Shot entirely on a smartphone, this documentary by award-winning writer-director Agostino Ferrente (Intervista a mia madre) shows daily life through the eyes of Pietro and Alessandro.
Filmed and interpreted by these two Neapolitan teenagers, Selfie provides an unvarnished window into the varied textures of their world – from the truly mundane to touching moments of true friendship – as the boys grapple with the insecurities of being 16, the danger of living in Rione Traiano and the grief of losing loved ones – in particular, Davide Bifolco, a teenage boy mistaken for a wanted man who was shot by the police.
An Italian French co-production, the film explores Davide’s tragic story along with police violence and the haunting spectre of organised crime, as well as introducing a myriad of locals, friends and family.
Sadly, there are so many faces that most are reduced to two-dimensional stereotypes: the pretty Insta-princesses who will stand by their man come hell or jail; the gangsters who talk lovingly about their favourite firearm, shooting in the air till the police arrive; wannabe 12-year-old bad boys demanding a cigarette. Unfortunately, there’s no real depth or chance for authentic connection with these characters, just a cast of superficial sound bites and brief Snapchats through their young eyes.
The locations range from run down to decadent but the camera work is basic and raw, to be expected from these debuting “Spielbergs”. Still, it can get a little distracting throughout and the boys love to be in shot – plus there are a few too many overlong emotional stares into camera, which at times seem a little fake. However, what elevates this documentary from a long life on social media are Alessandro and Pietro, their willingness to embrace this new lens and passion to share their truths, warts and all – along with the genuine brotherly affection they have for each other which keeps on engaging and shining through.
For fans of Ferrente or reality-style storytelling, Selfie is certainly a shot worth taking.
Selfie does not have a UK release date yet.
Read more reviews from our Berlin Film Festival 2019 coverage here.
For further information about the event visit the Berlin Film Festival website here.