Yesterday I saw Piccola Patria, a disquieting and hyperrealistic film about two young friends, Luisa and Renata who live in the Veneto region of Italy. They are trying to save up enough money to leave it, but the two girls make 250 euro a month as waitresses in a big hotel that sticks out like a sore thumb in their farming community, and they need to find another way to earn cash.
Which of the girls during that long hot summer came up with the idea to use Luisa’s boyfriend Bilal in a super sick blackmail scheme against the perverted friend of her parents? I’m guessing it was Renata, who regularly takes money for sex from the perverted family friend anyway, and though I’m guessing is a lesbian and hates every minute of it, is willing to do pretty much anything to get what she wants.
The backdrop is Veneto, an agricultural region in which many long for independence and fear the immigrants like Bilal that are arriving from Albania, believing that they are stealing jobs and opportunities. Luisa’s father is nationalistic and Xenophobic, and the anger and frustration he’s feeling becomes a powder keg of emotions that could explode with any number of the things that are swirling out of control in his life.
Director Alessandro Rossetto, a former documentary maker, has done everything right with the look of the locals; their dress, their homes, their work. The dialogue is realistic and at times seems almost unscripted, but not so much as to take away from the telling of the story. It’s real, but we’re kept on track with its point.
Seeing the actors behind me in the Biennale’s Sala Grande I was particularly impressed, because if I hadn’t seen them there with their suits and fancy dresses, I might have forgotten that Luisa, Renata and Bilal were actors and not really the characters in the film that they so authentically portrayed.
The soundtrack is powerful and moving, particularly with two traditional songs from the region, Joska La Rossa and L’Aqua ‘Ze Morta, sung by a booming chorus as the film opens and closes.
My husband keeps saying, “Americans will love this one! Surely it will make it out of Italy!”
I’d like to think so, but it probably won’t.