Review: ‘The Orchestra of Piazza Vittorio’

One of Italy's rare sleepers, contagiously upbeat "The Orchestra of Piazza Vittorio" is a rousing call to arms for world-music aficionados, with strong appeal to those who believe in the mini-miracles of neighborhood cultural initiatives.

One of Italy’s rare sleepers, contagiously upbeat “The Orchestra of Piazza Vittorio” is a rousing call to arms for world-music aficionados, with strong appeal to those who believe in the mini-miracles of neighborhood cultural initiatives. Describing how two Italians put together an orchestra of 30 foreign musicians living (more or less) in Rome — and playing 15 unrelated instruments — this musical docu has good news and a happy ending. Pic’s amazing five-month run in Italian arthouses should blossom into scattered sales abroad.

Taken under the wing of director-exhibitor Nanni Moretti, this small film has entranced Roman auds with impromptu post-screening performances by a number of the principals. But its popularity goes well beyondgimmickry.

The idea came from Mario Tronco, who plays keyboard for Italy’s famed Avion Travel, and documaker Agostino Ferrente — both residents of the Piazza Vittorio neighborhood, a stone’s throw from Rome’s Termini station. This old area is populated by some 60 ethnic groups and has more foreign residents than Italians.

With the aim of saving the glorious old Apollo Theater, under threat of being turned into a bingo parlor, Tronco and Ferrente create a neighborhood committee called the Apollo 11. Their first goal is to re-open the Apollo as a multimedia, multi-ethnic theater. Their second is to find musicians from the four corners of the globe to play in an orchestra.

Ironic humor is the keynote that holds the five-year saga together, as the pair struggle against ever-new obstacles to achieve their goals.

The uplifting final concert features a perspiring Tronco as conductor. (The orchestra has so far played more than 200 concerts across Europe.)

Reflecting the film’s focus on diversity, much time is devoted to telling the stories of the various musicians from Tunisia, India, Africa, Cuba and beyond. Most interesting, even for those who can’t carry a tune, are the use of completely unrelated instruments like the Arab oud, the Cuban conga and Africa drums.

The Orchestra of Piazza Vittorio

Italy

Production

A Lucky Red release of a Lucky Red, Pirata MC, Bianca Film production. (International sales: Wide Management, Paris.) Produced by Andrea Occhipinti. Directed by Agostino Ferrente. Written by Ferrente, Massimo Gaudioso, Mariangela Barbanente, Francesco Piccolo.

Crew

Camera (color), Greta De Lazzaris, Alberto Fasulo, Simone Pierini, Giovanni Piperno, Sabrina Varani; editor, Desideria Rayner, Jacopo Quadri, Roberta Crusciani, Mascha Calamandrei; music, the Orchestra of Piazza Vittorio, Avion Travel; sound (Dolby Digital), Pierre Yves Lavoue, Francois Waledisch. Reviewed at Nuovo Sacher, Rome, Dec. 21, 2006. (In Locarno Film Festival, Piazza Grande.) Running time: 90 MIN.

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