"When we experience a loss, a hole opens up inside of us," David Wolpe has written about the hard work of grieving. "It is almost as if the loss itself plows right through us, leaving us gasping for air. We bleed through that opening, and sometimes old wounds are reopened."

In Tony Gatlif's emotionally affecting Vengo, Caco (Antonio Canales) is a rich and powerful man living on a large estate in the Andalusian plains of southern Spain. He is the leader of his clan and is surrounded by many friends. But the recent death of his daughter has taken the wind out of his sails. He visits her shrine by day and at night, to cover his despair, throws parties and immerses himself body and soul in the flamenco music played, sung, and danced by the gypsies.

Caco has transferred his love and devotion to his young nephew Diego (Orestes Villasan Rodriguez), who suffers from cerebral palsy but is eager to experience more of the outside world. But there is an obstacle to their deepening relationship, Caco's brother, who is Diego's father, has been hiding in Morocco after he killed a member of the Caravacas family. Members of this rival clan have vowed revenge, and their target is Diego.

Tony Gatlif has made several amazing films about gypsy culture, including Latcho Drom (1993) and Gadjo Dilo (1997). The flamenco songs here, especially those of La Paquera de Jerez, mirror the sadness in Caco's soul. Making a powerful counterpoint to the flamenco music are the songs of longing by Sheikh Ahmad Al Tuni, an Egyptian Sufi, performed over chants of the names of God. It turns out that one of Caco's daughter's favorite tapes was of a Sufi zikr. Music is like another character in the film, carrying the emotions of the situation. Similarly, the land reflects both the greening and the desert in Caco's life. In a critical scene in the film, one of Caco's bodyguards notices that a tree has "duende" — a term poet Federico Garcia Lorca used to refer to the mysterious dark and passionate soul of the earth.

Flamenco music takes heartbreak and transforms it into healing music that lifts our spirits. Tony Gatlif's Vengo takes lamentation and shows how it can be transformed into the beauty of sacrificial love.

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