Join the 'Gypsy Caravan'

Friday, June 29, 2007

Imagine the "Buena Vista Social Club" of Romany music and you get the idea behind "Gypsy Caravan," Jasmine Dellal's affectionate portrait of a group of Roma musicians during a 2001 tour of the United States.

Comprising five bands from four countries, the Gypsy Caravan tour celebrated the rich, diverse but also eerily consistent musical traditions of the Roma, commonly (and pejoratively) known as Gypsies, who originated in India and began migrating to Europe and North Africa nearly 1,000 years ago. Today, about 10 million Roma live around the world, often impoverished and stigmatized by their surrounding communities.

That painful history is everywhere evident in the music -- both mournful and joyful -- that propels "Gypsy Caravan." We meet the zaftig and beguiling Esma Redzepova, the Macedonian "Queen of the Gypsies," the lively Romanian bands Taraf de Haidouks and Fanfare Ciocarlia, the Spanish flamenco duo Antonio y Juana, and Maharaja, a group of raga musicians from Rajasthan.

Just where Johnny Depp fits in is something viewers will have to discover for themselves. If "Gypsy Caravan" is a tad overlong, it's easy to see why Dellal had trouble turning the camera off, especially when confronted with a startling and sad plot twist. Viewers are urged to grab an aisle seat, the better to dance when the music moves them -- as it surely will.

-- Ann Hornaday

Gypsy Caravan Unrated, 110 minutes Contains adult themes, such as death and drug use. At Landmark's E Street Cinema.

© 2007 The Washington Post Company