A coming-of-age portrait about the final school year of young people in a poor neighborhood of Palermo. There’s a stark contrast between their dreamy childhood world and the harsh realities around them.More info
Throughout the festival, the IDFA programmers will present their hidden gems within the selection. Today: Marije Veenstra (Program Manager Education and Kids & Docs). Her tip: Our Road by Pierfrancesco Li Donni. Read her take on the film below.
This coming-of-age film is a plea for diligently immersing yourself into the other. You can get so much more out of people if you are really interested in them. That is so clearly the case with Pierfrancesco Li Donni that after his film is finished, it is quite difficult to let go of the main characters.
For his documentary, the Italian director followed three young people from Palermo during their last year of high school. They live in a deprived neighbourhood with relatively little future prospects. Yet they have great life expectations, they still feel that they’re at the center of the universe, and they have ideals and ambitions. Just like teenagers everywhere, actually.
The trio is guided by a teacher and mentor who, just before adulthood, tries to teach them that outside their parents, the neighbourhood, and the traditional Catholic values with which they were raised, there may be a larger, different world. For example, in conversations he makes a point of homosexuality, a theme they find hard to deal with. The mentor tries to loosen them somewhat in an open, playful way from traditional norms and values that they have inherited from home. The man is very involved, sees them not only as annoying adolescents; he really immerses himself in those young people. He even visits their homes and speaks to their educators. In a later stage, the film takes a leap in time and Li Donni, in the wake of the mentor, visits the protagonists again. What’s left of their dreams a year later?
I think the film shows the power and importance of education very well, especially for groups of students who are more dependent on their own anyway. The special thing is that Li Donni actually does the same as the mentor: By being very honest and observing, he too ends up in that bubble of those young people with the camera. He never interviews them, but studies them from behind the lens. In this way he registers their whit, bravado, strength, and their weaknesses, and he always ensures that none of those things come to the fore or background. They are portrayed in such a balanced way. Sometimes he sits with his camera next to them in class and literally and figuratively films them up close. In addition to humanity, there is also an artistic quality to this.
Read more about Our Road and get your tickets here.