Cobra Gypsies

Cobra Gypsies

2015, Society  -   45 Comments
Ratings: 8.58/10 from 301 users.

Filmmaker Raphael Treza traveled to northern India and lived among an ancient tribe known as the Kalbeliya for three months. Cobra Gypsies is the vibrant and enlightening document of that journey. The Kalbeliyas are a highly spirited people; ebullient in their celebration of life and colorful custom. Although many of them have never before met a foreigner prior to Treza's arrival at their camps, the tribes-people seem unguarded in their enthusiasms to share their culture.

The tribe is shown in comfort with the oftentimes inhospitable environment which surrounds them. In the midst of bee swarms and venomous lizards, they search for one of the most dominant symbols of their tribe - the cobra. In one particularly illuminating segment of the film, Treza is taken on an excursion to hunt the cobras, which are widespread inhabitants of the region. Once the cobras are caught, they are largely depleted of their deadly venom. Sometimes they are placed on public display for money. Gypsies also learn to handle the reptiles from an early age, and incorporate them into their ceremonial dances.

Music plays an integral role in defining the culture of the Kalbeliyas as well. Treza's camera captures the festivities at an annual two-day music festival, during which hundreds of families celebrate the name of Krishna through uninhibited dance from nightfall to sunrise. Vivid and pulsating beats permeate the entirety of the film, and help to characterize the thriving spirit of the community it documents. The camps are scored by the buoyant sounds of perpetual song.

Marriages are arranged from an early age, and the couple remains bonded until death. We observe the ritualistic beauty of a Kalbeliyas wedding, where the groom is covered in the eye-popping primary colors of plants and spices, guests descend upon the bride's house led by a mobile disc jockey, and dancing proceeds well into the night.

Cobra Gypsies allows viewers an opportunity to witness behaviors and customs that have never before been captured on camera. The filmmaker's point of view is unobtrusive, and we benefit from the sense of having lived in the presence of the Kalbeliyas for a brief, but glorious period of time.

Directed by: Raphael Treza

More great documentaries

45 Comments / User Reviews

  1. Lisa Parker

    Absolutely fascinating! Thank you!

  2. ness campagnaro

    Thank you for making this. It is a beautiful feeling I have walked away with watching it and it has inspired me in my jewellery designing.

  3. Carolyn Kennard

    Beautiful photography, but very shallow and boring commentary. The film maker does not seem to know much about the culture, it's history. Using the splendor of the colours and scenery and music that all belongs to the
    "gypsies" not to the film maker. to get across the line..... what a wasted opportunity. No gypsy perspective was asked or given. Very indulgent and ego driven.

  4. Cathy

    Very interesting!!!! More please!!!!

  5. nelson adrian

    reveals so much that one wishes to know more

  6. Mike


  7. Don

    Shame everybody in the comments missed the "info bomb" about the ancient civilisation migrations, rather important one at that

  8. T

    Very entertaining and touching <3 thank you for introducing me to the vibrant world of the kalbeliyas . love how they embrace music and art , love their simple yet joyful lifestyle, thank you <3 love from Hong Kong

  9. sheena

    lovely film, what beautiful happy people

  10. rushabh

    Raphael great work, I liked it

  11. Becky

    Video no longer available :'(

  12. John

    and then we have islam...

  13. John Cameron

    Absolutely amazing... Just everything about it is capturing

  14. Donald Trump

    Very slow and only mildly entertaining.. definitely up voted by his friends and family.. not worth a 8.8 vote... more like a 3.5 star. Most tourist travel to Rajastan on a sleeper class train and encounter gypise and snake charmers, nothing new and a one sided tale from another ignorant cash-cow in India.

    1. Rob

      not true. this is a great film. no idea who the film maker is


    Sweetly done!!!

  16. Gachi

    I will have to watch this many times. I greatly admire the free spirited way that Treza chose to photograph and produce the film. Although you might think that no one could miss the mark with such a great subject, many people would. This could have been a cold semi boring National Geographic style kind of thing about some weird people in India. Treza had a better idea. His style is outdone by the people he filmed, but I wonder if he would have ever wanted it any other way.

  17. Nikki Rae

    " A turtle".... Lol

    Best documentary ever!

