By Roger Costa
One of the most shocking and thought-provoking films of the year, Alessandro Celli’s dystopian drama offers a superb examination on brotherhood, loyalty and the ego of masculinity. In a near-future chaotic setting, two pre-teen criminals working for an aging abusive fisherman, dream of switching the fish nets for heavy guns, as they will do anything to get accepted by the “Ants”, a murderous gang-organization which the soldiers are minors, and their leader is a merciless killer who goes face to face against the authorities, or anyone who try to come across his way. When the pair plants a bomb at a pet shop, making a name for themselves, the Ant leader decides to take them in, but they have no idea what await them: they will be forced to prove their loyalty to the crime ring, even if that means separation and conflicts among themselves. On the other side of the city, divided by a deadly scrap-metal wall, a female officer with a mysterious past, works on the case and becomes personally involved with an orphan girl who might carry some explanations.
Influenced by the violent aesthetic and atmosphere of both “A Clockwork Orange” and “City of God”, director Celli conceives a powerful study on manhood and the desperate ways one must go through in order to survive.
Celli, making here his directorial debut, proves himself to be a great visionary, as well as an incredible storyteller. The visuals of the film are flawless, as scary as any Batman-like Hollywood production, and the script maintains the interest throughout, with lots of bloodbaths and singular moments of humanitarian meditation, especially when the audience becomes attached to those two little criminals, even though they are causing a lot of mayhem, they somehow earn our affection. As Cristian, the most tempestuous and ambitious of the pair, Guiliano Soprano gives a breakthrough performance, showing complete control of his character’s conditions, emotions, anger and loneliness- he also promptly portraits a kid under health pressure, as he constantly suffers epileptic seizures. The other half, Dennis Protopapa, in the role of Pietro, also demonstrates charisma and engagement with his more optimistic and emphatic personality. And the always reliable Alessandro Borghi, one of Italy’s best actors, is magnificently horrifying as Hothead, the Ants leader. Intense, masterly crafted and visionary, Celli scores a fresh, ultra-violent saga about a strong friendship destroyed by exploitation, greed and the reckless inclination of youngsters toward criminality. A must-see unpredictable wild ride, this is a thrilling post-apocalyptic noir that will keep you entertained and shocked at equal levels.
(Kino Lorber. 5/20. Angelika Film Center NYC.)
An irreverent look at what means to be a Black man in contemporary France, actor/co-director Jean-Pascal Zadi’s furious mockumentary addresses racial issues with brilliant sarcasm and accuracy. An infamous you-tuber who gained fame making funny videos about racism and slavery, the failed actor and family man decides to organize a national march in Paris in solidarity for the Black cause, but the process will have him finding hurdles in his way. Trying to get sponsors, partners and the help from the community he is challenged by his own knowledge and motivations when confronted by the realities he forgot to notice around him. All of the confusion will lead him to analyze his own condition as a Black man in the era of individualism, modern slavery and consumerism. Filled with hilarious moments of ethnic confusion and social/racial conflicts, as well as a boiling portrait on the influence of media and public opinion, Zadi along with his co-director John Wax, conceived a smart and engaging adventure-comedy that blends elements of “Borat” and “Mr. Bean” with a remarkable enthusiasm.
(Screens May 14 and 17 as part of the 29th New York African Film Festival held at Film at Lincoln Center. Go to www.FilmLinc.org for details.)