Me, my gypsy family and Woody allen

Me, My Gypsy Family and Woody Allen is a film documenting the first tentative steps a Romany girl living in Italy, Laura Halilovic, takes into the world of filmmaking. This is not a completely alien landscape; the camera she uses to document her life and the lives of her family when she is 19 was given to her by her father, who himself filmed their celebrations and lives when Halilovic was just a girl.

The documentary, winner of the UCCA Prize 2009 at the Bellaria Film Festival in Italy, acts primarily as a diary, a diary of a people, and a diary of a girl who has come of age, perched on the edge of adulthood in a culture where marriage and family are an essential part of life. Me, My Gypsy Family and Woody Allen is a an act of Halilovic finding her voice, going from the shoe gazing mumblings of teenagehood – demonstrated especially when the subject of marriage first arises – to a final and more eloquent expression of her own plans for her future and how they relate to her culture and family.

We are introduced to Halilovic’s family gradually, framed through current portraits of her parents, brothers and sisters, her family having migrated to Italy from Bosnia and Herzegovina decades before. They live in a public housing flat, a big step in the Romany community, who traditionally are forced to camp in large numbers, shifted from site to site on the whims of the local councils. This fixed address created better opportunities for Laura to attend school and have a complete education.

The pain of a persecuted people is at first demonstrated historically – the holocaust, the systemic destruction of the Romany people throughout predominantly Eastern Europe. These are her relatives – her grandparents and great grandparents. But it is soon after that the continued persecution of the Romany’s by the Gagé, anyone who is not a Roma, is highlighted. Camps are evicted and bulldozed, they are called thieves and bandits on the street, or, from the point of view from an excited little girl at her first day of school, she is whispered about and ostracised from her peers. That concept of ‘integration’ is brought up again and again, its insidiousness coming from its lack of clear meaning. This is most obvious when the word is brought up during the potential eviction of sixty people, including Halilovic’s grandmother and uncles, from land that they themselves had purchased, the charge of building without a permit as an excuse. Every year Halilovic, born in Italy but not officially an Italian citizen, must give her fingerprints in order to renew her visa.

A lot of the craft in this film is a bit clunky, but entirely forgivable given the filmmaker’s age and the message the film is trying to give. You can see her future potential in the framing of her shots, the imagery within a scene that holds the most poignancy. This film is about her, but she is hidden behind the camera, perhaps unable to combine this foraging for identity with the strong culture of the Romany, her teenage stargazing at Woody Allen combined with the first act of making her own film, her own body of work.

Me, My Gypsy Family, and Woody Allen screens on Friday, May 07, 2010 at 9:30 PM at Cinema Nova in Carlton. It screens with the short film Bingo

Part of the Human Rights Arts and Film Festival

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