Review: Rose Stone Star
- Marcello Sannino makes his fiction debut with a film about a woman fighting for her and her daughter’s survival in Naples, moving between precarious jobs and immigrant exploitation
A beautiful, rebellious, proud and tenacious alpha female is at the heart of the first fiction film by documentarian Marcello Sannino (winner of the Special Jury Prize at the Turin Film Festival 2009 with Corde), a tale of life lived on the margins, set between the populous town of Portici and Porta Capuana in Naples, a veritable immigrant hub which Sannino previously explored in his homonymous documentary (Porta Capuana, 2018). Presented in a world premiere in the Voices line-up of the International Film Festival Rotterdam, Rose Stone Star [+see also:
film profile] follows in the footsteps of a young woman without resources, hardened by life and struggling for her own survival and that of her daughter, who gets involved in illicit trafficking in an attempt to win respectability and a real place for herself in the world.
“I can do anything”, insists Carmela (Ivana Lotito, previously seen in the TV series Gomorrah in the role of Genny Savastano’s wife) whenever she’s asked her about her skills. We see her posing as a model in an art school, issuing false statements on behalf of a corrupt lawyer, stewarding at conferences... The most lucrative activity, however, turns out to be providing speedy residency permits to illegal immigrants living in Naples, with the assistance of certain businessmen who are willing to sign false work contracts. Her mother (Imma Piro) and sister (Valentina Curatoli) disapprove of Carmela’s life-style, as well as the fact that she doesn’t have a husband and isn’t looking for a stable job, not even an underpaid one. But it’s first and foremost her pre-teen daughter Maria (Ludovica Nasti, Lila from the TV series My Brilliant Friend), whose greatest desire is to go to school and study, who refuses to accept this indomitable and somewhat wild mother. Not to mention social services, who are never too far away...
There are no men in this family: have they run off? Have they been killed? Are they in prison? We don’t know. These are women who are forced to get by on their own, each in her own way, without any form of support. And Carmela will also have to deal with “business associates” running off with the cash, eviction proceedings which are already underway and a priest who, having never seen her at mass, refuses to help her out. Even the possibility of selling her own body will become a viable option in the end.
“Carmela uses the few weapons at her disposal in order to survive”, confirms Sannino, who got his inspiration for the film’s protagonist from a woman he actually knew. “It’s what you have to do in a world where the class struggle has been replaced by an internal struggle between those who live on the margins, in a situation of illegality”. The plot, however, is somewhat on the slim side; it has no impact, and Lotito, in the shoes of the tough and brazen main character, is ill-equipped to shoulder the full burden of the film; a few additional nuances in her character would have helped. The storyline, meanwhile, which sees her develop a relationship with the Algerian Tarek (Fabrizio Rongione), is pretty unconvincing. This is a social work which focuses on the individual and her battle. But even though the wholly female perspective is, indeed, interesting the film struggles to elicit empathy for the fate of its protagonist.
(Translated from Italian)
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