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Sunday, September 29, 2013

Gianfranco Rosi's Roman Tale, "Sacro GRA"

History was made at this year's Venice Film Festival. The jury, headed by Director Bernardo Bertolucci awarded the coveted Golden Lion Award to director, Gianfranco Rosi for his documentary, "Sacro GRA." It was the first time in the festival's history that a documentary took top honors.

Grande Raccordo Anulare
The film's subject, the GRA, an acronym for Grande Raccordo Anulare, is a 42-mile stretch of highway that surrounds Rome. It's an imperfect circle with dozens of tunnels and exits, which serve the communities, neighborhoods and countryside surrounding the Eternal City. It's somewhat of a meeting point that brings together the inner and outer parts of the city. Construction of the GRA began in 1948 with sections that opened every couple years until its completion in 1979. Since then, the road has been under construction a number of times to add more lanes and more accessibility. Regardless of the intentions for this highway to make commuting easier, it has instead been a constant headache for locals.

The documentary focuses on several people whose lives are affected by the roadway. Among the protagonists are a young paramedic who we often watch rushing to the scene of an accident, an elderly man who lives in a single room with his daughter, a family trying to deal with their son's DJ obsession, a botanist who studies palms inflicted with killer parasites, a disgruntled fisherman and an aristocrat who rents his mansion to film crews. Although none of the protagonists in the film know each other, their one common denominator is the GRA. 

Gianfranco Rosi receives Golden Lion
There's a lot of curiosity as to why this film took top prize at the festival.The documentary has received its share of criticism, many saying there is no real plot, nor a definitive point of view. However, Italians seem to be in love with this film. It premiered in Venice to wild applause and standing ovations. Metaforically speaking, the film can be compared to that of an inside joke, in which only a certain group of people "get it" and in this case, that group is Italians, Romans in particular because they are the ones who have to deal with the headaches of this stretch of road day in and day out. Since Bernardo Bertolucci headed the jury, perhaps he understood the message in this film more comprehensively than outside critics. Another fascinating aspect of this film is its mystery,  the aloofness with which the characters are presented. At the end, t's are left uncrossed, i's undotted and conflicts are left unresolved. Perhaps that lack of closure, which contributed to the film's sense of mystery, is another quality that led to its victory in Venice. 

Regardless of the scores of people who really don't "get it," the film is receiving a great deal of press, so chances are good that it will make its way to film festivals in North America. We will keep you posted. In the meantime, you can visit the film's website at http://www.sacrogra.it.

Official Trailer
www.youtube.com/watch?v=jmq5yaWtGSg

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