×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Film Review: ‘A Ciambra’

Jonas Carpagnino resumes the stories of certain characters from his neo-realist debut 'Mediterranea' in this thoughtful but less arresting follow-up.

Director:
Jonas Carpignano
With:
Pio Amato, Koudous Seihon, Iolanda Amato, Damiano Amato, Francesco Pio Amato, Patrizia Amato, Rocco Amato, Susanna Amato. (Italian dialogue)

Official Site: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt6802896/?ref_=nm_flmg_wr_1

Neo-realism isn’t necessarily a genre built for star turns, but director Jonas Carpignano happened upon one anyway in his debut “Mediterranea”: Then-preteen Pio Amato wasn’t the lead in that accomplished, affecting refugee drama, but his spiky, wily turn as a Romani artful dodger in the Calabrian coastal town of Gioia Tauro was a bright, skittering firework in its margins. It comes as no surprise, then, that Carpignano has placed Pio center-stage for his similarly empathetic follow-up “A Ciambra,” weaving the charismatic kid’s tough coming-of-age narrative into a broader study of poverty and racial prejudice on the fringes of Italian society.

With the presence of Martin Scorsese as an executive producer, this polished semi-sequel to “Mediterranea” — which extends the narratives of certain characters from that film, but is otherwise a freestanding work — will doubtless boost Carpignano’s already fast-rising profile on the festival and arthouse circuit. Creatively speaking, however, “A Ciambra” is something of a step sideways for the Italian-American filmmaker, consolidating his considerable formal and observational gifts while fumbling a bit as storytelling. Overlong and oddly over-plotted as it chronicles the unsurprising escalation of its young protagonist’s life of crime, it counts on every ounce of Pio’s darting energy to see audiences through its less electric passages.

As in “Mediterranea,” Carpignano adopts a documentarian’s gaze within a fictional framework. Pio, now 14, is effectively playing a version of himself, as are over a dozen members of the garrulous Amato family, whose loose, loud, overlapping conversations as a group have a chaotic, edgily affectionate energy that can’t be scripted. Having now known the clan for several years — a short version of “A Ciambra” with the same title preceded Carpignano’s feature debut — the helmer has clearly grown close enough to them to authentically work their foibles into fiction. Tim Curtin’s fluid, on-the-fly camerawork — the spontaneity of which, thankfully, doesn’t preclude beauty in its shadow play or occasional startling bursts of synthetic color — helps foster that remarkable intimacy, which doesn’t always sit right with the more palpable contrivances in “A Ciambra’s” narrative. (Meanwhile, Dan Romer’s energizing score, with its broad church of cultural influences, aptly makes itself most felt at these points.)

Though still regarded as a scrappy little thing by his wearily loving mother Iolanda, Pio’s status in the family has been elevated by unhappy default. With father Rocco and older brother Cosimo (Damiano Amato, inheriting his twin Cosimo’s role from the short) both imprisoned for stealing electricity, Pio appoints himself as the household’s new breadwinner — putting the petty criminal tricks of the trade he’s learnt from his elders to good use. Which is to say not-so-good use, of course, though Carpignano steers pleasingly clear of judgment or sanctimony throughout.

His other mentor in matters of thievery is another face familiar from “Mediterranea”: Aviya (the subtly soulful Koudous Seihon), that film’s Burkinabe migrant protagonist, who’s now nominally settled in an African refugee camp. In Gioia Tauro, the loathing and abuse that the Romani community are often subjected to by Italians is grimly replicated in their own response to the refugees: Pio’s parents and siblings toss nakedly racist epithets back and forth with ugly abandon. The film is most politically pointed on the tragedy of mutually disenfranchised minorities keeping each other down. Pio, at least, resists: He and Aviya have a touching kindred-spirit relationship that the film could stand to develop further amid the noise of distractions and stimulants in the boy’s life, particularly given how it underpins a key moral crisis in the film’s heavily cluttered final third. Likewise, the film also shoehorns in Pio’s sexual awakening as a kind of earthy afterthought.

Perhaps, to be fair, such concerns are given equally short shrift in the boy’s young, impressionable mind as it’s pulled this way and that by a combination of domestic troubles and yo-yoing hormones. Still, such rushing leaves “A Ciambra” a little lopsided, given the languid, passive vérité of earlier passages, as well as such sweetly poetic digressions as Pio’s ailing grandfather’s mournful musings on the latter-day stasis of his once-nomadic people. “Once we were free, we didn’t have bosses,” he tells his grandson; Pio, for his part, seems determined to be his own boss as soon as possible.

