With music and images, the film travels across the landscape of Central Europe and describes the inventiveness and stylistic range of Roma musical traditions. With shifting rhythms and changing textures from city to village, concert hall to café - Usti Opre challenges our ideas about gypsy culture and rewards us with a rich and engaging musical panorama. Through interaction during rehearsal, recording, and live performance, the film explores the unique boundaries of contemporary Roma music and describes the creative capacities of individual musicians who, despite prejudice and discrimination, continue to build upon traditions and shape new avenues of musical expression.
Born in New York City, I am a filmmaker, visual media artist, writer and teacher. At university in the early 60s I studied architecture and worked in architectural companies in Baltimore where I began making films. I returned to New York City where I met the filmmaker Ken Jacobs; taught at the Filmmaker’s Co-Op and was one of the founding members of the documentary film collective Newsreel. My films have been presented at major festivals in North America, Europe and Asia. I was a co-director of Third World Newsreel.
In 1991 I moved to Chicago where I made to films under the title Lifting the Fog (about the Middle East and Hiroshima).Subsequently, I taught in the video department at the School of the Art Institute. In Chicago I made the film A Clean Well-lighted Place (Hemingway) and a play based on Jean Genet’s play The Balcony.
I have lived in Hungary since 2001 and directed the documentary feature film USTI OPRE about Roma musicians; in Budapest I teach in the Intermedia Department of the Hungarian University of Fine Arts and continue to create new work a variety of visual media.
WHERE ARE THE POETS TODAY? - 7 minute video, June 2012, Pärnu Film & Video festival August 2012;
VIDEO SKETCHES (on YouTube) - Green Markets, Critical Mass - Budapest, Why Tesco, Why?, La Vie En Rose, Every Saturday and Sunday, A Christmas Merry 2010 and a Happy New Year;
PHANTOM TRUCK – (2007) director/editor/camera – a “made for YouTube” video coinciding with DOCUMENTA 12 - Kassel, Germany;
AMERICA (2008/1971) - director/editor - Cinema du Reel, Centre Pompidou, Paris;
ALL ALONG THE WATCHTOWER: Reconnecting the Dots of '68 - Meantime Exhibition Space, Cheltenham, UK Spring, 2008;
USTI OPRE (2007) Director/Editor - Hungarian, German, UK co-production. A feature length documentary film about contemporary Roma music from Central Europe featuring Snétberger Ferenc, Balogh Kálmán and Boban Markovic;
MIES VAN DER ROHE IN AMERICA (2001) co-director, editor and director of photography for the video installations: Federal Centre Chicago, Seagrams Building, New York and Farhnsworth House, Plano. Illinois. Exhibition June through September 2001 at Whitney Museum of American Art; the Museum of Contemporary Art (Chicago) and the Canadian Centre for Architecture (Montreal);
LA BASIR (The Kiss) (2000) videographer and editor for video installation by Inigo Manglano-Ovalle, Whitney Biennial 2000 Permanent collection Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago and Whitney Museum, New York;
JUBA: Masters of Percussive Dance (1998) Director, Co-Producer and Editor (60 minutes/video) PBS National Broadcast; A documentary and performance film about tap dance co-produced with WTTW - Channel 11 (Chicago PBS affiliate);
A CLEAN, WELL-LIGHTED PLACE (1994) - Director and Screenwriter A dramatic film based on the short story by Ernest Hemingway (16mm film, color - 1994) Co-produced by The School of the Art Institute of Chicago and The Longmeadow Foundation. Broadcast by The Independent Channel; winner of “The Bob Award” from WTTW for best independent narrative film;
THE BOMBING OF HIROSHIMA AND NAGASAKI (1991) Director, Editor and Screenwriter (video/film - 60 min.) An examination of the decision to use the first nuclear weapons; a video that combines dramatizations, archival materials and interviews with Gar Alperovitz, John Donner, Robert Lifton and the noted physicist Phillip Morrison;
INTRIGUE IN THE MIDDLE EAST (1991) Director, Editor and Screenwriter (video/film - 110 min.) Beginning with the period immediately preceding World War II, the documentary presents an historical overview of events leading up to the Gulf War and the continuing conflicts in Israel and Palestine including interviews with Edward Said, Noam Chomsky and Former Ambassador Patrick Murphy National Broadcast Free Speech TV;
NO TIME TO LOSE Co-director and co-producer (beta video - 17 min.) documentary film about children living in the inner cities in New York State; broadcast WNET, New York City 1990;
WHO KILLED VINCENT CHIN? Contributing Editor (16mm - 90 min.)A feature length documentary about the social and political implications of the killing of Vincent Chin by unemployed autoworkers in Detroit in 1982 1988 national broadcast PBS; ACADEMY AWARD NOMINATION, LONDON FILM FESTIVAL Produced by Third World Newsreel, The Film News Now Foundation and Detroit Public Television 1988;
THE MARRIAGE DINNER Executive Producer (16mm - 20 min.) An original drama produced by the Third World Newsreel Advanced Film and Video Workshop about an El Salvadorian woman’s attempt to purchase a "green card" selected for national broadcast "The Independents," AMERICAN FILM AND VIDEO FESTIVAL;
NICARAGUA: CHRONICLE OF HOPE Co-producer, Director and Editor (16mm – 50 min.) During the height of Nicaraguan civil war, a diverse group of North Americans travels by boat to Nicaragua with a cargo of humanitarian supplies; in Spanish with English sub-titles. TURIN INT’L YOUTH FILM FESTIVAL , ANN ARBOR FILM FESTIVAL, 1986