Film at Lincoln Center and Istituto Luce Cinecittà announced the complete lineup of contemporary Italian films for the 20th edition of Open Roads: New Italian Cinema, screening May 28 – June 6 in the FLC Virtual Cinema.
Opening the festival is Bad Tales, the second feature by festival alumni Damiano and Fabio D’Innocenzo (2018’s Boys Cry). A dark and absorbing portrait of youth in the Roman suburbs, the film took home the Berlinale Silver Bear Award for Best Screenplay last year. Highlights from other returning filmmakers include Daniele Luchetti’s The Ties, starring Alba Rohrwacher (Happy as Lazzaro, I Am Love) in a family portrait spanning several decades; Claudio Noce’s Padrenostro, a quasi-autobiographical coming-of-age tale cast against the backdrop of Italy’s terroristic Years of Lead; and Gianluca and Massimiliano De Serio’s Una Promessa, a moving parable about working-class survival.
Documentaries feature strongly in the Open Roads lineup, including Francesca Mazzoleni’s Punta Sacra, which focuses on a small village outside of Rome, threatened by encroaching real estate development; Franco Maresco’s The Mafia Is No Longer What It Used to Be, a fascinating exploration of anti-Mafia judges Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino and their enduring legacies; and a return to nonfiction for Pietro Marcello (Martin Eden, NYFF57) with For Lucio, which chronicles the life of Bolognese singer Lucio Dalla. Additional highlights include Salvatore Mereu’s Sardinian mystery Assandira; Pietro Castellitto’s The Predators, a dark comedy skewering class antagonism in contemporary Italy; Giorgio Diritti’s kaleidoscopic portrait of the visionary painter Antonio Ligabue, Hidden Away; and Elisa Amoruso’s semi-autobiographical tale of a budding relationship in late 1980s Italy, Sirley.
2021 Open Roads: New Italian Cinema Lineup
Damiano & Fabio D’Innocenzo, Italy/Switzerland, 2020, 98m
The second feature by the D’Innocenzo brothers is an absorbing, richly traced group portrait of youth on the precipice of puberty, set on the outskirts of Rome. Our protagonists are the children of dysfunctional homes, and we observe them as they go about their daily lives amid the frequently apathetic, at times violent world of adults. The tensions in the air vibrate ever more intensely as Bad Tales simultaneously grows more dreamlike and more visceral, revealing bit by bit the everyday nightmare underlying suburban life. An energetic work that is at once a kind of dark fairy tale and a stylish act of sociological inquiry, Bad Tales is a wild ride that captivatingly makes the case that the kids are not, in fact, alright. A Strand Releasing release.
Salvatore Mereu, Italy, 2020, 126m
Italian, Sardinian, English, and German with English subtitles
Salvatore Mereu’s previous work established him as a deft chronicler of life in Sardinia, and his latest, Assandira, furthers this pedigree in the form of a mystery film with a jagged political resonance. We meet our protagonist, Costantino (Gavino Ledda, author of the seminal Sardinian novel Padre padrone, which was famously adapted by the Taviani brothers in 1977), in the immediate wake of a devastating fire at the agriturismo ;owned by his son (who has died in the calamity). Mereu then takes us back, retracing the winding chain of events that led to this tragedy and the complex relationship between Costantino, his son, and his son’s German wife, powerfully bearing witness to the decline of traditional Sardinian culture amid a changing Europe.
For Lucio/Per Lucio
Pietro Marcello, Italy, 2021, 79m
Following Lost and Beautiful (2015) and Martin Eden (2019), Pietro Marcello returns to documentary with his latest, a reverent portrait of the late Bolognese singer Lucio Dalla. Combining interviews with Dalla’s collaborators and friends with a kaleidoscopic array of archival footage, For Lucio chronicles his rise to prominence in the 1960s and ’70s, on the strength of his ballads that captured postwar Italy’s movement away from rural culture and toward hyper-industrialized urbanism, effectively discarding remnants of the past to make way for mass consumerism and the growth of the Italian middle-class. An intoxicating work of montage and cultural history, For Lucio is at once a moving tribute to its charismatic subject and a meditation on the concessions of modernity
Hidden Away/Volevo nascondermi
Giorgio Diritti, Italy, 2020, 120m
Elio Germano turns in a tour-de-force performance as Naïve painter Antonio Ligabue in Giorgio Diritti’s melancholic and forceful biopic. Fragments of Ligabue’s upbringing, his early dealings with mental illness, his expulsion from Switzerland and relocation to his ancestral (deeply impoverished and soon to be Fascist-controlled) Italy, his being forced into a psychiatric ward, and his eventual arrival at a measure of artistic success are presented with dimensionality and grandeur that offer a fascinating counterpoint to Ligabue’s own rawly emotional paintings. The result is an absorbingly kaleidoscopic and empathetic portrait of a tortured visionary out of joint with the unaccepting society that surrounds him.
