American Gypsy

PBS Premiere: Aug. 29, 2000Check the broadcast schedule »

Filmmaker Interview

Jasmine Dellal, filmmaker: I met a really magnetic character who was willing to let me into the world of a million Gypsies in this country who have never before allowed the camera into film the Romani lifestyle that most of us have never seen. Jimmy Marks is a Gypsy and is not a stereotype of a Gypsy, but he's also not every Gypsy. He's just one individual.

Jimmy Marks: See this button? It says, "Free the Gypsies." And it means free us of persecution and discrimination.

Jasmine Dellal: So I was trying to weave his story with the history of his people and also with the particularities of a legal case that he's involved in.

Jimmy Marks: I'm just waiting for the American eagle to give us justice and liberty for all.

Jasmine Dellal: They had no desire to let an outsider, or a gadji, like myself, into their world.

Jane Marks: I don't talk when I do this, okay? This is all work, no talk.

Jasmine Dellal: And that made me even more curious and stubborn and determined to try and tell a story.

Jasmine Dellal: Which things are you lying to me about?

Lippie: I can't remember. (Laughs)

Jimmy Marks: She don't need to share her mother and her great-grandmother with a gadji. The gadji. will just make fun of 'em.

Jasmine Dellal: is a film about the advantages and disadvantages of assimilation. How do we hold onto enough of our culture that we're individuals at the same time as blending in enough that we can take advantage of the society that we live in?

Jasmine Dellal: Would you marry a gadjo?

Ginger: I don't think so. There's too many good-lookin' Roma out there! (Laughs)

Jasmine Dellal: I realized that they're some of the most American people I had ever met — white picket fences, Cadillacs, cowboy hats, cowboy boots.

Mikey: Yes, I feel American. Lived here all my life.

Jimmy Marks: This is one of the reasons that our culture and our tradition goes along from the old world instead of the new world.

Jasmine Dellal: I kept thinking I was going to find out what is the Romani secret? It's not a mystery that can just be uncovered and told. The secret is in understanding and accepting difference and enjoying that. And this particular kind of difference, the Romani difference, is what this film is about.