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Review: Vulnerable Beauty


- Manuele Mandolesi’s documentary, winner of the Italian Golden Globe, centres on the courage of a family that turns the devastation of an earthquake into an opportunity

Review: Vulnerable Beauty

They’ve changed accommodation six times in a year, between bungalows, campers and makeshift houses. But while the bulldozers were taking down the dilapidated buildings and collecting the rubble, they were only thinking about making new projects and rebuilding. It is the exemplary story of a family of young farmers from Ussita (in the province of Macerata, in the Marche region), left without a home like 41 thousand other people following the devastating earthquake that hit the centre of Italy exactly 4 years ago (on 24 August 2016), which director Manuele Mandolesi has chosen to tell in Vulnerable Beauty [+see also:
film profile
, his documentary that won the Golden Globe last July, and is now programmed at the Trento Film Festival and the International Nancy Film Festival.

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Michela Paris and Stefano Riccioni, with their wonderful children of 4 and 5 Emma and Diego, are the protagonists of this film, part of a wider project titled La vulnerabilità della bellezza which puts together three stories from the earthquake with several characters and languages to be distributed on various platforms. This project aims to keep alive the attention on these populations of central Italy who after 4 years still live in precarious conditions or haven’t managed to return to their lands, because reconstruction hasn’t yet started. Mandolesi spent a year with the Riccioni family, from spring 2017 to spring 2018, when, twelve months after the terrible event that damaged more than 87 burroughs between Marche, Umbria and Lazio, they began rebuilding the stables for their animals and their new house, which they will manage to complete thanks to a donation from a private individual.

The focus of Mandolesi’s documentary isn’t denunciation or self-pity, but the courage and industriousness of this solid family of farmers who live in close contact with nature, and embrace even its most negative aspects: the earthquake is a natural phenomenon that can represent an opportunity for rebirth and change, for them and their land. “We are lucky to be here and to tell the story,” repeats Michela thinking about those who have passed, and therefore, there is nothing else to do but act. We see her working, together with her husband, taking care daily of their livestock and their small children, to the rhythm of the seasons. We then see them imagining new stables with a breathtaking view on the mountains. At a certain point, Michela collects an award for biodiversity in agri-food, and that is when we understand that the Riccionis’ livestock is a special one, with sheep of Sopravissana breed typical of the Monti Sibillini region and at risk of extinction. During the most difficult period post-earthquake, they even managed to increase their flock, from 25 to 300 heads, to produce wool, milk and high-quality meat.

Another protagonist of the documentary is the landscape, in particular the mountains: Mandolesi films them repeatedly in all their beauty and roughness. It is a majestic and vulnerable land that moves and occasionally collapses, but which would be even more vulnerable without the support of its best and most affectionate inhabitants.

Produced by Respiro Produzioni, Vulnerable Beauty won the Popoli DOC-CG Entertainment prize as the best Italian film at the Popoli Festival 2019 in Florence, and is now available on demand on the CG Entertainment platform.

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(Translated from Italian)

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