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Monday, 11 June 2018

Sydney Film Festival (13) - Jonas Carpignano's A CIAMBRA (Italy, 2017)

There’s some interesting stuff going round about the Focus on Italy selection at the SFF. One rumour has it that the films were all rejected by Palace for its Italian Film Festival, one of those behemoth events involving hundreds of screenings round Australia that the commercial chain specialises in. Who knows. Whatever…

Jonas Carpignano
A Ciambra has already been around the block, having been screened at MIFF last year. The numbers it attracted at a screening at the Ritz in Randwick, my favourite festival venue, were modest but not likely to have been the result of poor word of mouth from Melbourne. In fact it’s a ripping story which seems to have gone through some interesting production twists before it emerged. 

In brief it’s a tale of Roma people living in a desiccated slum, called Ciambra, outside some unknown Calabrian town. It wont enhance the Roma's reputation for here they eke out livings mostly on the wrong side of the law. Occasionally the police intervene but mostly they are allowed to keep to themselves. 

One among them is the 14 y-o Pio, already drinking, smoking and street smart. His trick of stealing luggage makes you want to ensure you never entrust your bags to those open racks they have at the end of the carriage in Italian trains. Pio suddenly has responsibility foisted on him when his brother and father are both arrested and imprisoned. He has work to do and calls on an older African friend to help. Which is the nub of the movie because eventually family loyalty wins out and Pio betrays his friend.

Pio Amato, A Ciambra
This is directed as if it’s a doco recording of the events, lots of hand held close-ups dominate. The exposition is completely linear. It's grimy, gritty, grainy and Ciambra itself is a pigsty. We do have to guess our way through some of the plot. 

Most of the ‘actors’ play versions of themselves and that’s quite a trick that director Jonas Carpignano has pulled off. 

I wonder if it indeed started life as a doco until footage was screened at film labs and workshops and the likes of Martin Scorsese climbed on board as an Executive Producer and its ambitions expanded. That was smart if it's what happened.

If this movie wasn’t good enough to meet the incredibly high standards of the annual Italian Film Festival, well…

1 comment:

  1. "Best film" in Cannes each year is a decision based on many things. I mean one person, this person's decision. It's not an award - it carries zero kudos, and certainly no prize. And reading my notes immediately following the festival in 2017, this was the best film I saw at the time - it's full of sparks, of energy, of storytelling zest. But it's also, as you saw, filthy, dirty, rough as guts reality. It's Italian, but a guttural Italian, Italian that doesn't fit the travelogue imagery for a second. I admired the hell out of it, was thoroughly engaged by it, but also felt for its limited market potential. Very glad that SFF took it on. And that you felt strongly about it.

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