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VENICE 2019 International Film Critics’ Week

Review: Tony Driver


- VENICE 2019: Italy’s Ascanio Petrini premieres his debut feature, the lead character of which is a victim of the USA’s merciless immigration and deportation policies

Review: Tony Driver

The solid feature debut by filmmaker Ascanio Petrini, Tony Driver [+see also:
interview: Ascanio Petrini
film profile
, is the only Italian representative in the feature competition of the International Film Critics’ Week of the 76th Venice Film Festival. This Italian-Mexican co-production, selected in the aforementioned parallel section organised by Italy’s National Union of Film Critics, is a faux documentary about the USA’s merciless immigration and deportation policies.

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The charismatic protagonist of Tony Driver is a former US citizen who currently finds himself caught up in a deportation process for failing to adhere to the country’s laws. Having been born in the city of Bari – like Petrini – in the early 1960s, Pasquale Donatone and his family moved to the United States when he was nine years old. His parents emigrated to this new land that seemed to offer countless opportunities, and there he remained for the next 40 years.

Following a traumatic divorce, Pasquale moved to Yuma to start afresh. Furthermore, in order to aid him in his mission of getting his new life off the ground and show his full dedication to it, Pasquale changed his name to one that incorporated the new job he was going to be doing in this place. From that point on, the Italian-American would call himself “Tony Driver” in honour of his perilous work of scouring the roads, picking up Mexican immigrants who were risking their lives by crossing the border. For years, “new Tony” devoted his life entirely to this mission. However, on one of those fateful journeys transporting illegal immigrants in his taxi, he was busted by the police. After his arrest, the State of Arizona gave him a choice between serving a prison sentence or being deported for ten years. By choosing the deportation option, Pasquale was forced to return to Italy, a nation that he didn’t recognise as his native country; because, despite having been born there, he still feels like a US citizen.

Tony Driver is set five years after the aforementioned incident that changed his life forever. The protagonist of this political comedy, disguised as a faux documentary, tells the story of his own misfortune from his Italian abode: a mobile home sporting a huge US flag, nestled in a remote corner of Apulia. The first-person narration – always facing the camera – by Pasquale is embellished with comical re-enactments of the events, inserted much like comedy sketches.

During the first part of the movie, the filmmaker shows the melancholic everyday life of a man trapped in the memories of his past. Until, one day, fed up of compulsively calling the immigration office in the USA day after day, and hurling insults at photos of Donald Trump in magazines, Pasquale decides to head off to Mexico to cross the border illegally. Finally, in this second episode, which takes place on Mexican soil, somewhere near Arizona, we accompany this untameable spirit as he realises his only dream in the world. Tony Driver tells the story of this tenacious fighter striving to overcome and pick up the pieces of his shattered American dream – even if it means doing so as an outlaw.

Tony Driver was produced by Italian outfits Dugong Films and Rabid Films, together with Mexico’s Fulgura Frango.

(Translated from Spanish)

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