My friend who is part Kalderash Roma told me about this amazing documentary film. The movie is about the Romani’s people, specifically their journey from India to Spain over a span of more than a thousand years. The Romani can now be found all over the world, yet they have preserved much of their ancient culture. This film is especially important, as most people do not know that the Romani have suffered much discrimination and prejudice. Their belief in cultural preservation and the fact that most of their social behavior is deep rooted in strict Hindu Purity laws, makes them remain outsiders. They have difficulties with assimilation, which causes tense relations with the people of their host countries.
This film contains mostly music and very little dialogue, which is the beauty of it. The film begins in the Thar Desert in Northern India and ends in Spain, passing through Egypt, Turkey, Romania, Hungary, Slovakia, France, and Spain. All of the Romani portrayed are actual members of the Romani community.
India – Kalbelia people gathering in celebration
Egypt – Ghawazi people sing and dance while children observe and begin to learn the artistic traditions.
Turkey – Turkish Roma in Istanbul sell flowers and play their music in cafes while their children observe and learn.
Romania – A young boy listens to Roma musicians sing about the horrors of Nicolae Ceausescu and his reign before returning to his village, where the musicians from earlier begin a semi-spontaneous and joyous music session.
Hungary – A Roma family on the train sing of their rejection by non-Romani people. The scene cuts to the train station ahead, where the waiting family set up a fire as they wait across the tracks from the train station while a Hungarian woman and her young son wait on a bench. The boy, seeing that his mother his sad and cold, ventures over to the Roma, who strike up the music and cheer the woman up before their family on the train arrive and they walk away singing.
Slovakia – The train screeches along a barbed wire fence as an old woman sings a song about Auschwitz and the camera pans down to reveal her imprisonment tattoo from her time in the concentration camp. A series of shots show a winter camp before the occupants return to the road.
France – French Romani set up camp with their metal vardos in a summer field and briefly go about their business, making baskets and other crafts before being driven off by landlords. They leave behind clues that a fellow Romani musician Tchavolo Schmitt uses to find them. They all meet up for the celebration in Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer and celebrate the festival of Saint Sarah, patron saint of the Romani.
Spain – Latcho Drom closes in Spain, showing flamenco puro performed by local “Gitanos”. The famous “gitana” singer La Caita sings mournfully of the centuries of persecution, repeatedly imploring “Why does your mouth spit on me?” as her query echoes out over the town.