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Mixed Media: Film

Pio and friends – keeping the family business going.

The Ciambra (118 minutes) directed and written by Jonas Carpignano

Skinny, 14-year-old Pio has a lined, worn look older than his years. He’s watchful, chain smokes, hangs around his older brother when he’s allowed to. He doesn’t go to school, can’t read, but he can drive a car. He wants to prove himself to his family, especially his brother, and bring in money. They live, with other Romanies, in a small, messy, badly-serviced housing complex – The Ciambra – outside the southern Italian town of Gioia Tauro.

It was the setting for Carpignano’s debut feature Mediterranea, about African migrants working as fruit pickers. One of its main characters Ayiva, appears here, as a friend and mentor to Pio, who also appeared in the earlier film. Pio’s world is small – The Ciambra; the ‘Africans’, who live in a nearby shanty; and the visiting, well-off ‘Italians’ who sponsor thefts and fence stolen goods. Pio’s family’s trade is thieving. Pio has some nice tricks.

He steals luggage off trains, breaks into and drives away cars and demands money for their return. When his brother is arrested, he thinks about bigger things – like stealing from the ‘Italians’. It comes with huge risks, and when his brother returns, he’s pulled into an enterprise that severely tests him.

This is a gritty, authentic story about values, personal and group loyalty, marginalization and lack of life opportunity. It’s gripping and moving, small-scale but universal, timely and relevant.

★★★★★ ML

Fragility and toughness, when political violence strikes.

In the Fade (106 minutes) directed and co-written by Fatih Akin

A one-time drug-dealing Kurd, Nuri, who turned his life around in prison, works as a translator. He, and a tattooed student he sold grass to, Katja, are happily married and have a little boy, Rocco, with Joe 90 glasses. One afternoon she drops the boy off at his dad’s Hamburg office and goes with her sister to a Turkish bath. When Katja returns, police have sealed off the street – because of an explosion. Or rather, she quickly learns, a bomb. Planted outside the office, by a young woman she saw leave a bike with a box on the back-rack, it’s blown her husband and son to pieces.

It’s a powerful set-up to a film that’s strong on empathy – its focus and concern is Katja, trying to keep herself together through a police investigation, trial and its aftermath. Diane Kruger brilliantly gets Katja’s loneliness and despair, her fragility and her toughness. She’s at odds with parents and in-laws, and the police who are looking for evidence that Nuri was still dealing. She attempts suicide, but, out of nowhere, as she bleeds in her bath, hears a message recording on her phone, that the police have arrested two neo-Nazis.

This is not a film about political motivation, though a defending lawyer and a defence witness are memorably repellent. It’s a film that cleverly uses genre – police procedural, court-room drama, thriller – to focus on what it feels like to be a victim of political violence. It’s about, at a basic level, our love and need for others, for mutuality and justice.

★★★★ ML

New Internationalist issue 513 magazine cover This article is from the May 2018 issue of New Internationalist.
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