Skupljači perja (I Even Met Happy Gypsies). 1967. Yugoslavia. Written and directed by Aleksandar Petrović. With Bekim Fehmiu, Olivera Vučo, Bata Živojinović, Gordana Jovanović, Mija Aleksić. In Serbo-Croatian with English subtitles. DCP. 82 min.
Aleksandar Petrović’s work betrays a genuine concern for people, places, and communities rarely seen on screen, and there is no better exemplar than his swan song, I Even Met Happy Gypsies. Set in a village on the Pannonian plain in northern Serbia, the film follows the dynamic, explosive life of the charismatic and self-destructive feather-gatherer Beli Bora Perjar. Petrović shows all the qualities of a great painter, bringing the texture and color of people’s inner lives onto the screen. Featuring an iconic performance by Bekim Fehmiu, and the definitive rendition of the song “Đelem, Đelem” by Olivera Katarina, I Even Met Happy Gypsies is a landmark in the cinematic portrayal of the Roma, the example to which all others refer, exceeding even the films of Slavko Vorkapich, Emir Kusturica, and Goran Paskaljević in its sheer authenticity. An international sensation, winner of the Grand Prix and FIPRESCI Prize at Cannes and an Oscar nominee, I Even Met Happy Gypsies is the most renowned work of the Yugoslav Black Wave. Now presented in a glorious restoration, it can be experienced for what it is: a true feast for the senses, heart, and mind.