Saturday, April 19, 2008

Another look at Southern Italy

I was lucky enough to chance upon Francesco Rosi's wonderful film Le Mani sulla città (Hands on the City) late last year. The film presented plenty of food for thought and encouraged me to find other films by Rosi. A mini spotlight on him showed that he was not afraid to tackle the political side of Italian life while giving voice to Southern Italy, something left out from a majority of Italian films. Rosi's Salvatore Giuliano gives a good look into the political/revolutionary past of Sicily and encouraged me to finally pick up John Dickie's book Cosa Nostra. Dickie's book forms a nice pair with Salvatore Giuliano and one can sense similar shadows lurking in both works.

Everything that exists passes through here. Through the port of Naples. There's not a product, fabric, piece of plastic, toy, hammer, show, screwdriver, bolt, video game, jacket, pair of pants, drill, or watch that doesn't come through the port. The port of Naples is an open wound. Roberto Saviano, Gomorrah, Chapter: The Port.

I once again thought of Rosi while recently reading Roberto Saviano's brilliant book Gomorrah. Saviano's book not only looks at the workings of the mafia in and around Naples, it examines the economic and political structure that allows the group such power. Both Saviano and Rosi are born in Naples and through their intelligent and well researched works, Gomorrah and Le Mani sulla città, have shown their disgust at how their city has been ruined by those in power. Rosi made Le Mani sulla città back in 1963 and could never have forseen how his city went into decline they way it did. Although in 1992, he revisited Naples with the documentary Diario napoletano and got a sense of how some things unfolded the way his movie predicted. Saviano does not mention Rosi in his book but I can imagine he would be familiar with Rosi's works. And likewise, I would like to imagine Rosi has read a thing or two from Saviano who is 57 years younger than Rosi -- Rosi was born in 1922 & Saviano in 1979. Rosi has not made a film since 1997 and if he were to make just one more film, I wish he and Saviano could collaborate together to peel away the layers of corruption that exists in their beloved city. But that does not seem likely as a film version of Gomorrah is slated to be directed by Matteo Garrone.

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