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Korkoro: Tony Gatlif's Latest Drama About the Roma

Robust emotion and cultural detail offset slight plotting and characterizations in the based-on-actual-events Korkoro (translation: “Freedom”). The latest drama about Europe’s nomadic Roma from director Tony Gatlif (Latcho Drom, Exiles) concerns a band of gypsies who, in 1943 France, are hounded by occupying Nazis, collaborating local authorities, and a citizenry whose intolerance seemingly predates Third Reich rule. As in Gatlif’s prior work, his aesthetic choices most forcefully convey passions and fears: A frantic tracking shot of children running through the woods is set to urgent violins; clanking music heightens the anxiety of fleeing men; a timepiece seen dangling above train tracks symbolically foreshadows concentration-camp doom. The director’s depiction of his protagonists’ intimate customs—placing horses’ hooves in cloth bags to muffle their sounds or healing wounds with a balm made out of raw egg and cow dung—is similarly compelling. Such ethnographic specifics provide depth to a dramatically skimpy affair involving the clan’s relationship to a young orphan (Mathias Laliberté) and efforts to evade persecution with the help of an humane veterinarian (Marc Lavoine) and schoolteacher (Marie-Josée Croze). The plotting is two-dimensional, but in the tormented visage of Taloche (James Thiérrée)—a clichéd holy simpleton enlivened by irrepressible physicality—the film seethes with full-bodied fury and anguish.

 
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