A coming-of-age tale unlike anything you’ve seen before, the second instalment in a planned trilogy by writer/director Jonas Carpigano which began with 2015’s Mediterranea, The Ciambra follows a teenage boy, Pio (Pio Amato) – a supporting character from the first film – in a small Romani community in Reggio Calabria as his older brother (Damiano Amato) teaches him how to survive on the streets. When his sibling and father are arrested, however, young Pio must prove to himself and his family that he is capable of being a man. Masterfully told with unflinching honesty, this feature is a haunting examination of the hardships faced by marginalised, impoverished communities in Italy.
Predominantly shot with handheld cameras, a large part of this movie’s success is down to the grounded and intimate nature of its presentation. The camera is able to get up close to Pio’s large family as they sit cramped together around the table enjoying dinner together, and we, too, feel like we’re part of the laughter and chaos. Likewise, the close proximity to the characters – especially the young protagonist – brings us closer to their emotional plights. An added effect of this cinematography is that the unsteady movements of the camera give the image a rough, unpolished feel which perfectly matches the grimy setting, further immersing us in the teenager’s world.
This style of filmmaking provides each frame with a real sense of verisimilitude, which only serves to make images of young children drinking, smoking and committing various crimes that much more shocking, yet the rawness of the actors’ performances imbue and interweave tangible layers of humanity throughout; here are the lives they lead, and this is how they survive.
Whilst keeping his picture firmly grounded in reality, Carpigano isn’t afraid to dip into more profound moments of filmmaking to make broader statements on these ways of life, and when he does, the results are spellbinding. With a runtime of two hours, however, some sequences can feel unnecessarily prolonged and the ending feels somewhat out of character. Fortunately, these minor details aren’t enough to derail what is a noteworthy piece of cinema.
A brutally honest and unflinching portrayal of a Romani community, The Ciambra is a powerful coming-of-age story that ventures where rarely any other films dare to go.
The Ciambra is released in select cinemas on 15th June 2018.
Watch the trailer for The Ciambra here: