The Circle – The World Through Children’s Eyes

The Italian Film Festival is 23 years young and kicking off in your town. And it’s not just films with a dramatic flair but several documentaries will feature this year, including Il Cerchio – The Circle.

Directed by Sophie Chiarello, The Circle chronicles the journey of Italian primary school students over a five-year period, capturing their unique outlook on the world. The Circle is the winner of best documentary at the 2023 David di Donatello and screening at this year’s Italian Film Festival.

Over five years, students share their thoughts and feelings on a range of topics during circle time. From parents’ separation to Santa Claus, Sophie has given these children a safe space where they are listened to without judgement. As an audience, we get to watch these opinions develop as we watch the children grow.

Through The Circle, Sophie has reminded us that children know much more than we often think. She shows that through a supportive environment, we can gain some unique perspectives from children. It was surprising at times to hear a variety of subjects tackled with maturity. As an audience, we are privileged in a way to learn what is going on inside the minds of children.

The discussion of Christmas clearly indicated the end-of-year holidays and each year flows as you watch the children grow into a new school year. As the children grew, the topics became more advanced, which kept interest as it was insightful to hear a child’s thoughts on a particular topic. The visuals of the playground, while these topics were being discussed, were another reminder that these were young children. They may have had this sense of maturity in their thoughts and feelings, but they also enjoyed playing with their friends.

Something that really stood out about this documentary and school was how supportive they all were of each other. Even if they disagreed with one another, they still gave each other a chance to express their feelings. We also watched the children as they dealt with the impact of COVID on the Italian community and how it completely changed the way we did things beforehand.

For a chance to see the world through primary school children, The Circle is a documentary to watch. The Circle can be seen at this year’s Italian Film Festival from 19th Sept to 25th Oct, although check the dates for regional variations. Check out the movie session times in your local area on the Italian Film Festival website. Ciao Bella!

This review also appears on It’s On The House.

Burning Hearts – Italian Film Festival

The Italian Film Festival is in its 23rd year after its founding at the turn of the millennium in 2000.  Since then, the festival has grown in popularity to become the most significant public celebration of Italian cinema outside Italy.

A feature of this year’s festival is a special presentation of New Italian Cinema’s – Burning Hearts – which takes place in the picturesque region of Puglia. This gripping crime tale reignited an age-old feud between two rival families as a forbidden love story unfolds. Burning Hearts is directed by Pippo Mezzapesa and was the Best Cinematography winner at the 2023 Nastro d’Argento Awards.

Based on a non-fiction book by Carlo Bonini and Giuliano Foschino, Burning Hearts is inspired by the true story of Rosa Di Flore. Mafia rival clans, the Malatesta and the Camporeale, have a history of bloody feuds. After a fragile truce, Andrea, Michele Malatesta’s son, falls in love with Marilena, the wife of fugitive Santo Camporeale. The affair becomes public, leading to a murder that will renew war between the rival clans. Andrea, driven by vengeance, returns home determined to eliminate the Camporeales.

Singer Elodie makes her acting debut in Burning Hearts as one-half of the forbidden lovers, Marilena Camporeale. As an acting debut, Elodie gave us a very solid performance. Francesco Patane played Andrea Malatesta and gave us a convincing performance of a loving son turned cold-blooded killer set on vengeance. Another stand-out performance was that of Lidia Vitale, who played matriarch of the Malatesta clan, Teresa.

The style choice from Pippo Mezzapesa was apparent throughout the film and reminiscent of the Film noir style. The black and white tones add to the story’s crime element and make action scenes more intense. This choice adds depth to the characters’ expressions. However, strangely, there were a few instances during the movie when the sound or music seemed out of sync with the story being told.

Andrea Malatesta’s character arc in the film serves as a cautionary tale about the corrupting influence of power and the potential consequences it can bring. I did not read the book before watching this film, so I cannot comment on any differences between the book and the film. If you are a fan of crime dramas or Italian cinema, then this is one to watch at the 2023 Italian Film Festival.

The Italian Film Festival runs from the 19th Sep to the 25 Oct, although check the dates for regional variations. Check out the movie session times in your local area on the Italian Film Festival website. Ciao!

This review also appears on It’s On The House.

A Singular Crime – Spanish Film Festival

A Singular Crime / Un Crimen Argentino is a 2022 thriller based on the 2002 Reynaldo Sietecasebook of the same name. It’s inspired by a true story occurring in 1980 Rosario, Argentina during the “Dirty War” military dictatorship.

The book was a best seller, and now the film leaves audiences just as intrigued as they try to solve the crime alongside the protagonists. It is airing at the 2023 Spanish Film Festival and is a must-watch for any who love a mystery.

