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VENICE 2011 Critics Week

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Criminal Education and Immigrants Massacre in Là-bas

by Vittoria Scarpa

06/09/2011

Criminal Education and Immigrants Massacre in Là-bas

"Là-bas", over there, is how Africans refer to Europe. It means far away, somewhere else, where their relatives and friends go in the hope of finding a better life, an opportunity. One of the main destinations is Castel Volturno, about thirty kilometers from Naples, the “most African European city”, as Roberto Saviano would put it. Twenty thousand immigrants, of which half are clandestine. It was there that, on September 18, 2008, six young black boys were killed, randomly, by a Camorra commando: a warning to make it clear who ruled the area.

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Là-bas [+see also:
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, first work by Neapolitan film-maker Guido Lombardi, in competition at the Critics’ Week of the 68th Venice Film Festival (August 31 – September 10), takes its inspiration from this episode and between reality and fiction, tells the story of Yssouf’s criminal education. He is one of the many African immigrants come to Italy to join one of his relatives, thinking he would find an honest job and instead finding out that the only life possible in order to survive is one of crime. "Such a rational choice that it is one made by many", the director comments, "because instead of earning 10 euros a day selling tissues, you can make 100 in one hour by dealing drugs. And because there is no real employment for illegals”.

But since the criminal life is one also shared by many different joints, sometimes the peace held on the basis of the division of business and in some cases on the immigrants’ payment of “protection money” to the Camorra, can suddenly be broken. And those who will suffer are innocent people, exactly those who had chosen, in spite of everything, to continue to sell tissues and to lead a simple life, bound to their own traditions, and yet have found themselves on the site of a massacre at the wrong time.

Là-bas is an honest cross-section of a hushed reality, that of many immigrants with good intentions who turn to crime for lack of alternatives, the portrait of a desperate humanity that tries to get by. It’s a film played by amateur actors (the only professional is the beautiful Esther Elisha, forced into prostitution in the film), based on the stories of the penitents and of those who survived the massacre of Castel Volturno, as well as on the personal experience of Lombardi, with his past as official cameraman at African parties in the discos of Caserta’s hinterland.

Produced by Eskimo, Figli del Bronx and Minerva Pictures Group, in collaboration with the Campania Region and Rai Cinema, Là-bas does not yet have a distributor. "It’s not an easy film, with no well-known cast, spoken for the most part in French and English”, admits one of the producers, Gaetano Di Vaio. "We are very much counting on foreign distribution”.

(Translated from Italian)

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