Cinematheque: Latcho Drom
Latcho Drom is a movie that ignites curiosity and wanderlust like a long, fragrant incense, that lingers well after it’s been extinguished. I cannot tell you which came first the wanderlust or the movie, but whatever it was one did eventually fall in love with the other, and they are now stuck together forever. Maybe it reminds me of my dancing childhood and the jingly bells I wore on my ankles, or why I was lured by the call to prayer to majestic walls of Mosques that woke up and fell asleep along the Bosphorous, or the reason I was seduced by the Flamenco singing gypsies in a hidden plaza witnessing the shadow of the Alhambra fade away with the setting sun, but whatever it is, it is there, like that “clever, North Wind”.
It is hard to deny the emotions this movie stirs. It seems more appropriate to dance and cry your way through the movie than be seated quietly in darkness. A 1993 French documentary by director and writer Tony Gatlif about the migration of the Romani people from North India to Spain, Latcho Drom is sewn together with a string of chillingly honest vocals, and punctuated by mundane and quiet moments.
Tony Gatlif records the soul of the people through their music and dance and how their nomadic life transformed their culture and traditions. Latcho Drom has few spoken words, but instead is painted with a brush of lyrics and canvas of instruments.
This incredibly emotional film, moves from one country to another with a viscous fluidity, like honey from a spoon. you become entranced and before you know what happens it’s on to the next place. The film begins with a single, singing boy with an eerie, yet upbeat and celebratory presence, and maintains this spirit as they pass through Egypt, and Turkey. As they move into Hungary, Romania and Slovakia, the coldness of winter, sets in and we witness a dark struggle of the journey these people made. There are so many beautiful symbols in the film of how music infects, including a very beautiful scene of gypsies playing music across a set of railway tracks to a rather wealthy woman and her son, who can’t help but be enchanted by their fiddles and voices.
Without giving too much else away, I will say that no matter how hard you try, this movie will leave you with the deepest, longing itch, maybe it will be yearning for your next adventure or an undeniable desire to pick up that musical instrument you’ve told yourself you’d love to learn.