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ZURICH 2019

Review: What You Don’t Know About Me

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- Through this poetic and heartfelt film, Rolando Colla tell us the story of two characters living on the margins and yearning for happiness

Review: What You Don’t Know About Me
Koudous Seihon and Linda Olsansky in What You Don’t Know About Me

Whilst the tale told in Rolando Colla’s latest film, What You Don’t Know About Me [+see also:
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, might seem straightforward and borderline predictable, the complexity of the characters and their genuine innocence transforms this work, which was presented in a world premiere within the Special Screenings section of the Zurich Film Festival, into a far more interesting offering.

What You Don’t Know About Me speaks of a love story - that between Ikendu and Patricia - set in the calm and, in many respects, conformist region of Ticino; two characters who, as a result of their own particular story and lifestyle, find themselves on the margins of a society which keeps them at arm’s distance, as if suspicious, alien beings.

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Ikendu (played by the highly affecting Koudous Seihon) is a refugee from Mali, a country from which he was forced to flee, first finding himself in Italy, travelling by way of Libya, and then in Switzerland and, more specifically, Bellinzona. Patricia, meanwhile (a perfectly cast Linda Olsansky), is a somewhat bohemian single mother who’s raising her two daughters alone and who works in a bicycle repair shop. Although we don’t find out where her intriguing accent comes from until nigh on the end of the film, we understand from the outset that Patricia is living her life on the margins of a world which tolerates her rather than liking her. She’s an intriguing and free-spirited woman who defies categorisation, and that’s what makes her so frightening. But Patricia is desperate to find love, and she seeks it out with a faith and a fury which verge on naivety. Both of them want to live freely, in accordance with their own, individual rules.

Reality, however, reveals itself to be far crueller and more complex than they would have liked to believe. With the passing of time, their lives, which once seemed so different, turn out to be increasingly similar, dotted with menacing words left unsaid which hang over them like the sword of Damocles. Both of them feeling like strangers to the world around them, where secure paths seem to be drawn out in advance, they choose to link their destinies together in the belief that it will help them escape from the ghosts of their past.

Their plans capsize, however, when Ikendu is arrested and accused of drugs trafficking. No longer knowing who to believe, Patricia must come to terms with her own prejudices, the preconceived ideas which have infected her mindset without her ever noticing. “Why should he be innocent? Why did he marry a white woman?”, the wife of one of Ikendu’s friends asks her, provocatively. It’s a question which gets Patricia thinking and which, in some sense, throws doubt on the ties which bind them together. How can we really know another person without trying to possess them? How can we really form a connection with someone without the stereotypes which surround us contaminating the relationship, distorting it? As he films his protagonists up close, with great tact and poetry, these are the questions for which Rolando Colla looks to provide answers.

What You Don’t Know About Me is produced by Swiss firm Peacock Film, Italian group Solaria Film and Czech outfit Axman Production, and is sold worldwide by Film Republic.

(Translated from Italian)

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