Happy Valley

Madcap semi-documentary "The Shutka Book of Records" takes a laughing look at the jolly inhabitants of the Macedonian town of Shutka, the largest Rom community in the Balkans -- and probably in the world. Director Aleksandar Manic offers an insider's report on a gypsy culture that, in his view, is one big Fellini-esque circus.

Madcap semi-documentary “The Shutka Book of Records” takes a laughing look at the jolly inhabitants of the Macedonian town of Shutka, the largest Rom community in the Balkans — and probably in the world. Director Aleksandar Manic offers an insider’s report on a gypsy culture that, in his view, is one big Fellini-esque circus. It’s certainly not the deepest analysis, but this likeable film with nowhere special to go (it begins to circle back on itself) seems happy just to wallow in its own craziness. It will make an offbeat festival entry and should pick up some ancillary sales.

Manic, who shot the backstage for Emir Kusturica’s “Underground,” drolly narrates the film through Dr. Koljo (Severdzan Bajram), a character in “Black Cat, White Cat.” Shutka’s residents range from dervishes to rich merchants, dictionary writers to vampire exorcists. What they have in common is they all thrive on contests, in which each aspires to be the champion: boxing, dog fights, goose fights, songfests. Fast-moving visuals are an energetic mix of docu footage and recreated personal stories. Music borrows freely and repetitively from cinema scores by Rota, Goran Bregovic and even Bernard Herrmann.

Happy Valley

Czech Republic - Seribia

Production: A Cabiria Films production in association with Czech Television. (International sales: Cabiria Films, Prague.) Directed, written by Aleksandar Manic.

Crew: Camera (color/B&W), Dominik Miskovsky; editor, Ivana Davidova. Reviewed at Rotterdam Film Festival (Cinema of the World), Feb. 1, 2005. Running time: 79 MIN.

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