When I was a kid, 3 fates came to me. One destined this, one destined that, and the youngest asked me, "When do you want an easy life? When you are old or young?" I said, when I am old. Because when I'm young I can carry life's bitterness.
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A few years back, five groups of musicians and performers, from four different countries - India, Romania, Macedonia, Spain - yet all united by their common gypsy heritage, set off on a six-week tour through North America that came to be known as the Gypsy Caravan. Albert Maysles' "When the Road Bends: Tales of a Gypsy Caravan" is a documentary account of that tour.
The movie makes it clear that gypsy music has its roots firmly planted in personal hardship and social protest, that it is an organic response to the bigotry and oppression gypsies have suffered under from time immemorial.
The filmmakers spend much of their time interviewing the performers either behind-the-scenes at rehearsals or on the bus the group travels on from one location to the next. It is here that we see the camaraderie that develops among the members, as well as the personal conflicts and artistic disputes that are an inevitable part of any group activity. But it is when they are all on stage, performing to packed houses in cities like New York, Miami, San Francisco, etc., that we feel the sheer joy that comes from sharing one's passion with an enraptured audience.
The movie makers also travel to some of the performers' native towns and villages to try and get a feel for who these people truly are and the lands and cultures from which they spring.
The result is a moving, informative, and musically enriching glimpse into a people and an art form that few Westerners know much, if anything, about.
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