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Film Review--"Gabbeh"
by Dunyah

This is a beautiful film, based on a folk tale of Iran. A beautiful young girl, eldest daughter of the leader of a tribe of nomads, falls in love but is not allowed to marry. First one thing, then another delays permission for the wedding. The passions of the young lovers are high and the wait is frustrating. In contrast, an elderly couple goes to the banks of a stream to wash their prized possession, a gabbeh, or handmade rug. They are slow and quarrelsome, yet affectionate toward one another as only a long-married couple could be.
The simple story is told in a very poetic way, shifting back and forth through time, following the journeys of the nomads. They are hardy people who tend flocks of sheep. From the wool the women make beautiful rugs (gabbehs). Their life is simple, wandering from place to place to pasture the sheep; spinning the wool; dyeing the wool; weaving the rugs.
The landscapes they traverse are stunningly beautiful, from fields of wheat and clear flowing streams, to lush mountain meadows and high mountain passes. The women, dressed in long full skirts, blouses, and sparkling head scarves, are as colorful as the wildflowers. The men, though less colorful, are striking in their own way: the stern father on horseback with his rifle slung across his back; the mysterious young lover; the gentle old man who weeps because he has had no children in his lifetime.
"Life is color! Love is color!" say the nomads, and this film is saturated with color. It is visually beautiful, and emotionally rich. "Life is pain. Love is pain," cries the young woman, as the longing for her lover breaks her heart.
This movie is outstanding, both for its poetic beauty and for the glimpse of the nomads' way of life. An Iranian friend told me that the nomads in this film are very much like the Kurds. It's a chance to observe a way of life that existed for centures but is now becoming extinct. The film is in Farsi, with English subtitles, but because the dialogue is sparse, it is easy to follow. Highly recommended.
This article was originally published in Harrakat, newsletter of the Middle Eastern Dance Guild of Eugene, in November 1999. Used by permission, all rights reserved. At that time, "Gabbeh" was available at Blockbuster and at our local video store, Flicks 'n Pics.

Film Review--Gadjo Dilo, or Crazy Stranger
by Dunyah

Gadjo Dilo is the latest film by Tony Gatlif, who also directed Latcho Drom. The new movie focuses on a group of Rom (Gypsy) people in Romania. Their lives are touched by a young Frenchman, the gadjo dilo, or "crazy stranger" of the title, when his quest to find a Gypsy singer named Nora Luca brings him to the Rom village. These are modern-day Rom, no longer nomadic as in the old days of "houses on wheels."
The movie is enjoyable on several levels. The simple story is told with humor and warmth and offeres a rare glimpse of the Rom. Besides views of everyday customs, we see a wedding, a funeral, and a celebration for the return of a beloved son from jail. Of special interest to dancers are several scenes depicting dance--a wedding where two young woman wearing party dresses entertain the guests; a scene in a restaurant where Sabina, a beautiful young Rom woman, dances in her everyday clothes; and an urban nightclub with a belly dancer in fringed bra and belt and a skirt slit up to the hip. The dancing throughout is earthy, energetic, and sometimes suggestive.
The Rom, in this movie, at least, seem to have a rather crude attitude toward sexual matters. On the one hand, Sabina is called a "slut" because she left her husband. Yet very explicit language is used by everyone, even the kids. One older man gets sexually aggressive with Sabina, because, he says, "I am old. One more f***, just one more." Knowing little about Rom culture, I suspect there is a "double standard" for sexual behavior of men and women.
Gadjo Dilo, in French, Romances, and Romanian, with English subtitles, contains very explicit language, some nudity, and sexual situations. If you are not offended by sexual content, you may find this movie highly enjoyable and rewarding, as I did. It offers a window into a world that most of us gadjes will never see firsthand.
This review was originally published in Harrakat, newsletter of the Middle Eastern Dance Guild of Eugene, in February 2001. Used by permission, all rights reserved.
Note: There is an excellent nonfiction book about the lives of the Rom in Eastern Europe called Bury Me Standing by Isabel Fonseca, 1995, Vintage Books.The following poem, by 20th century Polish Rom songwriter Papusa, was quoted in the book:
O Lord, where should I go?
Where can I find legends and song?
I do not go to the forest,
I meet with no rivers.
O forest, my father,
My black father!
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...
The water does not look behind.
It flees,
runs farther away,
Where eyes will not see her,
The water that wanders.