Wednesday, 17 May 2006

focus on gypsies

Opening June 8, ACMI Cinemas will present Focus on Gypsies, revealing cinema's glorious and long-standing love affair with the gypsy from lavish music filled spectaculars to passionate dramas to stereotype-busting documentaries about fascinating real-life people and beyond.

Among the highlights are three sumptuous movies from the golden age of Hollywood: The Loves of Carmen (1948), based on Bizet's opera and starring Rita Hayworth in the feisty leading role (and wearing a different costume in every scene); Gypsy and the Gentleman (1958), a ripe regency melodrama about the assailing love between a wayward aristocrat and a cunning gypsy seductress and Hot Blood (1956), Nicolas Ray's musical-melodrama set in a Los Angeles Gypsy community starring and Cornell Wilde and a luscious tambourine-playing Jane Russell.

Equally fascinating are a series of films that tell the stories of the real-life people and communities whose lives are far away from the glossy Hollywood stereotype. In Ceija Stojka - Portrait of a Romni (1999) and The Green Grass Beneath (2005), two documentaries by Austrian filmmaker Karin Berger, we meet the vibrant Ceija Stojka, a renowned Austrian intellectual, author, artist and concentration camp survivor. Born into the Lowara Roma gypsy tribe, Stojka spent her childhood travelling with her family in a caravan around the Austrian countryside before being deported, at only 8 years of age, to Auschwitz.  Stojka's amazing story of survival, and how it served as an motivation and inspiration for her art and writing, is a testament to the passion, defiance and fierce pride of all the Romany people and one individual's determination to perverse the culture of her people against the odds.

A much later story is told in Vierka, or the Mystery of Family B's Disappearance (2005), Miroslav Janek's compelling vérité film that will have its Australian premiere screening during Focus on Gypsies. Vierka captures idealism and the clash of cultures which begins when Czech singer Ida Kelarova stumbles on a young talented Romany singer, Vierka Berkyova.  Mesmerised by her voice, Ida travels to Slovakia and finds Vierka living in abject poverty.  Driven by Vierka's obvious talent, her whole family moves to the Czech Republic to build a better life and get Ida's musical off the ground.

Other highlights include Pavee Lackeen (2005), photographer Perry Ogden's unsparing portrait of Ireland's marginalised traveller community, a group of poverty-stricken itinerant people whose Third World existence is at complete odds with the modern, prosperous Ireland that surrounds them; Angelo My Love (1983), an early feature directed by Hollywood actor / director, Robert Duvall, which paints a portrait of a New York Gypsy community far removed from the world of caravans and horses; the Oscar nominated I Met Some Happy Gypsies Too (1967), a gritty, passionate portrayal of a Serbian community of Gypsies; Emir Kusturica's magic-realist fable Black Cat White Cat (1998); the visually sumptuous Russian masterpiece Gypsies Are Found Near Heaven (1976).

Rounding off the season are two of the most well-known gypsy films from recent years, Tony Gatlif's famous gypsy trilogy: Latcho Drom (1993), a film which explores the origins and history of the Roma people entirely through song and Gadjo Dilo (1997), coming-of-age road journey and romantic tale set among the vibrant Romany culture of Eastern Europe.

Further information

Danielle Poulos, ACMI Communciations Coordinator
Tel: 8663 2415
Mob: 0417 540 543

Justin Rogers, ACMI Communications Coordinator
Tel: 8663 2475
Mob: 0412 172 887

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