Chris Knipp Writing: Movies, Politics, Art

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PostPosted: Fri Jun 04, 2021 9:49 am 
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View of makeshift Ostia community is emotionally engaging, lacks certain details

Francssca Mazzoleni's sensitive, patient documentary is a glimpse of the lives and hearing of the random thoughts of a community living off the grid in self-constructed, illegal housing in Ostia, dangerously near the Tiber coastline. The film has a distinctive look, and provides drone overviews of the place as well as closeups of many women and girls and some men chatting, arguing, and spouting ideas. Still how they live remains somewhat a mystery, and why we should find them interesting also, except as a rare sample of Italian off-the-grid living.

The place dubbed by inhabitants Punta Sacra ("Holy Point"), near the Idroscalo di Ostia, the hydroplane base where Pier Paolo Pasolini's body was found after his murder and where the final scene of Fellini's was set, where the Tiber flows into the sea south of Rome, is the residence of some five hundred families, it is reported, who live with memories or the awareness that in 2010 authorities came in force and bulldozed a large number of the makeshift houses. How makeshift they are, what their construction and design are, isn't really clearly shown by Mazzoleni, who is more interested in the interaction of the women and the dreams and analyses of a few men than anything else.

They talk about their lives, about the fragility of their lifestyle, about Pasolini about thir widely varying politics (they range from leftist to pro-fascist). A particularly interesting one of the underrepresented male population is a rapper and dope smoker with a Chilean father, Yuri Ramos Hidalgo aka Chiky Realeza who, like many a pothead, has big dreams but not the means of executing them. And yet he seems to most vigorous spokesman of the place. Since some speak of never leaving over years, one wonders how they provide for themselves. (Working at Burger King is mentioned.) We see celebrations, including birthdays and Christmas. They have their own broadcast station, Radio Idrosqualo." But basic services are said to be lacking, though details about that are also somewhat lacking.

The blurb calls the film a "lyrical documentary" and a "multifaceted portrait." It's division into sections highlighting land, sea, times of year, helps highlight the multifaceted" side, but nonetheless the "lyrical" aspect seems to outweigh the factual. Perhaps the filmmaker's having "embedded" with the community undercut an objectivity that might have flowered had she become more invisible - people are obviously performing for the camera here - and been able to follow people going about their daily lives in more complex and mundane ways. Nonetheless Mazzoleni deserves our gratitude for making us aware of this unusual community.

Punta Sacra, 96 mins., debuted at Nyon (Switzerland) Visions du réel Apr. 2020. It showed at Krakow (virtual) May 2020, Reykjavik, Raindance, and Amsterdam Nov. 2020, and at Berlin Mar. 2021. The film won the Nyon best feature and and received two nominations at Krakow and the David di Donatello awards. It was screened at home online for this review as part of the FLC Open Roads: New Italian Cinema series (May 28-Jun. 6, 2021).
Last Chance to Rent June 5, 12:00 PM ET. Expires this Saturday 9:00 AM.

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