¨I Even Met Happy Gypsies”
This is a film centered around the life of a Rom community in Sombor, Backa, in the Vojvodina area of the Pannonian plain. Filmed in color in 1966 it was a Yugoslav production; an agency in New York had US rights and it was shown mostly in art theaters across the country, only one in Santa Monica in all of Southern California. The writer went to see it every night, taking different members of the local Rom community to see it. Later we rented the film a number of times for local folk dance events, and invited the Roma as well. This is one of the two Rom films they really liked, the other being the US “Angelo My Love”.
Of the many “Gypsy” films made over the decades, this one by far must be the greatest!
It was nominated for the Cannes film festival, but lost to the Czech “Closely Watched Trains”. Every aspect of Rom life in the area seems to be shown. Tragedy is balanced by humor, first you are amazed at the life-style, awed at the events, then brought to laughter by the antics. No less than seven languages are spoken and you are introduced to scenes of Serbian, Slovak, Turkish, Hungarian, Romanian villages and episodes as well as scenes in kafanas, court, monasteries, and feuding and eerie funerals.
The original title actually translate to “feather gatherers” or feather merchants which is the occupation of the main character, Beli Bora and others who go from farmer to farmer to buy bags of feathers which they have saved; these are made into down pillows and comforters (the poorest peasant sleeps on a softer pillow than the average rich American). Being territorial, transgressions lead to feuding with awesome results.
But there are weddings, singing and dancing, and as said plenty of humor to offset that.
Swear words abound, great insights into the life-style, customs and traditions of the Serbian Rom. (These are the psychics in America.)You'll like the wedding bedroom scene with the Roma encouraging them on through the windows!
Reviewed by John Filcich
(5-star, thumbs up, must see)