The Mafia Is No Longer What It Used to Be/La mafia non è più quella di una volta
Franco Maresco, Italy, 2019, 105m
The latest from Franco Maresco (Belluscone: A Sicilian Story, 2014) takes as its point of departure the 25th anniversary of the assassination of anti-Mafia judges Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino during the Capaci and Via D’Amelio bombings, hitting the pavement in Palermo to see what its residents think of the two martyred magistrates. This investigation soon spins out into an often satirical yet dogged examination of popular complacency over the Cosa Nostra’s enduring hold on some part of the national psyche. Maresco may ridicule many of his on-screen subjects, yet The Mafia Is No Longer… is less of a prank than an earnest and fierce lament, a wild yet complex provocation.
Claudio Noce, Italy, 2020, 122m
Loosely based on a real-life assassination attempt against his father, who was a deputy police commissioner, by Nuclei Armati Proletari radicals in 1976, Claudio Noce’s latest is a coming-of-age tale cast against the backdrop of Italy’s tumultuous Years of Lead. Vividly imaginative 10-year-old Valerio (Mattia Garaci) witnesses an attempt on his father Alfonso’s (Pierfrancesco Favino) life by an apparent terrorist; though his father survives, a thick climate of fear descends upon the family as political tensions in Italy grow ever more volatile. But that summer, Valerio will meet an older (and possibly imaginary) boy, Christian (Francesco Gheghi), bringing an end to Valerio’s loneliness and adding a wrinkle to the family’s efforts to move on from the collective trauma of Alfonso’s near-death experience.
The Predators/I predatori
Pietro Castellitto, Italy, 2020, 109m
Pietro Castellitto’s black comedy takes aim at class antagonism in contemporary Italy, with a vast network of characters an assistant professor obsessed with the mystery of Nietzsche’s virginity (Castellitto); his father, a philandering doctor (Massimo Popolizio); his filmmaker mother (Manuela Mandracchia); a brash gun-shop clerk (Giorgio Montanini); and many others—flailing about and generally messing with each other in an inept world of schemes that seldom pan out. Ravishingly lensed by Carlo Rinaldi, buoyed by an inspired ensemble cast, and as insightful as it is gleefully brazen, The Predators plumbs the absurd for harsh, hilarious truths about latter-day social stratification.
Gianluca & Massimiliano De Serio, Italy/France/Belgium, 2020, 104m
The De Serio brothers bring their background in documentary to bear in their fictional latest, a low-key humanist drama about class, parenthood, and getting by in a world of casual tragedy and chaos. Salvatore Esposito stars as Giuseppe, a half-blind laborer in southern Italy whose wife suddenly passes, leaving him to raise their son Antò solo. Giuseppe assures Antò that his mother will miraculously rise from the dead—but how can he deliver on this impossible promise? In their gripping chronicle of a father’s attempts to draw water from a stone, the De Serios unsurprisingly are also consumed with socioeconomic circumstances, painting a moving parable about working-class survival.
Francesca Mazzoleni, Italy, 2020, 96m
Francesca Mazzoleni’s lyrical documentary traces a multifaceted portrait of Ostia, a small village at the mouth of the Tiber, south of Rome. The site where Pier Paolo Pasolini’s body was discovered following his murder, Ostia is now something of a down-home assemblage of illegally built houses for the organically grown local culture of the roughly 500 families living there. But as with so many vestiges of a time before our globalized present, Ostia’s existence is threatened by encroaching real estate development, suggesting its time may be more limited than its residents had hoped. Mazzoleni embeds with the locals and spends time with them, particularly Ostia’s women, initiating intimate conversations and ultimately arriving at an absorbing ode to their courage, strength, and perseverance.
Elisa Amoruso, Italy, 2020, 94m
Documentarian Elisa Amoruso’s semi-autobiographical fiction debut chronicles a young girl’s plight as she strives to make sense of her place in the world under the not-so-watchful eyes of her dysfunctional parents in the late 1980s. Emma Fasano stars as Nina, a 13-year-old whose family has been forced to move from the center of Rome to its outskirts; while her parents run afoul of each other, she starts classes at her new school, only to rapidly enter into explosive conflict with Sirley (Manon Bresch), a student from French Guyana. But antagonism just as quickly turns to friendship, and the two slip into a relationship that will define their coming-of-age.
Daniele Luchetti, Italy, 2020, 100m
An intimate chronicle spanning four decades, Daniele Luchetti’s latest skips across time and space, presenting fragments of a family’s history to arrive at a seductively complex group portrait. Adapted from a novel by co-scriptwriter Domenico Starnone, The Ties stars Alba Rohrwacher and Luigi Lo Cascio as a married couple raising their children in Naples in the early 1980s; a confession of infidelity sets the gears in motion for the events of the years to come, in which the family will be torn asunder only to reassemble time and again. An ambitious and moving drama anchored by an exceptional ensemble cast, The Ties plays with the irreconcilability of individual memories of a shared past to conjure the persistence of familial loyalty.