The Elusive Search for Nora Luca: Tony Gatlif's Adventures in Gypsy Land

Sylvie Eve Blum-Reid


This essay examines Gypsy filmmaker Tony Gatlif and his 1997 film Gadjo Dilo (The Crazy Foreigner). The film ventures on the icy roads of Romania and casts a young French man in search for Nora Luca’s voice, a woman taped by his musicologist father. The young man is adopted by a Romanian Gypsy community and initiated to Gypsy culture. The film reverts stereotypes associated to Gypsies and questions the place of the white traveler in late 20th century Europe. Questions of otherness and exoticism are raised amidst the Western urge to preserve and collect other cultures. The essay is informed by current Gypsies studies on Gypsy law that locate the interaction Rom cultures have had with non-Rom cultures. The film may be seen as a trilingual road movie set in Eastern Europe, yet Gatlif, a man for whom “the road is his country” stretches the limits of the genre, usually situated in the vast open spaces of North America. Gender is important in the analysis of the film as Rom women encountered act as mediators between two different cultures and spaces. Last, the essay reconsiders the place of Tony Gatlif, a now recognized French filmmaker, a spokesperson for Gypsies who delocalised the story and traveled to Eastern Europe. An analysis of the reception of the film adds to the discussion of a filmmaker, born in Algeria, of Berber and Andalusian descent.

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