Film Review: 'A Ciambra'

Reviewed at Cannes Film Festival (Directors' Fortnight), May 19, 2017. Running time: 118 MIN.

Production: (Italy-U.S.-France-Sweden) A Stayblack Prods., RT Features, Sikelia Prods., Rai Cinema production in association with DCM, Haut et Court, Film i Väst, Filmgate Films. (International sales: Luxbox, Paris.) Producers: Jon Coplon, Paolo Carpignano, Ryan Zacarias, Gwyn Sannia, Rodrigo Teixeira, Marc Schmidheiny, Cristoph Daniel. Executive producers: Martin Scorsese, Emma Tillinger Koskoff, Sophie Mas, Lourenco Sant'Anna, Daniela Lundgren Taplin, Alesso Lazzareschi, Dario Suter, Joel Brandeis. Co-producers: Carole Scotta, Julie Billy, Tomas Eskilsson, Sean Wheelan.

Crew: Director, writer: Jonas Carpignano. Camera (color): Tim Curtin. Editor: Affonso Gonçalves. Music: Dan Romer.

With: Pio Amato, Koudous Seihon, Iolanda Amato, Damiano Amato, Francesco Pio Amato, Patrizia Amato, Rocco Amato, Susanna Amato. (Italian dialogue)

More Film

  • Sylvester Stallone

    Cannes: Sylvester Stallone Says 'Rambo' Wasn't 'Meant to Be a Political Statement'

    The final day of Cannes was devoted to honoring Sylvester Stallone, who conducted a masterclass on the Croisette, where he looked back at his 43-year career and discussed how he never intended “Rambo” to get so political. Thousands queued outside the Salle Debussy to sit down with the star and gave him a raucous standing [...]

  • Women in Animation, Les Femmes s’Animent

    Women in Animation, Les Femmes s’Animent Announce World Summit Lineup

      CANNES–Women in Animation (WIA) and Les Femmes s’Animent (LFA) have announced the program lineup and initial list of speakers for the third Women in Animation World Summit, which will take place June 10 in conjunction with the Annecy Intl. Animation Festival and Mifa. The summit will feature a day-long symposium of panels and discussions [...]

  • Chloe Sevigny Podcast

    Chloë Sevigny on That Time Bill Murray Took Her for a Joyride in a Cop Car

    If there’s one thing Bill Murray’s co-stars can depend on, it’s that the comedic actor will give them a good time. Just ask Chloë Sevigny and Adam Driver, who play fellow police officers opposite Murray in Jim Jarmusch’s zombie comedy “The Dead Don’t Die.” “He brought us on a joyride in a cop car,” Sevigny [...]

  • 'Sonic the Hedgehog' Pushed Back Due

    'Sonic the Hedgehog' Movie Pushed Back to 2020 Due to Character Design Changes

    Paramount Pictures is pushing its “Sonic the Hedgehog” movie back three months, from Nov. 8 to Valentine’s Day. The delay follows fan criticism over the appearance and design of the titular blue hedgehog — particularly his teeth and lean legs. Director Jeff Fowler tweeted that it was “taking a little more time to make Sonic [...]

  • Aladdin

    Box Office: 'Aladdin' Flies to $7 Million on Thursday Night

    Disney’s live-action “Aladdin” flew to $7 million during Thursday night previews in North America. That’s well above the $5.7 million that “Pokemon Detective Pikachu” earned two weeks ago on its way to a $54 million three-day opening. Disney’s “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales” took in $5.5 million in previews on the [...]

  • Cannes The Square Winner

    SF Studios Acquires Nordic Rights to Ruben Östlund’s 'Triangle of Sadness'

    SF Studios has acquired the Nordic distribution rights to Ruben Östlund’s “Triangle of Sadness,” the Swedish filmmaker’s follow up to the Palme d’Or winning “The Swquare.” A contemporary satire taking place in the world of fashion, “Triangle of Sadness” is set on a luxury yacht and ends up on a deserted island where hierarchies are [...]

  • Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi displays

    Narendra Modi Wins New Mandate in Indian Election and Divides the Film Industry

    India has returned the Narendra Modi-led National Democratic Alliance coalition to power for a second term, with a huge mandate. In doing so, it polarized the film industry. The NDA won 351 seats out of a total of 542. The biggest democratic exercise in the world, more than 600 million Indians voted across six weeks. [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content