Opening October 26, 2017
Directed by: Etienne Comar
Writing credits: Etienne Comar, Alexis Salatko
Principal actors: Reda Kateb, Cecile De France, Bea Palya, Esther Comar, Ulrich Brandhoff, Alex Brendemühl
Who was Django Reinhardt? The first time I heard the name Django was when Tarantino’s film Django Unchained hit the scene. I wondered why a film would pick a similar name as I looked at the competition program at the 67th Berlinale. It wasn’t until I saw the film and heard the music that I knew somewhere back in my subconscious that I had heard this music before and loved it. Django is one of those legends that people in the music business know and find inspiring. His work has not only influenced Jazz, Blues, Pop styles but that of Country and Rock. I was surprised to hear that there are even festivals in Europe and America dedicated to him. He clearly has a huge fan club out there, so why has it taken so long for the founder of the Gypsy-Jazz-Swing Style to make it to the screen? One possibility is that there was not much written about him. It has been only about the last 15 years that people have started to give him the recognition he deserves by writing books and articles. Some of his pieces have been lost including the complete version of the Requiem written during WW2 in which he dedicated the music to all the lost Roma victims. So it’s clearly hard to get a complete vision of this genius and that, unfortunately, is felt in the film directed by Etienne Comar. The other possibility has clearly to do with his Roma background. Even today there is a persisting prejudice against these people. There have been a number of attempts to send them out of France, even when France is their home.
Colmar has made a bold move to create a film that address a neglected history and Django (Kateb) is a perfect messenger. Comar’s film takes place in 1943 where Django is being scrutinized by the Nazi regime. During his youth he lost two of his fingers but that did not stop him from playing the guitar. Instead he created a new modified style. Django had everything against him. He was a three-figure degenerate misfit who could emotionally set an audience on fire in the clubs. He naturally lands on the list and has to go into hiding. He is caught between two fronts and is lucky that so many people put out the effort to try to save him. The characters are shallow, the story is vague, but the film is rich in color and in music. If esthetics is all you need then this is a film worth seeing. ( )