Skip to Content

Gypsies without Tents [Gitanos sin carpa] 2002


Distributed by Distributed by LAVA - Latin American Video Archives, 124 Washington Place, New York, NY 10014; 212-243-4804
Produced by Produced by Isabel Silva
Directed by Directed by Ivan Tzíboulka
VHS, color, 88 min.

Sr. High - Adult
Japan, Popular Culture, Music Trade, Singers

Date Entered: 03/17/2004

ALA Notable:
Reviewed by: Reviewed by Jessica Schomberg, Minnesota State University, Mankato

This documentary focuses on two Gitano Romani (Gypsy) families in Chile as they try to maintain their culture in the face of discrimination, generational differences, and financial instability. As the director/narrator is openly an outsider to Romani culture, the program tries to maintain a neutral viewpoint.

After the children in the first family discuss what they want to do when they grow up—Deborah wishes to become “a teacher or a lawyer [or] secretary” while her brother Milenko wants to learn to read so that he can become a priest - they are forced to leave school when their parents decide to move north in search of better job opportunities. Later in the program, we see how their traditional nomadic lifestyle in addition to harassment by their Chilean classmates prompts Deborah and Milenko not to attend school anymore.

Meanwhile, we learn about the second family, in which generational differences are pointed out as well as gender roles and the relationship between religion and music. The generational differences stood out strongly as the program shifted from a segment in which an older man sang a traditional folk song in the Romani language to one in which some young Romani men rapped in Spanish about Chilean politics. The situation of Romani women was also covered, as a young women interviewed discusses how she would not go against tradition to pursue a career. Women’s role is to get married, raise children, and tell fortunes - doing otherwise would cause them to be ostracized from their community for being too Chilean.

Throughout the program, it was clear that many Romani are ambivalent about the concept of assimilation, preferring to maintain their own culture while adapting to the necessities of life in Chile. Included in that feeling of ambivalence is education, which presents both opportunities for advancement and threats to their cultural identity.

The subtitles are adequate. They are provided for Spanish-to-English dialogue only - the Romani sequences are unsubtitled - and there are a few minor typographical errors.

This program does not provide an overview of all Romani peoples in the Americas so much as it provides a focused look at members of the Gitano tribe in Chile, but it is a very engaging and thought-provoking examination of identity, discrimination, and assimilation. This video is recommended for college or public libraries with a focus on Romani, Latin American, or Multicultural Studies.