Italian Movies Have Never Been Better

Benvenuti Al Sud – Jamm Jà!

Benvenuti al Sud (Welcome to the South) with Claudio Bisio

Benvenuti al Sud (Welcome to the South) with Claudio Bisio

 

My husband is Italian American and both of his grandfathers are from southern Italy, one from Calabria and the other from a little town near Naples called Bagnoli Irpino. We don’t know much about the Calebrese relatives but we have visited the ones in Bagnoli – it’s a wonderful little town. I think everyone was relying on me to speak Italian when we got there but thank God we found English-speaking cousins because I didn’t understand a word anybody was saying and I felt like an idiot ever having told anybody that I spoke Italian in the first place.

In director Luca Miniero’s 2010 “Benvenuti al Sud” I was a little vindicated because when postal employee Alberto (played by Claudio Bisio) gets transferred to a small town near Naples much like Bagnoli Irpino he has a hard time with the dialect, too – and he’s Italian.

benvenuti_al_sud

Benvenuti al Sud is a comedy that was remade from the French comedy ” Bienvenue chez les Ch’tis” (Welcome to the Sticks) – and in this case “the sticks” are in the north of France and the desirable location is the south. But one country’s hang ups at a time –  Italy is more like us in America. In Italy, as in the United States, the stereotypical “sticks” is more likely to be in the southern parts of the country.

Alberto and his family (his wife, Silvia played by Angela Finocchiaro)  lives in a small town not far from Milan and dreams of  moving to the big city but when Alberto applies for a transfer he learns that handicapped people are being shown preference. Alberto fails in his wacky, not very believable attempt to make superiors believe he’s needs a wheelchair to get around and his punishment is 2 years in the south.

Benvenuti-al-sud-1

Jamm Jà! (Does this mean “let’s go”? Everyone kept saying it and I’m still trying to figure it out.) Next thing you know, Alberto is heading for his new job near Naples. Because of the perceived crime, poverty and squalor he leaves Silvia and his son at home and tells them he’ll be back to visit every couple of weeks, but what he finds in his new home is not what he expected, of course, and his perceptions are challenged and changed.

When Americans make movies like this a lot of the time we get it all wrong, portraying the Northerners as big assholes that come to the south, thinking they’ll find bumpkins with low IQs and instead find the best people they’ve ever met. Benvenuti al Sud is more subtle,  very sweet and surprisingly void of these tired movie stereotypes. I like how Miniero didn’t try to make the southern Italians all seem like adorable, too good to be true charactertures with hearts of gold nor did he vilify the north. He made everybody real people. He showed the differences between northerners and southerners without making one seem better than the other and without exaggeration.

Benvenuti al Sud (Welcome to the South) with Claudio Bisio

Benvenuti al Sud (Welcome to the South) with Claudio Bisio

Benvenuti al Sud is yet another one that I hope will make it here to the United States. The scenery is beautiful, the acting is great ( really love Angela Finocchiaro) and the theme is, obviously, universal.

3 Responses to “Benvenuti Al Sud – Jamm Jà!”

  1. Maggie

    I found your blog when searching Bagnoli Irpino’s dialect. I’ve never been there but hope to go in a few years, as my Italian great-grandparents were from there. I recently started learning Italian and now that I’ve learned about the dialect, I wonder how useful Italian will be when I am there.

    Perhaps your husband and I are cousins — I am closely related to the Chieffo, Decapua, Nicastro and Russo families, and I know those names are all common in Bagnoli Irpino now. I would love to correspond about the town if you are so inclined.

    Anyway, I like your blog, and I will be mindful of your movie recommendations.

    Reply
    • Cheri

      Maggie Ciao! I am sure you are related to my husband! How are you related to the De Capua and the NiCastro families? As to your question – probably won’t be much help but you will enjoy it. I speak OK Italian but the dialect there is very hard for me to understand!

      Reply

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