Nominated as Italy’s Oscar contender, Jonas Carpignano’s Scorsese-backed follow-up to his acclaimed Mediterrenea is a must-see.
Set in the Calabrian coastal town of Gioia Tauro, A Ciambra turns its attention to the Ciambra’s population of Roma gypsies. Pio Amato is its central character, the freewheeling young errant who must support his family through a life of petty crime when his older brother and father get locked up. His ceaseless hustle is expertly cut together by Affonso Gonçalves (whose former credits include Carol and Paterson) to give the picture a truly unique momentum.
In its commitment to verisimilitude, comparisons may be drawn with Vittorio De Sica’s neo-realist classic Bicycle Thieves. Carpignano has purposefully styled one young child so we make this connection but this is no remake and, after nearly seventy years, the social context has changed. In its capturing of a moment of demographic transformation, A Ciambra is staggeringly contemporary.
Pio befriends Ayiva (Koudous Seihon, also recast from Mediterrenea), and gradually earns his respect. In the Ciambra, older men clearly hold the power with petty crime seen as nobel. Importantly, there is a lack of judgement from Jonas Carpignano who, in a lesser film, could have presented poverty and criminality in a far different light.
Street casting an entire family as fictionalised versions of themselves is a bold artistic decision. Nevertheless, Carpignano’s insider perspective – himself a resident of Gioia Tauro and with African-American and Italian dual-heritage – pays off. There are moments in this spontaneous film that simply couldn’t have been staged.
Scored by Dan Romer and lensed by Tim Curtin, Carpignano’s analysis of Roma masculinity in the Ciambra adds to his collection of outsider portraits. A Ciambra is an uncompromising coming-of-age tale from a director skilled not just in collaborating with untrained actors but in observing society.
CAST: Pio Amato, Koudous Seihon, Damiano Amato, Francesco Pio Amato
DIRECTOR: Jonas Carpignano
WRITER: Jonas Carpignano
SYNOPSIS: Life among the Italian Roma community is explored in this drama considering what it takes for a boy to become a man.