NEW YORK -- Not quite fully satisfying as either cinematic ethnography or as a concert film, "Gypsy Caravan" nonetheless sheds much-needed light on the Roma people and their varieties of infectious music. Jasmine Dellai's film, featuring cinematography by noted documentary filmmaker Albert Mayles, among others, chronicles the 2001 concert tour of the same name undertaken by five bands throughout Europe and the U.S. The film is playing in Los Angeles and New York.
The musical artists in question hail from four countries -- Macedonia, Romania, India and Spain -- and reflect such musical styles as flamenco, Indian folk, Raga and jazz. The film includes numerous concert performances; interviews with musicians; scenes of them interacting with their families, colleagues and friends in their home countries; and backstage footage.
Unfortunately, the musical performances are choppily edited in a way that detracts from their momentum, with the result that only a few of the performers, most notably Macedonian singer Esma Redzepova (dubbed the "Queen of the Gypsies"), are shown to full advantage.
At the same time, the background scenes, though colorful, fail to provide the depth and perspective that would help audiences nonconversant with Romani culture to fully appreciate what they're witnessing. Ironically, it falls to such figures as Hollywood star Johnny Depp, seen in a brief interview, to attempt to refute the "cliches about Gypsies that are believed by most Americans."