Educators | Educational Reviews | Study Guide
America is home to one million Gypsies, or Rom, whose rich culture has long been mysterious to outsiders. Shot over the course of five years, this extraordinary documentary is the first ever allowed to break the wall of secrecy that protects the universally persecuted Romani people and their culture.
American Gypsy explores the 1,000-year-old cultural traditions of the Roma, interweaving remarkable and poignant historical material with the compelling story of Jimmy Marks, a flamboyant Romani community leader who becomes passionately obsessed with fighting a civil rights battle to defend his family, his culture, and his honor. His journey carries the film deep within the Romani culture, with fascinating scenes of Gypsies from around the world celebrating New Year in Las Vegas, the arranged marriages of teenagers, and car salesmen in Stetson hats driving Cadillacs.
American Gypsy is at once a powerful ethnographic study and a dramatic illustration of some of the most painful ambiguities of immigration, assimilation, and culture clashes in modern America. It is essential viewing for courses in cultural anthropology, American history and studies, sociology, multiculturalism, and diversity. It was produced by Jasmine Dellal.
“A sharp and sophisticated film that succeeds admirably in raising critical questions about representation and ethnographic research while elegantly unfolding an engrossing narrative. I intend to use this film in my courses on ethnographic research methods.”
– Hugh Raffles, Asst. Prof. of Anthropology, UC Santa Cruz
“Much more than the story of a Romani family’s fight for justice, this film presents an inter-generational portrait of Roma both preserving their traditions and creatively adapting to new situations in a new world. This is a must-have stimulus for discussion in anthropology or sociology courses dealing with ethnicity, cultural resistance and assimilation, and racism.”
– Prof. Ken Lee, Dept. of Sociology and Anthropology, Univ. of Newcastle, New South Wales, Australia
“Raises issues of diversity and cultural pride, illustrated with fascinating interviews and historical photographs. Prejudice, discrimination, and racial profiling face Roma all over Europe, but few Americans realize that American Roma confront similar problems. This film would be excellent in anthropology, ethnic studies, American studies, and sociology courses.”
– Carol Silverman, Prof. of Anthropology, Univ. of Oregon
“I do not remember any movie or documentary that ever came close to this one in insight, clarity, pathos, or sheer empathy toward the Gypsy cause. In addition to the beauty of the background music, the history, the editing, and the sheer transparency of the images, I am struck by the film’s sensitivity to a problematic situation. This is a must-see in any class dealing with cultural differences or the role of the family.”
– Antonio T. de Nicolas, Prof. of Philosophy Emeritus, State Univ. of New York at Stony Brook