Wounded nature in Materia Oscura
by Valentina Di Michele
12/02/2013 - The war and civilian residues, the contaminated landscapes and old footage contribute to the making of a film which was presented during Berlinale 2013 in the Forum section.
Massimo D’Anolfi and Martina Parenti’s documentary (Special Jury Award during the Hot Docs 2011 in Toronto for Il Castello) describes in long juxtaposed sequences the dramatic consequences of fifty years of war weapons testing in Salto di Quirra, situated on the Italian island of Sardinia, which is today undergoing a conversion phase after a court case on environmental disaster.
Materia Oscura [festival scope] opens with footage of a barren landscape from the area, representing 13,000 hectares of short bushes, destroyed by wind. The scenery is interrupted by a long white road contrasting with a terse blue of the sky.
A geologist analyses the radioactivity of the terrain, between carcasses of armed vehicles, missiles and projectile cartridge cases. The long sequence is punctuated by archival footage of the shooting range, which makes up to two thirds of the film.
The images of explosions and experimentation combine with meta-cinematographic scenes in which the film’s directors are seen going through shelves, looking for film rolls. The film’s only sound is the sound of the wind, of the explosions and of the herds surrounding the military camps. The only voice to be featured talks of the presence of thorium, a radioactive element used during testing, and of the cases of animal and human malformations in the area.
The last part of the film shows nature, beautiful and wounded, with comments from shepherds bearing witness to yet another death of a malformed calf.
Missing a finished form, despite an evident will to denounce, the film suffers from the often incoherent way in which archival footage was assembled (almost always explosions and missile launches)
(Translated from Italian)