In an example of what I would call Neo-Neo Realism, young director Fabio Mollo tells a tale about the mafia in his hometown, Reggio Calabria, just about as far south as you can get in Italy and only a few miles across the Strait of Messina to Sicily.
Il Sud è Niente (South is Nothing) is the story of Cristiano (Vinicio Marchioni) and his family, or what’s left of it, anyway, holding on to the life he’s built for dear life and white knuckling as he tries to get his daughter Grazia (Miriam Karlkvist) situated in life before everything blows up.
Grazia is a troubled teen, to say the least, who has for reasons I’m not sure about eliminated all traces of femininity; I thought she was a boy for the first ten minutes of the film.
I get why she’s unhappy. Her mother is dead, her beloved brother Pietro died five years ago, and nobody will talk to her about any of it; in fact, her father is so tight lipped and secretive that she’s wondering if Pietro’s really dead at all.
Meanwhile back at the family fish market the ‘Ndrangheta is putting the squeeze on Cristiano and a family friend tells him “for his own good” that it’s time to take his daughter and mother and get out of town. Even with these dire circumstances, the film is powerful “slice of life” cinema and worth watching if only for this. The language, the atmosphere, plainness of the town and the family’s everyday routine; it’s all so engrossing.
You are allowed only one viewing with Festival Scope, so be warned: If you have as many questions as I did (and still do) about practically everything and everybody in the film you won’t be able to go back and watch it again. Why is Grazia living, virtually, as a boy? She’s not a lesbian. What happened to Pietro? And why does the mafia want that fish store so badly?There’s always the chance that, even with subtitles, there’s something I’m missing about the plot. Maybe it’s something really subtle that would be more obvious to Italians than Americans.
And in the end, do these things matter? I think they do, but it didn’t take away from my basic enjoyment of this ultra-realistic film. Vinicio Marchioni is amazing as always in the role of Cristiano and Miriam Karlkvist, a 2014 Berlinale Shooting Star is a revelation.