Documentary – Latcho Drom
Moiz Bhinderwala Westford, MA A. In one paragraph describe the subjects of the documentary. Tell who they are, where their life is, and why the film was made. Through the bittersweet music of the Gypsies, or Roms, and striking photography of India, Egypt, Turkey, Romania, Hungary, Slovakia, France, and Spain, ‘Latcho Drom’ does just what it sets out to do: evoke both the sorrow and the joy of this nomadic person, whose strong sense of community and tradition enables them to survive their treatment as outcasts.
This documentary gives a panoramic view of the extraordinary variety of Rom songs, music, and dances in more than eight countries. It captures the resilient perseverance of the Gypsies through years of persecution and poverty. The treasures of Gypsy heritage throughout the world, from India to Spain, make up an exceptional musical palette… Since leaving ancient India around the year AD 1000 on their westward journey, the Gypsies have constantly contributed to our cultural life in a multitude of ways.
Scapegoats of our sedentary world, targets of the most primitive social rejection or the rabid literary or cinematographic romanticism, pursue their quest far from our technological and social upheaval. The Gypsies live in a constant paradox: in spite of their refusal to be integrated, they have become the (sometimes exclusive) repository of the culture of the country they inhabit.
Throwing tradition and fashion to the wind, the Gypsies have always used their versatility and sense of improvisation to adapt their musical style to others they discover during their travels. Each time traces of the previous country mark them as foreigners who stick out amid their now hosts. The director, Tony Galtif himself is a descendant of the Rom tribe. This documentary is his effort to create a dazzling musical and anthology of this forgotten culture.
A mixture of good and evil: In the scene where a small boy and his mother are waiting at a railway station, the director tries to bring out the belief of the Rom people about human nature being good. In that scene, the boy offers a small amount of money to one of the Rom musicians to play him a song, the musician laughs at the boy, takes the money and puts it back into the boy’s pocket, and then plays music for the boy for free. His group joins in, and they play delightful music for the small boy.
This is a really touching scene, I thought. On the other hand, the gypsies through their songs and music, depict their history. A history that has always been stained with sadness. The gypsies have been persecuted wherever they went, they were never considered part of any society other than their own. The gypsies strongly curse their fate and show their unhappiness towards these societies of people who have never given them any acceptance. Man subjugated by nature: The gypsies sing of their history, with a sad tone.
They believe it is their fate to be “wanderers”. They strongly resent this fate, because it has brought with it sadness. Life demands to have at least some constants, but in the lives of these gypsies, the only constant is their change, their journey to a new place. Over these years, not much has changed about their life, they are still persecuted. This has led to the strong fortification of the belief that they have little control over their fate, and that they cannot surpass the conditions that this life has set for them.
Present Oriented: This is a particularly striking feature of their culture. The very fact that they are constantly on the move, traveling from one place to another, clearly highlights their strong faith in the importance of the present.
They live in the present since they are not aware of what the future has in store for them, they don’t plan their lives for future needs, the way we do. At the same time, they associate their life also with their past, their history, and their traditional values. Their songs of history bring out their sad past… Growing: The gypsies are excellent musicians. Being a musician means constantly choosing between two options: either acting as the fierce guardian angel of a given musical style or using the wealth of information gathered during their travels to shuffle the deck.
They seek new forms of music in this quest of theirs. They try to develop the music to fit their present. Thus their music is one aspect, that brings out that their activities are highly characterized by their own inner self-development. Social Relationships: This is another very dominant feature in the culture of the Rom people. Their social relations always involve group participation. No musician plays his music alone, he functions as part of a group of musicians. They work as a small community, always traveling to a new places.
Their singing and dancing are always in a group. They do not seek any kind of individuality. D. what are the effects of outside influences on this culture? Is this culture changing? what will be gained/lost? The gypsies in different countries have different backgrounds. We see that the music of the Roman people in India is not the same as that of the gypsies in Spain. This shows that the “external factors” have changed the lifestyle of the gypsies. The gypsies in India and Egypt have a different sense of dressing than their counterparts in other European countries.
They have a more traditional and rural dressing code, whereas the gypsies in the different European countries have adopted a more western dress code, this is seen in the documentary in the form of the clothes that the gypsies in different countries wear, suits, shirts, Ghaghra (Hindi for a long skirt), Dhabi (Arabic for long capes)… Some of the European gypsies don’t live as nomadic a life as their Asian counterparts.
Since Europe is a more western and advanced unit, as compared to countries like India and Egypt, the lifestyle of the European gypsies clearly varies. This shows that their culture has changed. Music and dance which is a very important element of their culture, also faces change, almost daily, as the gypsies try to adopt new and more creative forms of songs and dances.
This change is very beautiful, as it brings out not one, but the many faces of the rich Gypsy culture. It depicts their values and their ideas. At the same time, they have managed to keep their traditional art forms, values, and ideas alive. Thus their life and their art has a lot to gain from these changes, and very little to be lost.