Dir/scr: Roberto Faenza.It. 2005. 92mins.
A brave voice speaks outagainst the Mafia; the voice gets silenced, but its message remains. AllaLuce Del Sole is not the first committed Italian biopic to fit this pitchline, and is unlikely to be the last.
The most obvious differencebetween Roberto Faenza's new film and other examples of the genre like ICento Passi (2000) or Giovanni Falcone (1993) is that in this casethe victim was a priest. Don Giuseppe Puglisi was shot dead by a Mafia hitmanon 15 September 1993 for preaching too insistently against local bosses, andfor having the temerity to help local kids to make their depressed suburb ofPalermo a better place.
The film is a worthy tributeto a courageous man; but its worthiness gets rather cloying at times. Thescript delivers an emotional punch in gloves padded by cliched situations andstock characters, and in so doing forfeits some of the authority built up byLuca Zingaretti's sensitive and convincing lead performance.
Older audiences at home canbe counted on to turn up in respectable numbers to see heart-on-sleeve "truestory" films such as this, which always generate a certain media buzz. Butwithout the chiaroscuro character strokes that Marco Tullio Giordana's superiorI Cento Passi provided, Alla Luce Del Sole - which is released on170 screens by Mikado on Jan 21 - is unlikely to have a long or particularlyprofitable home run.
Respectful small festivalscreenings and low-level arthouse coverage are probably the most thisimpassioned but over-conventional anti-Mafia movie can aspire to outside ofItaly.
The film opens powerfullywith a savage mise en scene of life in the lawless Brancaccio neighbourhood ofPalermo: it's dog eat dog (literally), with a bit of dog eat cat thrown in forgood measure. Into this quartiere-from-hell comes Don Puglisi, the new parishpriest. He was born here, in a house that is now a junk-filled shell, and thecrusading zeal that motivates his return is tempered by a practical,unsentimental understanding of the locals and their ways.
The first 20 minutes or soare the best part of the film: mostly because the stand-off between Don Puglisiand the suspicious locals still has some bite to it. Triumphs (he makes part ofthe churchyard into a football pitch to get the kids off the street) andsetbacks (the Carabinieri turn up during the first match to arrest one of theplayers) are efficiently alternated.
But the film soon takes thepath of least resistance, lapsing into easy feelgood cliches, at their mostevident in a scene where Don Puglisi tames a rowdy class of teenage kids not somuch through anything he says or does, but because the script requires it.
Don Puglisi dominates thescene: minor characters such as a guitar-strumming nun (the closest the filmcomes to a love interest) and a young assistant priest are weak foils, and themafiosi, with their glittering crucifixes and open-top Mercs, are little morethan stereotypes.
In a way, the mainsupporting character is the local community - especially its children. Faenzaelicits some strong performances from a non-professional cast of minors, andhis assured direction of these street kids is the most memorable thing aboutthe movie.
Italo Petriccione'sphotography takes its cue from the Italian title, which translates literally as"in the light of the sun" and figuratively as "openly, with nothing to hide".The daubed and crumbling walls of the Brancaccio area are shot in the fullglare of the Sicilian sun or under lurid artificial light; only towards the enddo the colours darken, in tune with the mood.
Andrea Guerra's soundtrackunderscores the film's essentially sentimental nature: the main motif is alilting, melancholic accordion melody, a kind of Sicilian tango.
Prod cos: Jean Vigo Italia, Mikado, Rai Cinema
Int'l sales: c/o Jean Vigo Italia
It dist: Mikado
Exec prods: Claudio Grassetti,Giulio Cestari
Prod: Elda Ferri
Cine: Italo Petriccione
Prod des: Davide Bassan
Ed: Massimo Fiocchi
Music: Andrea Guerra
Main cast: Luca Zingaretti,Alessia Goria, Corrado Fortuna