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by Hüseyin Tabak

grade: 6.5

Enriched by sporadic animation inserts, Gipsy Queen leaves many questions open and deliberately does not give the audience definitive answers. On the contrary, as we approach the finale, it increasingly takes on a symbolic and at times surreal connotation.

A woman and her dream

The desire for payback and the (almost) impossible dream about a better future. It is not at all easy for a single mother to find her own balance within society. Especially if one has Roma origins and is constantly a victim of racism and discrimination. Yet, despite everything, life often offers the opportunity to chase one’s dreams. This, then, is the story of Ali, the protagonist of the feature film Gipsy Queen, made by Hüseyin Tabak in 2019 and which was supposed to be part of the selection of the Diagonale 2020, but, following the cancellation of the festival, was included within the programme Diagonale 2020 – The Unfinished.

Gipsy Queen is thus the story of a woman (played by an excellent Alina Serban) who, left by her partner and sent away from home by her father, must raise her young children alone. Her only ally seems to be her roommate (Irina Kurbanova), who is willing to help her pay the rent in difficult times. One day, however, Ali, on his way to clean at a club where boxing matches are organised, meets Tanne (an incredible Tobias Moretti, who won the Österreichischer Filmpreis 2020 for Best Actor in a Leading Role for this performance), a former boxer who, having had no particular satisfaction during his career, spends his days training new talents. The man, having learned about Ali’s past and having discovered that she was once a quite talented boxer, will give her the opportunity to train for free at his club. Will this, perhaps, be a possible chance for redemption?

In his work, Hüseyin Tabak was inspired by the story of his mother, who struggled hard in her youth to ensure that her children could have a bright future. Just as director Adrian Goiginger had also done in 2017 in the touching The Best of all Worlds. And Tabak, for his part, in staging this highly symbolic story – which is also reminiscent of American boxing films – has fortunately managed to avoid any dangerous rhetoric in this regard. We agree: not everything in Gipsy Queen runs as it should. And, at times, the director himself seems to get overly emotional, especially in the moments when the protagonist sees her father encouraging her to pursue her goals. Yet, overall, this feature seems well balanced in staging now joyful moments (as when Ali plays with her children and her roommate), now highly dramatic moments, during which the woman might even risk losing custody of her children. All in a series of emotional shocks that are well received by the audience thanks to a script skilfully realised by Tabak himself.

Enriched by sporadic pseudo animation inserts, during which the frames slowly take on the features of a crayon drawing by Esmeralda, Ali’s eldest daughter, Gipsy Queen leaves many questions unanswered and deliberately does not give the viewer definitive answers. On the contrary, as we approach the finale, it takes on more and more symbolic connotations, as the last scene, in which we see the protagonist training alone in a completely empty ring, shows.

And here boxing itself becomes the perfect symbol of the struggle of everyday life, where being able to make ends meet seems as difficult as winning the world title and being hired by a renowned manager means getting a regular, well-paid job, finally being able to forget about all the previous underpaid and undeclared jobs. Will our Ali succeed in achieving these goals and finally be able to live peacefully with her children? This, of course, we can never know.

Original title: Gipsy Queen
Directed by: Hüseyin Tabak
Country/year: Austria, Germany / 2019
Running time: 112’
Genre: drama, sport, biographical
Cast: Alina Serban, Tobias Moretti, Irina Kurbanova, Catrin Striebeck, Aleksandar Jovanovic, Sarah Carcamo Vallejos, Alsan Yilmaz Tabak, Sergiu Costache, Sorin Mihai, Jürgen Blin, Brian Al Amin, Katharina Behrens, Virgil Constantin, Anja Herden
Screenplay: Hüseyin Tabak
Cinematography: Lukas Gnaiger
Produced by: Dor Film

Info: the page of Gipsy Queen on the website of the Diagonale; the page of Gipsy Queen on iMDb