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:: Vengo

Writer/director Tony Gatlif (Latch Drom, Gadjo Dilo) describes Vengo (“I come”) as a hymn to the Mediterranean, and certainly there is much obvious love in the depiction of gypsies, their lives and their music. There is not much plot however. What plot there is, centres on Caco (played by Antonio Canales, a renowned Spanish dancer who is one of the few men not to dance in the film). Caco is taking care of his disabled nephew, Diego, whilst his father is in hiding in Morocco for killing a member of a rival family, the Caravacas. Caco is still mourning the death of his daughter, Pepa, the circumstances of whose death is never revealed. It takes a long time to figure out what Vengo is about, and once you do it remains fairly simple. The Caravacas want revenge and if they can’t kill the murderer, they will kill the closest person to him.

But the characters seem mainly interested in dance and music, Caco throwing several parties for Diego as an excuse for flamenco singing. There is one particularly beautiful performance by La Caita, a gypsy woman with an extraordinary voice singing some powerful melodies. The parties, set in the Andalucian plains are boisterous and hypnotic.

However, it’s difficult to remain involved with the film unless you are a staunch flamenco fan. The story is hard to follow at first, with the many different characters difficult to place - the relationship to each other and which family they belong to, and then it offers few surprises. The characters remain at a distance, even Caco whom we spend the most time with. There are many loose ends. The reason for the initial killing is never given, neither is the reason why Diego’s father would leave him so vulnerable whilst he himself flees. It makes for an unsatisfying journey.

The cast is all amateur and look and sound very authentic. Canales has some wonderful moments but ultimately we are never close enough to him to care. I would prefer to see a documentary about flamenco so that I could understand more about it and the people who perform it, rather than have, like Vengo, something which is a hybrid of music documentary and narrative, and wholly satisfying as neither.

Screening at the Lumiere Cinemas and the Classic Cinemas