Unlike the book, A Singular Crime primarily follows around two court clerks, Antonio González Rivas (Nicolás Francella) and Carlos Torres (Matías Mayer), alongside the judge’s secretary, Maria Bussato (Malena Sanchez), as they try to solve the case of a missing businessman named Gabriel “Turco” Samid (Pablo Tolosa).

Given the immense corruption of the Dirty War era Argentinian military, the clerks must race to solve the mystery before the police can close the investigation, dodging their interference at each step. The audience follow Rivas and Torres down rabbit-hole after rabbit-hole trying to figure out what happened to Samid, piecing together the last night before his disappearance and who could have demanded the one-million-dollar ransom.

They discover the struggle of solving the mystery when all of the authority figures sing the tune of “no body, no crime.” Fans of the book get to enjoy this story from another perspective, rather than following the story of the perpetrator. 

Director Lucas Combina definitely evokes the imagery of a Hollywood film set in the same time period, especially with the lighting and cinematography. It allows foreign viewers to feel familiar with the art style, appealing to a larger demographic. Francella and Mayer provide excellent performances but personally, Dario Grandinetti as Mariano Marquez was the standout star for me. 

If you’re attending the Spanish Film Festival in 2023, don’t miss A Singular Crime / Un CrimenArgentino. The festival is celebrating its 25th anniversary and is showing 32 films, not to mention highlighting the women in Spanish and Latin cinema. 

This review also appears on It’s On The House.

Cork Pops into the Spanish Film Festival

The Spanish Film Festival is back this June and July and celebrating it’s 25th year! Presented by Palace, the film festival is accessible online, or in person, in major cities Adelaide, Brisbane, Byron Bay, Canberra, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney.

There are plentiful films to choose from with helpful category groupings such as ‘New Spanish Cinema’, ‘Spotlight on Argentina’, ‘Focus on Female Filmmakers’ and more.

I had the pleasure of viewing ‘Cork’ (‘Suro’), a Drama/Thriller feature film debut from Director Mikel Gurrea, that is creating a lot of excitement in its New Spanish Cinema category. It has already won a slew of awards at the Zurich Film Festival (2022), San Sebastian International Film Festival (2022) and Gaudi Awards (2023). And justifiably so.

Newlywed couple Elena (Vicky Luengo) and Ivan (Pol Lopez) have recently inherited an old stone farmhouse and cork forest from Elena’s deceased aunt. With their first child on it’s way, they set about navigating the realities of managing and profiting from the 1,200 acre cork forest, whilst achieving their budding goals of a life lived in harmony, ethically, in nature.

However, the reality of managing a cork farm and life in the countryside becomes a harsh lesson as the couple juggle various onslaughts to their relationship, lifestyle and dreams – often from unexpected quarters, each other.

Actor Ilyass El Ouahdani, also delivers a convincing portrayal of Karim, a cork farm worker whose presence leads events to spiral out of control.

Cork explores the balance of power in relationships and the film delves into and makes home of delivering a story that unfolds methodically, with stunning cinematography, minimal dialogue and the use of the rustic environment to reflect the tension brewing.

Both lead actors inhabit their characters with restrained composure and intelligence. There is a love between Elena and Pol, but there is friction as each face the other as an opponent on matters moral and ethical. Opinions are divided, yet as a unit they persist and resist caving in to the other, standing their ground in their beliefs and convictions.

Strewn with many taught moments, subtle character reactions and loaded, often unspoken, dialogue, Cork is a film where a small decision or reaction reverberates throughout the story. The cork forest becomes a tapestry for the power plays and dynamics to wield battle.

In juxtaposition to the scenic countryside, at times idyllic, at times land of deviousness, there are a few sequences inserted that uncover the characters roguish and devilish natures. Neither Elena or Pol are completely likeable, in fact in many ways they are far from it. Yet neither are disagreeable, they are human, fallible and at times downright nasty.

They represent us, the audience, in a chillingly accurate snapshot. As much pieces, and pawns, of the rugged tapestry that is this film.

The lingering takeaway is how real this film feels when watching. The acting is incredibly understated, there are moments you think you’re watching real people and this film is simply an elevated documentary.

It is seamless in it’s execution of this. The cork forest is itself an imposing character, as is the north wind and dry summer conditions. The land is truly alive and contributing to the theme of power and dynamic.

The Director has achieved capturing a vividness to life on a cork farm, and the stress and realities those who manage one must face. It is subtle, it is at times confusing and it is very confronting.

This film as a slow burn thriller is uncomfortable and relishes in it’s understated grit. With a run time of 116 minutes, it will keep you guessing how each character with respond to the pressure of the moment until those credits roll.

This review also appears on It’s On The House.