DVD & Blu-ray Reviews

Les Fils du Vent (2012/2013)

A fascinating documentary on gypsy jazz and the Romani culture.

Published on December 25, 2013

Les Fils du Vent (2012/2013)

Les Fils du Vent (2012/2013)

Les Fils du Vent (The Sons of the Wind) 
Documentary on four gypsy jazz guitarists and the Romani culture
Performers: Angelo Debarre, Moreno, Ninine Garcia and Tchavolo Schmitt
Director: Bruno Le Jean
Studio: Frémeaux & Associates FA4024 (12/10/13) [Distr. by Harmonia mundi]
Video: 1.33:1 for 4:3 color
Audio: French (mostly) PCM stereo
Subtitles: English (except on extras)
Extras: Films – short musical excerpts not in film; Interviews – 3 interviews in French only
Length: 96 minutes
Rating: ****½   

Director Le Jean spent eight years filming the four guitarists and covering the Romani culture at the same time. It has been considered a landmark in gypsy jazz with its portraits of these four and others who are keeping alive the legacy of the great Django Reinhardt. And it has won many awards. Portraying their lifestyles and performances both for the public and for their gypsy group, it shows how the music has been handed down orally and thru demonstration from one generation to another. In addition to the many scenes of great music-making in restaurants, clubs, gypsy encampments, and at festivals like the annual Django Reinhardt Festival in Samois-sur-le-Siene, it delves into the increasingly difficult lives of the Roms, facing prejudice, special permits and expulsion from their camping areas. In France they are referred to as “The Nomads.” In spite of the gypsies saying they don’t want to “live in a box,” one of the guitarists explains that he finally tired of all the hassle and rented an apartment so he would have a permanent address.

One of the Rom members equates the ability of Django to play the guitar with only two fingers (after a disastrous fire) better than most guitarists can play with four, with the mystery of how the Egyptians raised the gigantic pyramids.

The director mixes great realism with poetry and humanity, giving a feeling for the gypsy lifestyle and an appreciation for the fantastic music and their contribution to Western culture. Some of the scenes are very touching, such as one of the guitarists having to stop at a fire hydrant to fill jerry cans with water since the wells at most gypsy camp areas have been destroyed.  I was unable to locate a TrackList of selections, but nearly all of them are only short excerpts of the tunes anyway. There are Django favorites,   standard pop songs and original gypsy music. Unfortunately the included note booklet is only in French and the three interviews in the extras are in French with no English subtitles. (Don’t confuse this film with another 2004 film with the same exact title which is about ninjas!)

—John Sunier




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