Director Tony Gatlif gets to the heart of the gypsy people in his film, Gadjo Dilo. Words: Beth Williams
For French director Tony Gatlif, the' nomadic peOpIe of Romania are a community close to his heart, and his film Gad/o Dilo is the third in a trilogy celebrating their lives.
’I was with them for years and years before I moved to Paris,’ says Gatlif of his own gypsy roots. ’They are very generous and happy and optimistic — without any reason, really, because
'The gypsies in the film are all real. If they were crying over a
burial, then it was because
somebody from their family
had really died.’ Tony Gatlif
they have nothing to eat. I love them and that’s all they ask for: for peOple to love them.’
However, gypsies are often victims of prejudice and racism. ’The gypsies are optimists and many people don’t like this,’ the director continues. ’They are
envious of the gypsy happiness and ask themselves why these people are happy and they are not. These people also believe that gypsies have too many children and are thieves, especially since the only written documentation about them comes in the form of police journals, dossiers of crimes that say "a gypsy stole a child" or "a gypsy stole a chicken”.’
Gadjo Di/o’s plot about a Frenchman on the hunt for a gypsy singer forms a canvas on which a colourful picture of this rarely documented culture‘is painted, and Gatlif explains why music features so strongly in the film.
’Music is important to the gypsies because it is the only way in which their lives have been documented Gypsies don’t have cemetries, they are buried on the roads, so it is through finding the same music in India, in Egypt, in Turkey, in France that we see how the gypsies have travelled.
'The music in the film is from actual gypsy musicians and it is real gyspy music. The gypsies in the film are all real. They’ve never seen a photo in their life. There was no acting from them. They were being themselves. If they were crying over a burial, then it was because somebody from their family had really died.’
The only two actors in Gad/o Dilo were found through two casting sessions, one in France and one in Romania. Well-known French actor
Romain Duris and Rona Hartner in Gadjo Dilo
Romain Duris (When The Cat’s Away, the forthcoming Doberman) and Romanian newcomer Rona Hartner both exhibited the nomadic spirit, a love of music and the accepting, open nature that Gatlif was searching for.
'They are both like the gypsy people, very similar and with a gypsy mentality,’ reckons the director. ’After working with the gypsy people, they fell in love with them and didn’t want to leave. One week before the shooting was finished, we all cried. It was like leaving a family behind.’
This strong bond with the community and passion for the people and their lifestyle is the driving force behind the film, and was so intense that he was compelled to demonstrate his love on
location through an unconventional gesture of generosity.
’Everybody in the village was eager to work on the shoot because we were there during a period when there was a lot of sickness and very little food,’ he explains. ’For example, a family of ten could only afford one loaf of bread a week, so they were desperate to work for me in order to feed their children. I therefore took on 100 people and paid them every day, even though they didn’t necessarily work every single day. I wanted to give every family a little bit because I loved them all.’
Glasgow Film Theatre. Mon 12-Vlled 14 Oct. See review.
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