Writer, director, and producer Jonas Carpignano cast the lead actress for the conclusion of his Calabrian trilogy when she was just 10 years old. That’s how memorable Swamy Rotolo and her entire real-life family were to Carpignano, and key to rounding out his Calabrian trilogy.
“A Chiara” stars Rotolo as a teenager who soon discovers her father has organized crime ties in their small town of Gioia Tauro. As Chiara (Rotolo) pieces together the depths to which her family is intoxicated by the larger mafia familial ties, her father (Claudio Rotolo) goes missing, forcing her into foster care. Chiara eventually confronts her absent dad for his sins and is forced to reckon with her own. The film concludes Carpignano’s trilogy after 2015’s “Mediterranea” and 2017’s “A Ciambra.”
“A Chiara” premiered in the 2021 Cannes Directors’ Fortnight and won the Europa Labels Prize for Best European Film. The film went on to land three Independent Spirit Award nominations including Best Feature Film; “A Chiara” debuts in theaters on May 27 and is distributed by Neon.
Carpignano explained in a press statement that his actors “never read the script” in order to maintain truth onscreen. “To me, the documentary-esque realism is a starting point, but the more scripted elements allow the film to, hopefully, operate on a thematic level that deepens the observational side,” Carpignano said.
As IndieWire columnist Eric Kohn noted, “A Chiara” rounds out the “Carpignano Cinematic Universe” of Cannes premieres, building out a purely independent film franchise in the wake of IP-dominated Marvel or DC installments.
IndieWire’s David Ehlrich reviewed “A Chiara” out of the New York Film Festival, writing that the coming-of-age film is “at its most vital whenever it leverages the specificity of Chiara’s situation to explore the universal anxieties of those liminal years between knowing too little and knowing too much — between the plausible deniability of recognizing who your parents are, and the personal complicity of following in their footsteps.”
Ehrlich continued, “It’s seldom been so riveting to see a self-aware teen realize they’ve been living a lie. However uncertain we may be about who Chiara is or ultimately decides to become, Carpignano’s trilogy has made it powerfully clear just how far that decision will resonate.”
“A Chiara” premieres in theaters May 27.
Watch the trailer below.