In Searching for the 4th Nail (trailer here) American Romani filmmaker George Eli turns his camera both outward and inward, asking not just what it means to be an American Gypsy, but Roma in general. The title refers to the legendary the fourth nail of the crucifixion, which as the story goes, was stolen by a Gypsy blacksmith. In gratitude, God granted his descendents the right to steal. Eli seems to see this Gypsy creation myth as a double-edged sword, simultaneously giving them a sense of mystical identity, but also facilitating low expectations of rootless lives lived in the margins of society.
Not everyone in Eli’s family was thrilled with the project. The post-screening consensus was that his sons Alex and Christopher stole the show. His wife however, is notably absent. It is his sons’ questions which initiates Eli’s search for answers, at one point leading father and sons to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. While Eli does not deny the existence of anti-Roma prejudice, he is also critical of some Roma preconceptions, particular the notion that education is only for the Gadjie (non-Roma). That lends a great deal of nuance to the film.
The Elis, father and sons, exhibit consistently likeable on-screen personalities. As a filmmaker, Eli keeps the Nail moving a healthy pace and deftly addresses some serious issues without getting overwhelmed by their weightiness. Screened in a sneak preview, Nail looks to be good to go for the festival circuit. It could well serve as an accessible introduction for many people to the issues addressed by a number of the films in the festival.