The success of “Black Souls” and Calabria’s quest for redemption

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The latest David di Donatello prize-giving ceremony was a big success for “Black Souls”, a movie directed by Francesco Munzi and based on the novel of the same title by Calabrian writer Gioacchino Criaco. Awarded with nine prizes, the film tells a rather grim story, as can be inferred from the title. The plot, which deals with a family getting mixed up with the underworld of organized crime, is developed in a style fraught with undertones that are typical of Greek tragedies.

The film was shot in Africo, a town in the province of Reggio Calabria where Criaco himself was born and of whose territory the writer has produced a masterful social depiction. The interlinking of the harshness typical of landscapes in Aspromonte with the characters of the local people has undoubtedly proved to be a key to success for both the movie and the novel. Furthermore, the illustration in the film of certain linguistic codes and behavioral patterns, given as they were a sort of cinematographic artistic aura, was effective in bringing a number of sad truths to the fore,  showing how culture can become a powerful vehicle of information on social issues.

Another aspect which contributed to the movie’s success is the presence of Giuseppe Fumo in its cast. This young boy from Gioia Tauro did not have any difficulties in dealing with the camera eye, displaying promising qualities as an actor and showing to be completely at ease in spite of being surrounded by already renowned Italian names such as Peppino Mazzotta, Fabrizio Ferracane and Barbara Bobulova.

The  element of redemption for Calabria resides not so much in the movie plot as in its presenting the world with the fact that there are indeed true talents coming from this region. The writer Gioacchino Criaco is certainly one of them, as he has proved himself able to bring Aspromonte under the spotlight again, following in Corrado Alvaro’s footsteps. In his peculiar style, he gives an account of the archaic elements of local folklore and shows the collocation they have found in the present age.

In “Black Souls” important values, such as the sense of belonging to one’s birthplace – Calabria, in this case – or the feeling of family affection take on negative connotations. Indeed, the courage to debunk traditional values can also have the effect of bringing the younger generations face to face with the possibility of choice. Which seems to suggest that hope and redemption are coming up for Calabria.