Alì ha gli occhi azzurri: mixed race outskirts in a new millennium
by Camillo de Marco
- Claudio Giovannesi tells the story of a second-generation immigrant adolescent living on the Roman coast, where Pasolini was killed in 1975
A week in the lives of Nader and Stefano, two sixteen-year-old friends living in Ostia, on the Roman coast, between school, clubbing and robbing prostitutes. Nader is Egyptian, but was born in Rome. He is in love with Italian girl Brigitte and defies family wishes by running away from home. In order to defend his friend Stefano, he stabs a young Romanian and flees. Stalked, he goes into hiding, going as far as to sleep on the beach in the middle of winter. This brings him to start confronting his various contradictory identities. He feels Italian and wears blue contact lenses. He loves the world of consumerism and does not celebrate Ramadan. Yet he still manages to have extreme behaviours, like pulling the trigger on Stefano when he comes onto his sister, in order to defend her honour as a Muslim girl.
Actors from Alì ha gli occhi azzurri [+see also:
interview: Claudio Giovannesi
film profile] were taken from the streets, with protagonist Nader Sarhan taken directly from an episode of documentary Fratelli d'Italia which director Claudio Giovannesi presented in 2009 at Rome’s Film Festival. The second protagonist Stefano Rabatti often steals the limelight from his Egyptian screen partner - a natural and convincing tension between these two teenagers with different roots. He runs through the script like a Jérémie Renier directed by the Dardenne brothers. Giovannesi’s camera stays focused on his characters’ profiles, going beyond the Belgian brothers’ naturalism, reminiscent of La Haine by Mathieu Kassovitz, with its narrative developments that seem to prepare its audience for an explosive epilogue.
The title of the film refers to a 1962 poem by Pier Paolo Pasolini, called Prophecy, in which the great poet and director imagined a multi-ethnic world and the blue-eyed Alìs who would “destroy Rome.” In Giovannesi’s film, modern Pasolini-like adolescents move around Rome’s outskirts, but Nader doesn’t want to destroy anything, despite his worries. The Arab Spring remains in the background, as Nader’s family watch it on television, awaiting their son’s return.
Integration is now a popular cinematic theme. "Towards Tolerance" was Berlinale’s motto in 2003 and Rainer Werner Fassbinder made Ali: fear eats the soul in 1974. In Italy, where the phenomenon is recent but dramatic, films are coming one after the other: Terraferma [+see also:
interview: Emanuele Crialese
interview: Emanuele Crialese
film profile], Good Morning Aman [+see also:
film profile], Saimir [+see also:
film profile], Terra di mezzo, Mar Nero [+see also:
film profile], Sette opere di misericordia [+see also:
With his sixteen-year-old second-generation immigrant, Giovannesi avoided making integration his film’s main theme. Instead, he wanted to make it the central element of a reflection on growing up, managing to create moments of pure cinema.
Alì ha gli occhi azzurri will be coming out in Italy on November 15, distributed by Bim.
(Translated from Italian)
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