IFFK at 20: Retrospective on Tony Gatlif

TonyThiruvananthapuram: The upcoming 20th edition of the International Film Festival of Kerala (IFFK) will explore the fiercely emotive oeuvre of French filmmaker Tony Gatlif through a showcase of selected works.

The movies that will be screened in the ‘Contemporary Master’ category are Gadjo Dilo (1997), Je suis né d’une cigogne (1998), Swing (2001), Exils (2004) and Transylvania (2006).

Gatlif’s muses are the world’s outcasts and dehumanised – from the denizens of Parisian ghettos, to exiles and immigrants far from home and, closest to his heart, the Romany people (better known through the politically charged exonym ‘Gypsies’). The lives, trials and traditions of the nomadic Roma – from whom he is partially descended – are a regular feature.

In Gadjo Dilo (Crazy Gadjo), Gatlif has the companion piece to his magnum opus – Latcho Drom, the 1992-lyrical tribute to Roma music in which he traced its journey from Rajasthan to Romania, Hungary and the Mediterranean. In Gadjo Dilo, he follows an outsider who enters the Roma world in search of a melody.

His next feature Je suis né d’une cigogne (Children of the Stork) deals with themes of displacement and searches for sparks of humanity and humour in the face of even the most trying circumstances. That an actual stork embodies victimhood and loss lends both absurdity and poignancy.

Swing returns to the Roma, this time in Western Europe, and their Manouche jazz musical tradition. The bond between two children – one of the caravan and the other of the city – during a summer vacation is one of the many delights on offer. Exuberant melodies again set the tune and mood to which the characters sway.

With Exils, Gatlif retrains his eye on the bonds of music and dance that binds disparate cultures bound together. This time, he goes back to his own roots in Algeria, tracking two committed bohemians whose road trip to their native land becomes a spiritual expedition.

Another personal journey – this time for love – is at the core of Transylvania. A woman’s romantic quest through the Gothic heart of Romania to find the man she loves and another chance at happiness. The wilful loss of identity and redemption are key themes here.

The selected films showcase Gatlif’s motif of worlds within worlds, of people within peoples. They offer a taste of life – shorn of broad brushes and labels – on the margins, in the niches and nooks, with its heartbeats and drumbeats.

Each film is at once revelry of life and rebellious polemic against modernity’s conformism.

IFFK 2015, Kerala’s premier film festival, runs from December 4-11.

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