EUFF13 Review: Bajari: Gypsy Barcelona (2013)
It is a commonplace to think of traditions purely in the terms of things that are threatened or in crisis. In Bajari (2013), Eva Vila’s film about Flamenco and its closely knit community of performers, no such threat is visible. The music here is an active, vibrant, vitalizing force, and Bajari provides engaging access to it’s pulse and the people it animates.
Bajari is split between two different narratives about the transmission of Flamenco tradition within Spanish Gypsy communities. One thread follows Karime, a Flamenco dancer in Barcelona working with a group of musicians to put together a night of Flamenco that will pay respects to its local history and forms. But the high expectations created by tradition and family cast a long shadow across the performance; her mother Winy–also a dancer– is flying in from Mexico to participate in the event. But both Winy and Karime have to dance in the shadow of a third performer, the late Carmen Amaya. Carmen is considered the greatest of all Flamenco dancers, the one whose image is in films, books about Flamenco, and even on public monuments. She’s the one all other dancers are measured against. She is also Karime’s great aunt.
The rest of Bajari focuses on Juanito, a Gypsy boy about to get his first pair of boots for dancing. He is thoroughly immersed in Flamenco, singing along with the older men, watching Carmen Amaya films with his family, and getting advice–even at such a young age–about which colors make a dancer’s costume stand out. His uncle is a singer, and Vila allows us to watch as the older man passes along not only songs and tips, but also a love of the music and culture that surrounds it.
Flamenco music is the star of Bajari. The joy of watching Karime and Winy get ready for the show is not the suspense of whether they’ll be able to make it work–they and the musicians they’re working with are the best in their fields–but rather the joy in watching them form relationships with the songs, and watching those relationships animate their movements. Similarly, Juanito–who an excess of energy seems to pour off of at all moments–dances while with his family, while at play with other children, and even while running through the jets of a water from a fountain.
Bajari is just as joyful a watch.
Bajari screens on Sunday, November 17, 2013 at 6:00 PM. To reserve your space for this free screening, visit the European Union Film Festival Toronto website.