Monday, September 07, 2009


Baarìa is Sicilian dialect for Bagheria, a town near Palermo and the birthplace of the director Giuseppe Tornatore. Bagheria’s most famous son had long dreamed of recreating on film the town and townsfolk of his childhood but never really thought that he would be able to achieve this ambition. It would not, at any rate, happen before he was 60, he thought, because he would not be at ease with his own memory until then.

Yet with several years to spare Giuseppe Tornatore has created a monumental work which can be seen as a history not only of Bagheria but of Sicily itself from 1910 to the present day: Shot mostly in Tunisia, where the Bagheria of the 1960s has been so painstakingly reconstructed that Tornatore’s mother started moving all the furniture in “her” film house into the “right” positions, Baarìa tells the story of three generations of a family based on Tornatore’s. It is a story of ordinary people who espouse left-wing politics because they see it as the only way to improve their lives. “It’s a history of simple people – history with a small ‘h’”, explains Tornatore.*

The film cost just over €20 million, features 230 actors, 20,000 extras [or 35,000 according to some sources] and took 25 weeks to shoot. It makes a star of Margareth Madè and many famous Italian actors have cameo roles. The project is said to have given work to over 1,000 Sicilians and was chosen to inaugurate this year’s Venice Film Festival.

So you would imagine, would you not, that everyone in Italy is pleased and that Tornatore has been thanked and praised? Not by Giancarlo Galan, the President of the Veneto Region, who does not appreciate the venture at all. He said, after the Venice screening, that the film had bored him to tears because “Nothing happens until the end” [as if all films were action films] and then criticised the amount of money spent on it, accusing the Sicilian Region of investing public money in the film. This has been denied and the President of the Sicilian Region, Raffaele Lombardo, has, quite rightly, defended both the film and his Region, going on to accuse Galan of having "a phobia about anything produced south of the River Po". [Don’t you just want to bang men’s heads together sometimes?!]

The film has also been criticised for not being shot in Sicily [which is a fair point] for its use of dialect and for avoiding the issue of the Mafia.

It is true that here I am defending a film that I have not yet seen [it is to be released in Sicily at the end of the month] but I find it hard to believe that a work by the director of Cinema Paradiso and Manèla is boring!

Poor Sicily, always being slated by the north for being apathetic, then when for once it shows itself to be dynamic and enterprising, that is wrong too!

I’ll post about the film again after I have seen it. Meanwhile, there are fair reviews here and here.

* “È la storia che scorre, quella della gente semplice, la storia con la ‘s’ minuscola”. - Quoted in an article by Pietro Calabrese in Corriere della Sera Magazine, 3.9.09.

My non-linked sources:
Article: Tra amore e politica, un secolo in Sicilia in il venerdì di Repubblica, 4.9.09.
Article: La Mia Baarìa by Pietro Calabrese in Corriere della Sera Magazine, 3.9.09.
Il Giornale di Sicilia, 4.9.09.


Cat said...

I'd be really interested in seeing the film and I was going to write something rude about Galan but thought I should keep things civil. I spent some rather pleasant days in Bagheria and now it is something of a very expensive suburb of Palermo, there is definitely an echo of a grander past.

Peter @ italyMONDO! said...

Interesting! I'm assuming this film will go mainstream after - being shown in all theaters, right?

Whispering Walls said...

Where was it shot?

James Higham said...

Yes, I blogged on this the other day but not in the detail you've gone into.

One hopes it will help the Italian film industry.

Saretta said...

I'm looking forward to seeing this film when it comes out. Don't you just get sick of those northerners pooh-poohing the south?

Come try the contest on my blog, I always enjoy yours!

Gledwood said...

I'm a total Philistine when it comes to Italian films ... I've not even seen Chinema Paradiso all the way through ...

CherryPie said...

It sounds interesting.

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

Hi, cb. I was tempted to do that, too! I've never been to Bagheria. I have read of its grander past, though. I can't wait to see the film. Hi, Peter. Yes, I believe so, at the end of this month. Hi, WW. At Ben Arous, Tunisia. Hi, James. Let's hope so.

Lucia said... least I can say I was there for pizza or visiting a relative! Looking forward to the movie.

lady macleod said...

Phillistines always have the loudest voice eh? I look forward to your review when you see the film. I very much enjoyed this little history tour!

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

Hi, Saretta. I certainly do! Will be over to yours shortly. Hi, Gleds. I'm sure you're not a Philistine! Hi, Cherie. Yes, I think it will be a very interesting film. Ciao, Lucia. Yes, you'll be the envy of all your friends over there who see it! Hi, Lady M. They do, it's true. Glad you enjoyed the "tour".

Minnie said...

How serendipitous, Welshcakes, as I was just wondering the other day about the director of 'Cinema Paradiso'. His latest film would surely be worth seeing.
But it all goes to show how deep the division between north & south still is in Italy - that 'Christ stopped at Eboli' standpoint common in the north - doesn't it?

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

That's a coincidence, Phidelm! Have you seen "Malena" by the same director? You're right about the division here. It's so sad - the south always being looked down upon.


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