  18. Rangarajan

    Mr. Raphael needs to be applauded for the effort he had taken to document the Cobra gypsies. In the searing heat of Rajasthan, with little or no cover from the hot sun, it is a very demanding exercise. It would have been complete, if the daily life and its rigor of a gypsy family was fully caught on the screen. Their metamorphic carefree life, punctuated by the music for every occasion will give an insight the hardships they face, only to be resolved by community approach, with an elder to give away the opinions and decisions, which normally bind everyone. The Irula tribes in Tamilnadu , south of India, an another Cobra catching tribe, have improved economically by forming cooperatives for the extraction and sale of snake venom, which is one of the most expensive product of nature.

  19. Robert

    brilliant, beautiful - the film, the music and the people

  20. Barry

    Fantastic, mesmerizing and beautiful.

  21. Vicky

    Why is this video no longer available?

  22. Mike

    Life is Magic.

  23. Jasna

    It is so good to see and to show us GOOD things and places and people and ways of life!!
    Biodiversity of flora-fauna&humans - this is the real riches of our planet. Mister Reza and his companions are brave and positive thinkers! Of course we all know that mother Earth is not black-white stuff!!! But the bright side has more Spirit! Thanks from Slovenija.

  24. Vikram

    This documemtry is superb.. cameraman did wonderful photography. It shows beautiful aspacts of these gypsies life.
    Full on entertainment..!

  25. Karen

    This documentary was the most beautiful and amazing thing I've seen in a long time. I want to watch it again and again. I've always felt an affinity for India (maybe a past life?), and I may have some Gypsy blood. Stunning and amazing.

  26. Rick

    This is a very special documentary. A true culture. Wish it were longer and in great depth but maybe Raphael will make another. Bravo Raphael, enjoyed every minute of it.

  27. Jen

    It was alright. But I'm concerned that it was overly romanticized. I would have been very interested to have had subtitles for all of the day-to-day conversation that you hear throughout the documentary. Like when the ladies are in tents all singing? I'd like to hear what the songs mean. When they catch the cobra in the village and all sorts of people are talking? I would like to hear what sort of things are being said. I feel like just having the narrator tell us about what's happening does not give a proper grasp of what these people's lives are like. Without such a simple thing as hiring a translater and making subtitles of the dialogue, this "glimpse" into the Cobra Gypsy life doesn't feel genuine.

  28. Mike

    Beautiful people. Beautiful music. Beautiful movie. Beautiful.

  29. Jenifer

    Love the music and the film is awesome. I have watched this documentary many times. Wanted to make sure I didn't miss anything.

  30. RK

    This is awesome. Very tastefully done.

  31. matt

    Amazing wow....this should win an award.

  32. Dodie

    This is a great documentary....These are a beautiful people..I recommend this video highly...

  33. leons

    wonderfully Did.........

  34. artslab

    Excellent documentary. Perfectly edited, really interesting to watch. Very recommended.

  35. Nagini

    As a photographer... dance lover, horse trainer and snake lover... and lover of India... this is absolutely fabulous. So incredibly beautiful and vibrant... love your style and awesome cinematography. Fantastic from beginning to end. Namaste.

  36. Maryam Hashemi

    So beautiful, we have been watching this documentary over and over again sharing it with friends and going over thd favourite moments. What a great job.

  37. Cory Dantos

    I was basically grinning the whole way watching it. Its such a cool documentary. I don t know why I still cant stop smiling lol.

  38. heybill

    very informative

  39. Bulletking

    What a brilliant documentary. One of the best I've seen. Exceptional brilliant photography & ?. Thank you for ur painstaking efforts n direction in bringing out this documentary

  40. Mark Trotier

    This for me is among the best documentaries of this type I have seen. It was moving and informative. Brilliant!

  41. hakan kaplan

    awesome ....

  42. sathish kumar

    i like this documentary very much,

  43. Jenika

    I have always felt an affinity with the Gypsies and was sad that they were not remembered when Hitler slaughtered so many of this special traveling band/s.

    1. Renee

      Saw this film in my Anthropology class...I am speechless. Their carefree, yet intentional lifestyle leaves me yearning for that freedom, freedom to express...freedom to live. Thank you, Raphael, for your sacrifice while making this amazing film.