Review: Martin Scorsese presents A Ciambra at HOME

Since his debut movie 'Mediterranea' premiered at Cannes in 2015, writer-director Jonas Carpigano cemented himself as a champion of filmmaking that centres on minority and often excluded communities in Italy, and he continues with A Ciambra which opens at HOME this week.

I should probably get this in first because it’s in the title – A Ciambra counts the legendary Martin Scorsese as Executive Producer, and that endorsement should give some idea as to what kind of film this is.

Many of his greatest films throughout the years have focused primarily on one major character, with conflict comping from many directions. There’s also something to be said about the theme of surrogate fathers in his movies, from Bill the Butcher in Gangs of New York through to Jimmy Conway in Goodfellas and Frank Costello in The Departed.

Many similar themes are present throughout A Ciambra, which focuses on 14-year-old Pio who idolises his older brother in their small Romani community in Calabria, Southern Italy. Desperate to grow up fast, he drinks, smokes and is one of the few to easily slide between the region’s factions – the local Italians, the African refugees and his fellow Romani.

The film could technically be called a sequel to Mediterranea, but much like Mamma Mia 2, you won’t need to have seen the previous movie to make sense of it. You could say that Carpigano’s works are set in the same universe, with a few characters that nip through here and there.

Pio, played rather conveniently by Pio Amato, acts as the film’s main focal point from the very beginning, as we see him hanging around with his friends, smoking with them (of which one of them is about 4 years old!) and trying to cop off with a lovely lady at the local discotheque.

One of the first things that will strike you about the film is that it doesn’t try to shy away from the severe poverty and hardship that these families live in, and the audience is thrown straight into it from the get-go.

Shots linger on rubbish strewn streets, kids play on manky mattresses surrounded by old needles and the it seems everyone is just syphoning off their electric from the street lights, just to charge their Nokia 3310s.

It’s in this environment that we see Pio, his admiration for his brother and his attempts at working his way into his acceptance. This, as you would expect, involves getting deeply engrained in some rather dodgy crime gang endeavours including robbing bags, a bit of light thievery and generally whatever he can do to get into his brother’s good books and prove himself a man.

What I got from it is that that’s what the film is really about in the end – it’s a coming-of-age movie, with a young lad living in a seriously despairing environment, just looking to find his place – something pretty much everyone watching the film can relate to

Carpigano manages to quickly expose Pio’s inexperience and vulnerabilities later on in the film as the story picks up more momentum and sticks to a more rigid plot. This is deftly accomplished by Pio, who’s expressions and often perplexing physical nuances really manage to show that regardless of all of the poverty, hardship, crime and bravado – he’s just a young lad underneath looking for some direction.

A Ciambra opens at HOME on June 15th.

Buy Tickets

Saturday 16th June at 15.10
Screening will include Ellaney Hayden and other guests for a Spoken Word performance beforehand.

Tuesday 19th June at 20.20
Screening will be introduced by Maggie Hoffgen, freelance film educator.

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