By Roger Costa
A GIRL RETURNED
Adapted from the eponymous best-selling novel, director Giuseppe Bonito’s heart-breaking drama follows the misfortunes of an adopted girl who is brought back to her biological parents, and attempts to overcome her destiny. As she traverses a stormy coming of age phase, she becomes the enlightenment at the loveless home with her perceptive sensibility and wisdom. They are also affected by their abusive parents (constant beating, forced laboring), rapidly conquering the affection of the youngest (and very brave) sister, and lured into her rebel brother’s forbidden seduction. An utterly sensitive and ambiguous feminine tale about identity, sisterly love and rejection, Bonito’s third feature film, which took home the David di Donatello Award for Best Adapted Screenplay, brings a breakthrough performance by Sofia Fiore as the protagonist. She grabs the viewer by the heart since the opening scene when she begs not to be left there with those unknown people, and next you can feel and sense her ability to balance and hide sorrow, loneliness and hopelessness under her skin, and under the never-shown smiles, with incredible confidence. It is a remarkable work that should, indeed, open new roads for both her and director Bonito.
(Screens June 11 and 14)
Contemporary master Nanni Moretti returns with a sophisticated, engrossing moral tale about how far one can go to protect the interests of family. Focusing on the events linking three families living at different floors on a middle-class condominium, after a drunken teenager causes a fatal car accident, Moretti elaborates the same humanistic and emphatic elements that characterized his acclaimed previous works (“The Son’s Room”, “Mia Madre”) in a melodramatic saga of family value and morality. Through three observations on family bond and conflicts, (a couple of judges guiding the weight of punishment for their son’s reckless accident, a first-time mother left alone while her absent contractor husband works abroad; and the dilemma consuming a father who suspects his elderly neighbor had abused his child), the director scores, once again, a charming, timely and relatable story about family resilience and second chances.
(Screens June 13 and 14)
An intense, gripping and ultra-violent urban drama that addresses house development, displacement, racism and social prejudice, director Hleb Papou’s feature debut centers on the tensions inside and outside an occupied apartments-complex, using their affinities and connections as a backdrop for an inevitable tragic tale about the battle between minorities and the giants of the system. A stirring multi-character study, the film is seen through the experiences and decisions an Afro-Italian member of the Roma’s riot-police division must make to maintain his integrity and duty in order. Besides finding agreement with his very pregnant wife, he must deal with the risk of having his mother and brother evicted from the complex, though he knows time will come when he might act in order to fulfill his police obligations. In the other side of this simmering and violent riot-infused atmosphere, the narrative also studies the other police members’ motivations in life, especially the captain who, despite all his prejudice, develops a familiar relationship to his fellows, considered to be the future godfather of the protagonist’s soon-to-be-born baby. A tour de force work about community strength, resistance and the blurred lines between civic and family responsibilities, Papou’s urgent and compelling drama deservedly won him the Best Emerging Director Award at Locarno. Definitely, one to watch! (Screens June 11 and 15)
THE CODE OF SILENCE
A young woman starts doubting what’s known behind her mother’s disappearance or death and investigates her family’s history and inclinations to criminality in this absorbing, unflinching story about the consequences and influence of the notorious crime syndicate ’Ndrangheta over the Calabrian community. Director Francesco Costabile’s unconventional and merciless gangster drama is totally unpredictable and marvelously performed, filled with horrifying characters and shockingly violent situations, making it a great, satisfying and entertaining watch.
(Screens June 11)
Throughout his career, director Paolo Taviani, along with his brother and filmmaking partner Vittorio (dead a few years ago), had deeply explored the traumas and consequences of post-war, immigration and abandonment. Working solo, Taviani continues to tackle those themes and issues, reflecting on the country’s coping experiences with postwar and on adapting with the American occupation, the impacts on the death of legendary Italian writer Luigi Pirandello, and the emotionally fragility of the immigrant condition. Divided into two chapters, Taviani composes a visually-stunning, mysterious and lyrical hybrid of Avant-Garde, historical drama and deadpan comedy dividing his narrative into two chapters. The first one, shot in an enthralling B&W, centers on the attempts of the renowned writer’s son in transporting his ashes to his desired place of rest, while crossing paths with a series of personalities that mirrors aspects of the human condition. The second, shot in color, adapts Pirandello’s story, “The Nail”, which captures the aftermath of a crime committed by an Italian immigrant boy in New York, and depicts the hardworking efforts of those courage-inspiring days. Winner of the FIPRESCI Award at this year’s Berlin, 90-year-old Taviani beautifully and emotionally crafts a delicate, bitterly funny and profoundly melancholic ode to his brother, the importance of Pirandello’s works, the powerful influence of cinema, music and literature, the pleasures of existence, the inevitability of death, the persistence of the human dream, and the infinite cycle of life ruling the world. And the final shot is an unforgettable image of grieving, but also of hope, as lights go on.
(Screens June 13 and 15)
(Presented by Film at Lincoln Center and Cinecitta, the 21st Open Roads: New Italian Cinema runs June 9-15. Directors will be in attendance for selected Q&A’s. Go to www.FilmLinc.org for schedule and details.)