Gianfranco Rosi spent two years ensconced near the Grande Raccordo Anulare, or GRA, the major freeway that circles around Rome. From there he zoomed in on the invisible city to make this collection of warmhearted and sometimes humorous portraits—of an ambulance driver looking after his ailing mother, a scientist who studies palm trees, an eel fisherman who longs for traditions, aging prostitutes in a camper, and a cigar-smoking nobleman who does gymnastics on the roof of his castle.
Rosi gives a face to these people, while the drivers on the freeway speed past obliviously. He uses a laid-back but ingenious approach to highlight everyday lives lived in the shadow of progress. In so doing, he exposes the contradictions of the city. The film was partly inspired by Italo Calvino’s 1972 novel Invisible Cities.
In 2013, Sacro GRA became the first documentary to win the Golden Lion for Best Film at the Venice Film Festival, where it was regarded as an antidote to La grande bellezza, Paolo Sorrentino’s extravagant fictional portrayal of Rome’s privileged class.