GADJO DILO (Tony Gatlif, 1997)

To honor the memory of his traveling ethnomusicologist father, a young Parisian, Stéphane, foot-journeys in Romania to find Nora Luca, whose singing blessed his father’s hearing toward the end. Tony Gatlif’s stubborn, colorful The Crazy Stranger begins with the boy on a frozen, snow-covered road. At night he is (mis?)taken for a godsend and appropriated by a Gypsy elder, whose grandson has been taken away by the police. Izador gives Stéphane vodka and a bed in which to sleep. When morning comes, the language and cultural barriers between the two become plain. Stéphane presses to find Nora Luca; proclaiming him “my Frenchman,” Izador tries bringing the boy into his community, which at first, however, mistakes him for being a chicken thief. On the one hand, Izador repairs Stéphane’s overworn shoes; on the other, he won’t let him go about his business. The waylaid boy falls in love with Sabina, a dancer, eventually learning that there has been no real communication, that is, understanding, between him and the Roma: a benign version of the acrimonious impasse between Roma and Romanians, who act dangerously toward the Roma, at least in part, out of fear of these presumed dangerous, “crazy” strangers.
     The details of Roma life fascinate. For instance, when a dressed-up boy approaches the father of a girl, who is dressed in her bridal gown, on the day of their wedding, the father curses the boy, threatening to kill him. It turns out that this is ritual; once the boy gives the man vodka and other gifts, he is welcomed in for the wedding ceremony.
     I was moved by the melting of the Roma’s suspiciousness toward Stéphane, their gradual welcoming him into their community. But the film especially lives in its bursts of Gypsy song and dance.

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