Babylon Sisters: Friendship with a hint of Bollywood
by Camillo De Marco
- Documentary filmmaker Gigi Roccati sheds light on ethnic diversity in a rundown suburb of Trieste. In Italian cinemas from 28 September thanks to Lo Scrittoio
Music has played a fairly central role in many films in production in Italy of late, including Cinderella the Cat [+see also:
interview: Alessandro Rak
film profile], the rock biopic Nico, 1988 [+see also:
interview: Susanna Nicchiarelli
film profile], and the musical True Love [+see also:
interview: Marco and Antonio Manetti
film profile], which plays homage to traditional Neapolitan musical drama. Babylon Sisters [+see also:
film profile], in cinemas from 28 September with Lo Scrittoio, isn’t exactly a musical per se, but a story “told from a point of view that evolves from realism into pop, bringing back musical soul via the drama and delight that represent colourful humanity,” states director Gigi Roccati.
The co-existent and multicultural humanity of Roccati’s debut feature is embodied by the film’s main character, Kamla, a young Indian girl who lives with her parents, Ashok and Shanti, in a poky rundown apartment building in the suburbs of Trieste, alongside her neighbour Leone, a grouchy old teacher, and families who have migrated to Italy. One day the residents receive eviction notices and must unite in solidarity to fight against injustice and a proposed dance school project.
Roccati, a London Film School graduate with a master’s degree from London Metropolitan University, is a documentary filmmaker and seasoned traveller, having visited the likes of China, Russia, Afghanistan, USA, Cuba, South America and the Middle East to name but a few. In order to live up to the expectations that often accompany a debut feature film, he has transformed the suburb of Ponziana in Trieste into an ethnically diverse area in which the themes of welcome and integration are tackled with a sense of levity. His experience with real-life cinema is not limited to that of a director, but it has allowed him nonetheless to inject a profound sense of humanity and candour into the characters in Babylon Sisters, despite the screenplay (written by Rocccati along with Andrea Iannetta and Giulia Steigerwalt) not always matching the excellence of the story and characters and the narrative twists not always being entirely original.
The cast includes both professional and amateur actors, such as Amber Dutta (a Bollywood dancer and finalist in Italy’s Got Talent), who plays little Kamla), her real-life father Rahul Dutta, Sikh biology student Nav Gothra (whoplays Kamla’s mother), Chinese restaurant owner Xia Yinghong, the multi-award winning Croatian actressNives Ivankovic (The High Sun [+see also:
interview: Dalibor Matanic
interview: Tihana Lazovic
film profile], winner of Best Film in the Un Certain Regard section at Cannes in 2015), Yasemin Sannino (actress and singer born in Istanbul to a Turkish mother and Italian father, starring in In the Same Garden, in competition at Sarajevo Film Festival in 2016), Renato Carpentieri (Holding Hands [+see also:
interview: Gianni Amelio
film profile]) who plays the teacher Leone, and finally, Lucia Mascino (Worldly Girl [+see also:
interview: Marco Danieli
film profile]), whose character is inspired by Monica Ghiretti who runs the Microarea Social Support Centre in Ponziana. Peppe Voltarelli, Premio Tenco 2016, whose character is a guitar-playing Syrian refugee, composed the film’s original soundtrack, including “Mama Shanti,” a Bollywood style song sung in Hindi by Nav Ghotra.
The Babylon Sisters project was inspired by Amiche per la pelle (published by Edizioni e/o), the debut Italian novel by the young Indian author Laila Wadia, optioned by the independent producers Gino and Sarah Pennacchi on behalf of Tico Film (Slow Food Story [+see also:
film profile] by Stefano Sardo). Tico Film has produced the film along with Croatian Danijel Pek from Antitalent, with support coming from the MEDIA Development Fund, MiBACT, FVG Film Commission, Fondo audiovisvo FVG, Nuovo IMAIE, Tax Credit di Banca Generali and the Lazio Region Cinema Fund.
(Translated from Italian)
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