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PAPUSZA: GYPSY SONG
The time of the wandering Gypsies
Has long passed.
But I see them,
They are bright,
Strong and clear like water.
You can hear it
Wandering when it wishes to speak.
But poor thing, it has no speech
Apart from silver splashing and sighing.
Only the horse, grazing the grass,
Listens and understands that sighing.
But the water does not look behind.
It flees, runs away further,
Where the eyes will not see her,
The water that wanders.
Romanies (i use that term as preferable to gypsies in the UK, though there are different experiences in different countries as to the least offensive term) are widely portrayed in the media in many countries in very damaging and prejudiced terms, serving to reinforce negative stereotyping and discrimination. The Gwyneth Paltrow film of Jane Austen’s Emma was just the latest i’d seen before doing this list. A relatively small number of films have to varying degrees given fairer, more balanced, sympathetic or even positive representations. But where are the should-be numerous films covering the romany genocide in WW2? Holocaust denied, unlamented or even still wished for? Shut your doors, the gypsies are coming- dirty thieves and childsnatchers, to be extinguished like vermin. Tony Gatlif’s Korkoro, which i’ve yet to see, addresses this issue.
The excellent Aferim! (2015) centres on romanies as 19th century slaves in Romania, only the 2nd Romanian film apparently to deal with that historical reality. When i see the little girl in the Danses Gitanes filmed in the early 1900s by Alice Guy-Blache i can only wonder at and recoil from the dehumanising media coverage and attitudes, and the horrors many would still like to inflict. Various European governments have meted out harsh and punitive measures evicting romanies. Well done, those who protested- including Jane Birkin and Agnes Jaoui. Sadly, in the UK the mass of the population and media support the racist planning permission decisions and eviction of travellers. Carmen is a famous and ever popular romany character in films and opera- representations are usually a mix of qualities and stereotyped attributes. Julia Migenes does a good job alongside Placido Domingo in Rosi’s version of the opera. Eldra, about a young romany girl who has a fox for a friend, is among my favourite Welsh films.~
Not on this site: Broken Silence (Galjus, Entrop), The Gypsies of Svinia (Paskievic), Satra Danses Gitanes (Alice Guy), The False Word (Seybold, Spitta), Tales from the Endless Roads (Lillqvist), A Severa (Barros), Romany Trail, Tân ar y Comin/ Fire on the Common, Queen of the Gypsies, Valuri (Sitaru), Opre Roma: Gypsies in Canada (Papa), Gypsy Camp Vanishes into the Blue (Loteanu), Carmen Amaya, Queen of the Gypsies, Danzas Gitanas.
Pearls of the Deep is a Czechoslovakian portmanteau film with 5 sections, one- Romance (dir: Jires)- involving a young romany woman In I Even Met Happy Gypsies, certain negative stereotypes were reinforced, even if the intention was not antipathetic. Given the different views expressed on Mubi, I have decided to include it after all. In Borat, the title character’s supposedly Kazakh neighbours and family were romani people in Romania.
Maria Severa Onofriana (1820 – November 30, 1846), also known simply as A Severa, is regarded as the first fado singer to have risen to fame, attaining a near-mythical status after her death. Maria Severa was born in Lisbon, Portugal in the neighborhood of Madragoa in 1820. She was the daughter of Severo Manuel and Ana Gertrudes. Her mother was the owner of a tavern and had the nickname A Barbuda (“the bearded woman”). Severa is said to have been a tall and gracious prostitute, and would sing the fado in taverns, where she would also play the Portuguese guitar. She is known to have had several lovers, including Francisco de Paula Portugal e Castro, 13th Count of Vimioso, which brought her to attend bullfights (a public and important social event of that time). She died of tuberculosis on November 30, 1846, on Capelão street in Mouraria, Lisbon, and afterward was buried on a common ditch on the cemetery of Alto de São João. Her fame was due to a novel by Júlio Dantas, entitled A Severa, which was then made into a play and that was brought to stage in 1901. In 1931, director Leitão de Barros turned the play into the first Portuguese film to feature sound, A Severa.
Jean “Django” Reinhardt (23 January 1910 – 16 May 1953) was a pioneering virtuoso jazz guitarist and composer. Born in Belgium into a Romani family, Reinhardt invented an entirely new style of jazz guitar technique (sometimes called ‘hot’ jazz guitar) that has since become a living musical tradition within French gypsy culture. With violinist Stéphane Grappelli, he co-founded the Quintette du Hot Club de France, described by critic Thom Jurek as “one of the most original bands in the history of recorded jazz.” Reinhardt’s most popular compositions have become jazz standards, including “Minor Swing”, “Daphne”, “Belleville”, “Djangology”, “Swing ’42” and “Nuages” (French for “Clouds”). His influence has also spread to rock-pop music and guitarists including Jimmy Page and Eric Clapton.~~
Carmen Amaya (November 2, 1913 – November 19, 1963) was a flamenco dancer and singer, of Romani origin, born in the Somorrostro slum of Barcelona, Spain (Vila Olímpica nowadays). She danced from the time she was 4 years old. In 1929, she made her debut in Paris, to warm acclaim and admiration of her dancing skill. She moved to the USA in 1936, where she went on to act in several films that broke box office records, including the Romeo and Juliet adaptation Los Tarantos, and the short film Danzas Gitanas (Gypsy Dances). She was invited by Franklin Roosevelt to dance in the White House in 1944, and also by Harry S. Truman in 1953. Amaya is buried in the Cementiri del Sud-Oest on Barcelona’s Montjuïc.
Film stars with romany parentage/roots include Yul Brynner, Bob Hoskins, Michael Caine and it is now thought likely that Charlie Chaplin not only had a romany mother but was born in a caravan on the outskirts of Birmingham, rather than London.
Thanks to Grey Daisies, for the following: “April 8, the International Day of the Roma, is a day of celebration of Roma culture, history and traditions. The Day also draws attention to discrimination directed to Roma and Gypsy communities globally and calls for all human rights to be respected and observed.”Read less