Big Fat Gypsy Weddings
This largely sympathetic look into the usually closed
communities of 'Romany gypsies' or 'travellers' in Britain and Ireland
is interesting, bubbly and definitely colourful. Each of the five
episodes, 'Born to be Wed', 'No Place Like Home', 'Desperate
Housewives', 'Boys Will Be Boys' and 'Bride & Prejudice' have at their
core at least one (but usually more) wedding ceremonies, with the
perspective and emphasis changing depending on the title.
The traditional, church-linked life stages are very
important to the communities' members and hence feature prominently.
They start from first communion, at age eight, and the wedding is a
highlight, usually during a girl's late teens. The dress takes on a
whole new level of importance, as preference for shine and colour
dominate all. Taste among those being filmed is very much subjective,
but they seem comfortable in that knowledge.
There is a lot of attention in the documentary devoted to
the superficial splendour of the ceremonies and preparations for them,
but other areas of interest to the viewer (like me), such as lack of
school attendance or interaction with non-traveller residents or doctors
or police are simply mentioned or skimmed. This is rather disappointing
but to be expected of a title like Big Fat Gypsy Weddings. It is
basically the cream on top of a multi-tiered cake rather than the hidden
sponge that this show looks at.
There is a risk in the temptation to view these people
are cartoonish stereotypes preoccupied with gauche fashion and kitsch
housing. The invitation to laugh at rather than laugh with is never
explicitly revoked by the filmmakers, which made me uneasy. There is
discussion at the IMDb message boards about the kind of English spoken
in the show (subtitles are sometimes used) and how authentic and
representative the people in this documentary are. This is hardly gritty
cinéma verité, however, so I think such points of criticism are
unwarranted and irrelevant for the material presented.
I liked the taste of traditional music on the soundtrack
but would have relished much more. The narrator, Barbara Flynn, can get
a bit draining. There is also a lot of (explicable) focus on dressmaker
Thelma Madine. The impression I got is that the series is half about her
and the dresses she confects.
Packaged as a '60 Minute Special', there is a stand-alone
episode simply called 'My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding' which is a neat summary
of the whole series and very watchable. There is no other bonus material
but there are subtitles. This show will appeal to the wedding-tragic
crowd and lovers of fluff and colour.