Docurama // 2007 // 111 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Daryl Loomis // September 4th, 2008
You cannot walk straight when the road bends.
The music of the gypsies is a tradition hundreds of years old; Romani culture spans to the far reaches of Europe and Asia. The rhythms and melodies of these people have influenced the way many cultures play music. In 2002, gypsy bands from all over the world got together for an eight-week tour of the United States. Putting a world of gypsy music on display for an audience that is seldom exposed to the culture, these masters of their art played to sold-out, adoring crowds begging for more. In the concert hall, an entire world celebrated this unique tradition and, on the road, we watch all these different cultures united under their shared gypsy heritage.
Gypsy Caravan splits its time evenly between concert footage and road stories. These parts alone would have made Jasmine Dellal's documentary a standard issue concert film with some really good international music. What sets Gypsy Caravan apart from others, though, is when Dellal takes time away from this to visit the performers in their home countries. Seeing how they live and what the music means to them and to their cultures adds more weight to their performances than just the concerts ever could. Shot in part by legendary cameraman Albert Maysles (Grey Gardens), we travel with the filmmakers through Spain, Macedonia, Romania, and India looking at the ways their culture influences them and the way they have influenced their culture.
As we watch these artists travel from place to place, there is plenty of fish-out-of-water amusement to be had, and the times that the bands are together look like a whole lot of fun. It's in their homes, however, that really show how the music enriches their lives. The musical acts, though they share in the Gypsy tradition, play music native to their own cultures. This makes for a wide-ranging but comparable selection of sounds. All the acts are great and the most notable: "The Queen of the Gypsies," Esma Redzepova of Romania, accompanied by some of her 47 adopted children, and Maharaja from India whose dancer does an incredible swirling "knee dance," really display the heart and soul of a world of Romani culture.
Docurama's release of Gypsy Caravan is good in every way. The anamorphic image looks perfect; extremely clear in both concert footage and on location. The sound, while only stereo, has good separation and is very crisp. The music is heard easily and the dialog, some of it very difficult to understand, is still easy to hear. Extras include uncut, fantastic performances from some of the acts, which look and sound as good as the film. A photo gallery and an interview with Johnny Depp (The Man Who Cried), since he was in a movie about gypsies and is famous and handsome, round out the disc. I was thrilled to review this DVD for the music itself, but the stories behind these people make it extremely worthwhile. Gypsy Caravan is a treasure for anyone who loves gypsy music and culture.
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Scales of Justice
* 2.35:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 3.0 Surround (English)
Running Time: 111 Minutes
Release Year: 2007
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Uncut musical performances
* Interview with Johnny Depp
* Photo gallery
* Director bio
* Official Site