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GOCRITIC! Trieste 2019

GoCritic! Review: The Caring City


- We look at the new documentary that just had its world premiere at the 30th Trieste Film Festival, dealing with a social project in this Northern Italian city

GoCritic! Review: The Caring City

The Caring City [+see also:
film profile
, the new film by Italian filmmaker Erika Rossi, had its world premiere at the Trieste Film Festival, where it screened in the Documentari Fuori Concorso (documentaries out of competition) section. Rossi's earlier film, Trieste Racconta Basaglia, went on to win the Trieste's “Zone di Cinema” Award in 2012.

The Trieste-born documentarist tells the story of an innovative healthcare project, Microarea, which not only helps people in the suburb of Trieste manage their health issues, but which also creates a more inclusive social environment. The programme fights loneliness and alienation in the community by adopting a personalised approach towards its patients, and the latter are certainly interesting subjects to explore. The elderly and those affected by illness are often pushed to the peripheries of society, where these vulnerable individuals are left to fend for themselves. Rossi's film looks to demonstrate how situations like these can be dealt with differently and how these alternative practices can be of benefit to the individual, but also to the wider community.

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The Caring City focuses on project representative, Monica, who we follow as she explores the everyday struggles of three different men: ageing pianist, Plinio, stroke survivor, Roberto, and Maurizio, an old sailor with a history of addictions. Besides ensuring that their most urgent physical needs are attended to, Monica's job is also to listen and to maintain a close relationship with her patients, as it's not always just a case of prescribing the right meds. Sometimes it takes a little encouragement and a gentle nudge for someone to step outside of their comfort zone and lead a more fulfilling life. Monica is well-known in the community, her rapport with people genuine and cordial, which testifyies to the real connections being made here. “You have a big influence on me”, admits Plinio, after building up the courage to step outside of his house for the first time in a long while.

The Caring City is an observational documentary, and the use of a handheld camera in tracking the film’s characters emphasises the "fly on the wall" approach. Rossi doesn't employ narration or interviews. Instead, she allows the story to unfold organically. Alternating depictions of the day-to-day lives of the three men are dotted with snippets from project meetings, where the work and struggles involved in seeing through a programme such as Microarea – attempting to negotiate the generic approach of the national public health care system, for example - are discussed. Whilst these scenes offer valuable insight, they appear rather late in the film, as the clear idea they give of the project would have been more beneficial from the get-go. Despite this, Rossi's compassionate and respectful approach, towards both the subject matter and the protagonists, draws important attention to one of the most painful and common hot spots in modern day societies – that of the need for the human connection. 

This article was written as part of GoCritic! training programme.

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