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GOCRITIC! Trieste 2019

GoCritic! Review: The Queen of Casetta

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- Francesco Fei's latest documentary follows the only young girl living alongside ten ageing inhabitants in a remote village of the Apennines

GoCritic! Review: The Queen of Casetta

Italian filmmaker Francesco Fei's latest documentary, The Queen of Casetta [+see also:
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, tells the story of Gregoria, the only young girl living alongside ten ageing inhabitants in a remote village of the Apennines. The film, which recently screened in the Premio Corso Salani section of the 30th Trieste Film Festival - having previously won the award for Best Italian Film at Festival dei Popoli - follows the protagonist through her last year in the village of Casetta di Tiara before she moves away for high school - an event which marks a real end of an era.

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For decades, people have been slowly pouring out of this remote region and soon it will be the Gregoria's turn to leave. Ever aware of the fact that she will, one day, have to say goodbye to Casetta, she appears wise beyond her years when expressing her love for the area, her wisdom probably a reflection of the time spent with the older villagers, whom she lovingly calls her “little oldies”. Gregoria never seems to feel bored or discontented with her life in the village. She admits Casetta is a bit isolated, but she’s never wanted for anything… 

The Queen of Casetta is poetic by nature, but it also acts as a witness to a gloomy reality: people relocating to big cities, often not by choice, but out of necessity, and abandoning regions which once thrived with life. It’s a melancholy experience for those having to leave, as well as for those who are left behind. 

Fei, has a background in video art and started his career shooting music videos. His understanding of the present medium is visible in this documentary, where he takes verses written by the famous poet Dino Campana - a frequent visitor to Casetta - and incorporates them into certain segments, creating an effect reminiscent of video art. The story moves through the changing seasons of the village, which doesn't seem to exist wholly in the present. Nocturnal scenes highlight the everyday magic which runs through the village, and Massimiliano Fraticelli’s minimalistic ambient music is in perfect harmony with the story, adding just enough atmosphere, without becoming overbearing. 

On the negative side, the prevailing poetic aesthetic of the film is often interrupted by interviews with the villagers. In these scenes, close-ups are combined with camera angles that are, unconventionally for the interview format, off the eye level, creating a certain feeling of discomfort, and this is markedly at odds with the rest of the film. 

The year goes by, and it's time for Gregoria to leave the village. Most of the few inhabitants left in Casetta are also moving away for the winter. Gregoria hopes to become a cook on a cruise ship and travel the world. It’s clear she will always have a special place in her heart for Casetta, but will the Queen ever return? 

Fei’s film is a bittersweet and heartfelt testimony to changing times; to regions which fall into oblivion and which can only live on in the memories of their people… until these people themselves become echoes of the past.

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

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