You’ll be riveted by the driving staccato rhythms of Rachel Leah Jones’ fascinating documentary Gypsy Davy. The Berkeley-born filmmaker grew up in Tel Aviv but comes home to the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival with a passionate, personal film. Wielding her camera, she seeks to understand the celebrated flamenco guitarist David Serva, one of the foremost interpreters of traditional Gypsy flamenco. But Serva is also her father, who left her mother (a stunning flamenco dancer herself) and Rachel when she was just a year old.
Serva wasn‘t always Serva. At Berkeley High, he was David Jones, a white American with Alabama roots attracted to Jewish women (three of his five major liaisons). In the ’70s, their hippie neighbors called Serva and Rachel’s mother the King and Queen of Spain, but Rachel thought of them as the bohemian version of Robert Redford and Barbara Streisand.
The opening scene is an intimate gathering with the incomparable cantaoras Inés Bacán, Pepa de Benito and bailaora Concha Vargas, who roar out a bulería that mirrors the filmmaker’s quest, “I asked God to give me permission to love you again.” Gyspy Davy demonstrates Serva’s artistry and the impact of his choices on the women and children who tried to love him. Without sentimentality, Rachel faces her father, her siblings and the five mothers, many of whom are still haunted by the legacy that Serva left behind. With searing honesty and wry humor, Rachel unravels a series of tangled lives and forges new possibilities. And if you’ve ever wondered about the real story behind the Counting Crow’s hit “Mr. Jones,” Gypsy Davy provides the definitive answer.