Djam (2017) | Cannes Film Festival 2017

May 26th, 2017
Author: Meredith Taylor

Dir: Tony Gatlif | Drama | French |

Tony Gatlif makes films about gypsy cultures from India to the near East and DJAM is his latest, although not his best, it offers something slightly off the beaten track: a female-centric road movie where his feisty belly-dancing heroine embarks on an adventure from Lesbos, to Greece and Turkey. There’s never a dull moment in this exotic musical odyssey that captures the contempo socio-economic zeitgeist of the near Middle East (immigration, female liberation etc) and celebrates rebetiko, an ancient blend of Greek and Turkish tradional folkmusic.

After leaving her uncle (Simon Albekian)  on the quayside Djam (Patakia) uses her cheeky charm to blaise a trail through a variety of hurdles she meets along the way, the first is securing a passport for a naive girl called Avril (Maryan Canon) who has been robbed. From then on the two become travelling companions.

Vibrant and lushly atmospheric this verite-style drama is carried along by Daphné Patakia’s earthy exhuberant chutzpah in the title role (for which she wears no undies), although her minxy coquettishness may be irritating for some, others may find the film a breath of fresh air, with its melodramatic and musical interludes.

Cannes this year has been remarkable for a blatant over-sharing of female issues: from Francois Ozon’s opening shot of a close quarter vaginal examination; to endless open discussions about menstruation; Diane Kruger examining her menstrual blood and here – Patakia’s Djam forcing her friend to shave off her pubic hair on the open road. None of this has particularly enriched the stories concerned, begging the question – what happened to feminine mystique?

Gatlif’s narrative plays as fast as loose as Djam and her copine as they sing and dance around like a couple of lascivious troubadours, seemingly high on their own brand of goofy naughtiness. Although Gatlif seems to be making it all up as he goes along, this is a fresh and impressively-crafted snapshot. MT


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