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Caco (Antonia Canales) is engaged in a vengeful battle with the Caravacas family, while looking after his palsied nephew Diego (Orestes Villasan Rodriguez), when Diego’s father goes into hiding overseas after killing one of the Caravacas. Caco, a larger than life figure with a lust for life, finally tires to stop the circle of revenge killings, while desperate to protect Diego.

Just as in the marvellous Gadjo Dilo, where Tony Gatlif's fascination for gypsy culture was explored, Vengo takes rhythms, music and dance and twirls them as freely and as surely as a flamenco dancer, whose arms, body and hair fly away in the breeze. Through these emotional expressions, Gatlif's story of revenge is told loosely mainly through images and music. We can feel a whole gamut of emotions though the expressions of the characters: while hands clap, fingers strum and voices wail their tunes, we sense the angst, the sorrow and the joy. As the music soars, a single tear trickles down a cheek, while the mood of gaiety prevails. Happiness is a song and life is filled with rhythms. There's something greatly compelling about expressive music and movement that comes as naturally as breathing. You don't even need a musical instrument; all you need is to let your body take hold of the rhythms. Vengo's tale of two feuding families is interwoven between the notes and the movement. A palsied nephew's sexual encounter, a protective brother, a family bent on revenge… It is extraordinary to note that there are no professional actors, but musicians, who were directed not to act. Unique in many ways, the beauty of Vengo's world lies in its authentic mood and rich gypsy spirit. Honesty is portrayed so naturally, and through that most powerful of emotional tools – music – it simply ooze out. We are transported. It's a tough world with its stark surroundings and harsh lifestyle. How can you help but be moved by lyrics like 'I am jealous of the river that reflects your face…'. But beyond the poetic, there is the very real ugliness of violence. Even the grind of every day life churns out its own rhythms. Ultimately Vengo never leaves us with a glossy, superficial world, but reveals the hidden chasms of emotions that comes from life itself. It's a long road with many twists and turns, shadows and sunshine. Moody, haunting and rich in the gypsy spirit, Vengo is a compelling interlude.
Louise Keller

I guess this is Tony Gatlif’s ode to flamenco as not just music but a way of life, a combination of joy and pain. The anguish necessary for genuine flamenco expression is a part of life, and life in Andalusia is as volatile as gelignite. Serene and lucid one minute, shattering, explosive the next. Gatlif is a unique filmmaker whose choices are totally personal, not driven by other considerations: that’s what makes him interesting. While Gadjo Dilo is my favourite of his films, Vengo is a full bodied, full-blood sister film, although the accent here is less on character than on the flamenco culture itself. The story allows Gatlif to play flamenco items in their entirety, giving the film a tone akin to a musical doco with a central dramatic motif based on families in eternal revenge mode. But he adds his own twist, in casting a disabled Orestes Villasan Rodriguez (cerebral palsy sufferer) as a central character, cousin to Caco (Antonio Canales), who is engaged in a battle with the Caravaca family. This single chouce shifts the whole film into a different dimension, or at least it gives it a unique new layer. The warring families – in a familiar ‘your brother killed my brother’ setting – are sketched in outline, but Gatlif’s detailed eye sets us in Andalusia’s barren landscape with visual power. The overriding saving grace is that Gatlif knows what he’s talking about. The society and culture he depicts are not artefacts to examine but his own lifeblood. He understands it and that gives his work its visceral zu-zoom. Like the musical sequences, which are full of intimate gunpowder. Vengo is not a film you’ll blink away as you walk out.
Andrew L. Urban

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VENGO (M15+)

CAST: Antonio Canales, Orestes Villasan Rodriguez, Antonio Perez Dechent, Botote, Juan Luis Corrientes

DIRECTOR: Tony Gatlif

PRODUCER: Tony Gatlif

SCRIPT: Tony Gatlif, David Trueba


EDITOR: Pauline Dairou

MUSIC SUPERVISOR: Amelie de Chassey

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Brigitte Brassard, Denis Mercier

RUNNING TIME: 90 minutes


AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: November 15, 2001 (Sydney); Nov 22 (Melbourne); other states to follow

VIDEO RELEASE: May 29, 2002



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