit of discussion on those points ensued in the thread as well, as you may have noted, if you've read the comments.

I'm delighted that you've brought it up, and I'm wondering, since you seem to have looked into it, if you might have one or two choice links you might suggest? Some cogent critique that you particularly recommend? Cause that's exactly the kind of thing that makes Metafilter so good: knowledgable people filtering for the rest of us.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:01 AM on October 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


I just stopped in to say that i've been enjoying this immensely, if slowly, at work over the past 2 days. it had a calming effect after reading the MeTa all day. thanks for the post and thanks to all the mefi's who participated positively in the enlightening discussion that followed.
posted by OHenryPacey at 1:36 PM on October 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


Oopsies: DNA tests prove Dublin Roma girl is part of family

You think? Roma cases in Greece and Ireland raise children concerns
posted by Joe in Australia at 2:45 PM on October 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


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