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With: William Duna, Prof. Ian Hancock, Grover Marks, Jane Marks, Jimmy Marks, Lippie Marks
Written by: Jasmine Dellal
Directed by: Jasmine Dellal
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Running Time: 80
Date: 06/13/1999

American Gypsy: A Stranger in Everybody's Land (2000)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Gypsy Tales

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

I can't recall ever having seen a film, even a documentary such as this, that showed Gypsies simply as human beings. Even very recent films like The Red Violin (1999) have gone in for the historic treatment of Gypsies as only outcasts and thieves. Filmmaker Jasmine Dellal's American Gypsy: A Stranger in Everyone's Land is thus a refreshing introduction to Gypsy life in America, that also happens to tell one of the Gypsies' most prominent stories. The film centers around the story of Gypsy Jimmy Marks. In the mid- 1980s, his house was broken into and illegally searched by the police, who broke not only the law but also unknowingly broke several important Gypsy taboos in the process. Marks took them to court and tried to sue them for almost a decade and this film shares with us the outcome. Although a promising premise for a film, I found the court battle ultimately less interesting than experiencing the Gypsy lifestyle for the first time. Details on the Gypsy view of banks, their love of cars, and their love of storytelling (both real and fabricated) were beautifully detailed. With stories like these to tell, it's too bad that Dellal couldn't have made the trial more of a footnote. But I suppose the trial was the reason the film got made at all. Extraordinary old Super 8 footage of the Gypsies is peppered throughout the current footage. Coupled with the excerpts of Gypsy life this serves to make American Gypsy an overall fascinating and moving document.

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