Q1. Basic information on the film:
Latcho Drom (meaning a safe journey) is a 1993 documentary film by a French director of Romani descent, Toni Gatlif (born as Michel Dahmani). The movie shows the travel of a Romani group from North India to Spain. The film depicts the people’s day-to-day activities, customs, and traditions. The film is based on the Romani traditional songs and dances (Roma - Indian tenth army, 2014). Since the film outlines the key features of the Romani people’s life, the film in itself is interesting in terms of anthropological research.
Q2. The Romani people: Lifestyle; making a living; peculiar features.
The Romani people lead a nomadic lifestyle. Constant movement and search for food and drinking water are the attributes of the nomadic life of the Romani people. Busking, selling flowers, and shoe cleaning are the possible ways the Romani people go about making a living. The Romani children are very perceptive, for they learn from the adults how to sing, dance, and play musical instruments. Presumably, the adults unintentionally pass the customs and traditions of the Romani people to the young generations. The point is that preserving the culture is not the end purpose for the Romani people. The possible explanation, in this regard, is that the people are very well aware of the fact that the world is changing constantly, and in order to survive, they need to get accustomed to it and grasp its least meaningful tendencies.
Q3. Customs, traditions, and objects of material culture.
Romani culture is characterized, above all, by a caring attitude to cattle. The objects of material culture represented in the film include quern-stone, natural dyes, different object made of wicker, and various musical instruments: bowed instruments, such as violin and dulcimer, and traditional Romani woodwind instruments. Most Romani people live in camps, in close unity with the nature and close contact with the other members of their ethnical group. If one applies the terms of the spirit of collegiality and collectivism to the Romani culture, it is possible to assume that the spirit of collegiality and collectivism is strong within their communities. Another distinctive feature of the Romani people, according to Toni Gatlif, is the fact that they strive for a better living and hold freedom above all else. However, better living is not a priority. As the film shows, the Romani people are hardly willing to act for the prosperous life.
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Dance and music constitute the essential part of the Romani people’s mundane. Evidently, music and dance accompany their festive activities, as well. Many traditional songs of the Romani people refer to the global calamities: some specific countries, historical events, and personalities. For instance, one of the songs is referring to Auschwitz, a Nazi concentration camp, which apparently talks about the World War II. Another song refers to the students’ protest movement in Romania and Ceausescu’s dictatorship. There is also a song referring to The Holy Bible and the Christian understanding of God (Roma - Indian tenth army, 2014), which gives an insight to the Romani people’s faith and religion as such.
Q4. Culture, subculture, counterculture, idioculture, and social world.
As far as the anthropological approach in analyzing Toni Gatlif’s Latcho Drom is applied, it is important to admit the following. James J. Dowd and Laura A. Dowd (2003) distinguish between the concepts of common culture, counterculture, subculture, idioculture, and social world (p. 20). Economy, education, technology, consumption, and memory are regarded as the factors determining a common culture (Dowd & Dowd, 2003, p. 31). Therefore, the Romani culture can be considered an element of a common culture. Subculture is a term usually used to denote an ethnical group that is distinct from the broader society due to its worldview, which results in minimal social interaction or peripheral/isolated position (Dowd & Dowd, 2003, p. 32). In this regard, the Romani community can be termed a subculture. Idiocultures, in turn, are “systems of knowledge, beliefs, behaviors, and customs created through group interactions” (Dowd & Dowd, 2003, p. 27). In this regard, it is important to admit that the Romani culture also bears the peculiarities of idioculture. Countercultures are believed to reject and/or oppose the dominant culture; they are deviant in nature. Each of them is peculiar to the Romani culture, to a greater or lesser extent. Distinctive cultural elements, such as a dialect and jargon, sharing common organizational, economic, and technological experiences constitute the peculiarity of a social world. In this regard, it is possible to assume that the term social world applies to the Romani culture, as well.
Q5. Enculturation and acculturation.
Throughout the film, the processes of informal and formal enculturation are characteristic to the Romani culture, as well. Specifically, the director of the film pays close attention to the processes of informal enculturation: socialization of children and their integration into society of the Romani community. Acculturation, in its turn, is a process of “learning appropriate behavior of a host culture” (“Enculturation and Acculturation”, 2013). Unlike the process of enculturation, acculturation in the film under analysis is implicit.
To conclude, it is important to admit the following. Latcho Drom is a documentary by Tony Gatlif dealing with the life of the Romani people. The director shows the everyday life of this social group; therefore, he attempts to provoke thinking. The film appeals to the viewers’ social consciousness, as well as the issue of ethnical minorities. Within the framework of anthropology, the film is important due to its topicality and credibility.