Dark Matter (Materia oscura)

The military missile testing site on Sardinia is picturesquely situated between the coast and a mountain range, a seemingly pristine natural setting. Yet it has been in a state of constant “war” since 1956, as the film footage of the military test series shot and archived by the site’s own film department bears witness. This cinematic survey by Massimo D’Anolfi and Martina Parenti is of a radically different nature. They scour the battlefield for signs of devastation: munitions, rubbish, rusted equipment. They make visible what actually cannot be seen. The soil is heavily contaminated; there have been repeated deformities in both humans and the animals that graze on the test range. With a rigorous visual approach that eschews any explanatory commentary or interviews, the filmmakers are less concerned with presenting facts than conveying some disturbing insights. The irrevocable nature of human intrusion into nature makes words such as “unspoiled” or “pristine” seem absurd. The death of a mouse before our eyes, the images of a deformed calf in its death throes serve as a portent that it is about much more here than just collateral damage from constant war games. [Synopsis courtesy of Berlinale]

Un giorno speciale

Gina and Marco are living in the suburbs of Rome. The two meet on a very special day: their first day at work. They have a future that awaits them and really seems at hand. Gina is about to realize her dream of becoming an actress, while Marco for the first time has found an opportunity that allows him to start dreaming: a job in a car rental company as a driver. They are enabled to know each other since his first duty is to drive Gina to an appointment, and given a delay, they have to share the whole day. This journey will take them from the periphery to the center of the city, will serve both to compare their experiences and think about a future that has already begun…

Dormant Beauty

Italy is cleaved by Eluana Englaro’s drama, who will die after 17 years spent in a vegetative state. This national tragedy will touch and transform various characters, each of them with their own ideology and beliefs. A senator is struggling with his vote on a law he profoundly disagrees with, torn between his conscience and his loyalty towards the leaders of his party. His daughter Maria, a pro-life activist, is protesting in front of the clinic where Eluana is hospitalized. Roberto and his brother are there in opposition, demonstrating for stronger secular values — yet it is with Roberto, the “enemy,” that Maria falls in love. These and other converging stories are connected by a unique emotional thread: a reflection on the meaning of life. [Synopsis courtesy of Toronto International Film Festival]

The Knights of the Lagoon

A human, poetic journey inside the Orbetello lagoon fishing community, using the fishermen’s stories to explore a new way of fishing and a philosophy of food production which cares about quality, the environment and people. It’s a story of tradition and technology, humans and nature, passion and conflicts. Gruff men who can both make us chuckle and feel melancholy, men who can laugh at themselves and their situation, who tell their stories frankly with all their individual contradictions. They are heroes suspended between the destiny of a disappearing world and the romantic, stubborn desire not to give up, to keep alive their story, which is also the story of their families, their fathers and grandfathers.
In the midst of this unprecedented economic crisis, in which the Western industrial system has revealed its complete failure, it is essential to highlight and promote alternative production models. The logic of small, local, cooperative businesses like this might seem insignificant and anachronistic in a globalized world of corporations and astronomical turnovers, but in fact it offers the only way forward if we want to rediscover a harmonious relationship with the natural world. [Synopsis courtesy of Berlinale]

Natural Resistance

Ten years after Mondovino, his analysis of the increasingly standardised wine production in France, wine expert Jonathan Nossiter picks up the thread again and shows what it means to be rooted in the soil you’re working on. During walks through the vineyards and relaxed gatherings with a group of alternative Italian wine growers, he trades experiences and arguments. What looks like a bucolic paradise, where intelligent people produce wine according to time-honoured and organic methods, is actually revealed to be a battleground. The DOC association, which is supposed to look after the interest of independent vintners, promotes winemakers who produce vast amounts in a standardised quality; and the agricultural industry with its hygiene regulations excludes traditional methods of production. The only thing saving the landscape from being totally destroyed is affluent foreigners using the old vineyards as summer holiday homes. [Synopsis courtesy of Berlinale]

Happy to Be Different

An older gay couple in a city in northern Italy talk about their decades-long relationship. A man describes how he was physically abused by his father because of his sexual identity. Another, who had a high-flying career, recounts a sexually fulfilled life and mentions numerous homosexual politicians. Gay men from across the social classes and regions of the country have their say and discuss the different conditions which determined gay life in Italy. Their stories recall isolation, discrimination, suffering and violence, but also reveal designs for a happy life. There is a discomfiting and controversial discrepancy between the reality of the individual accounts and the media coverage. The latter often portrays gay people with a discriminatory irony or is manipulating and vitriolic, especially where intellectuals are concerned. [Synopsis courtesy of Berlinale]

Il Terzo Tempo

Samuel is a young man born and grown up in difficult and violent conditions who has already spent several years in and out of prison. After yet another spell in jail, the surveillance judge, responsible for the treatment of detainees, has enrolled him in a program of rehabilitation on a commercial farm. His supervisor is the social worker Vincenzo, who, following the death of his wife, is struggling to restore some balance to his life: he divides his time between his job, a teenage daughter and his role as coach of the local rugby team. Samuel has trouble adapting to the rules of the farm and his relationship with Vincenzo proves problematic from the outset. A former professional rugby player, Vincenzo senses the young man’s potential for the sport and persuades him to try his hand at scrums, place-kicks and tries. The first training sessions are a failure. Samuel does not get on with his fellow players and knows nothing of the mentality of the “team game.” The tensions and misunderstandings between Vincenzo and Samuel do not lessen and the bond that the young man forges with Flavia, the coach’s daughter, only makes things worse. As the days pass, however, Samuel realizes he has found new and healthy stimuli in sport, a possibility of redemption thanks to the oval ball and a new life in the understanding with his teammates and in Flavia’s love. [Synopsis courtesy of Venice Film Festival]