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Monday, June 12, 2017

"Italian Film Series" Founder Anthony Mangione Reviews Andrea Segre's "Io sono Li"

Photo by Simone Falso
Italian Film Series, a monthly event in Rochester, New York showcasing contemporary Italian films is now in its third month. Founder Anthony Mangione, along with numerous local sponsors and supporters, is dedicated to bringing Italian stories told by Italy's young filmmakers to film aficionados west of the Big Apple. The series takes place every month at the Little Theatre, Rochester's hub for arthouse and foreign films. 

The June selection is Andrea Segre's 2011 thought-provoking film, Io sono Li, starring Zhao Tao, Rade Serbedzija and Giuseppe Battiston. Io sono Li is the story of a relationship between a young immigrant Chinese woman Shun Li and a fisherman of Slavic origin Bepi on an island in the Venetian lagoon, which is undergoing a period of economic and social change. After working in a textile factory in the outskirts of Rome, Shun Li is transferred to the small town of Chioggia where she works as a bartender in a tavern. Bepi, nicknamed "the Poet", has been attending the little inn for years.

Anthony Mangione is our latest Guest Writer to contribute his thoughts on Italian Cinema Today. Here is his beautiful review as well as memories of his own mother's tale of immigration upon her arrival in America. 

Io sono Li is heartwarming movie that moved me several times. Right from the opening scenes, the irony of a Chinese seamstress in Italy, seen from a city like Rochester that was a major center for Italian seamstresses, such as my mother and grandmother. It felt like a role reversal. I believe many of the old Italians that came here for work in tailor shops can identify with the opening scenes in the factory. Especially with her letter to her son, saying she was making more pieces than she was mandated to make, in order to earn more money. That’s all I was hearing when I came over; “piecework”. Getting paid by the piece; the harder you work, the more you earn.

Photo by Simone Falso
Another sensitive topic is what I call "the lonely souls syndrome", which sounds better than the “atom bind”. An atom is made of a nucleus of protons and neutrons, bound together, and with electrons floating free in an orbit. An individual society. But sometime, a negative charged electron gets attracted by a positively charged proton from a nearby atom, shifting its orbit to embrace the new atom, circling around both. Both Li and the Poet were part of their own circles of influence, and yet separate in their own individual life issues. And they get attracted to each other, and pardon the unintended pun, the chemistry is natural and the attraction strong, simple and honest, flowing out of the screen and spilling over the audience. How many people watching it long for that feeling? For that attraction? How many actually experience it? Human chemistry connects us all. The magnetic pull of the two individuals is as natural, as predictable, and as wished for by the audience as rain on a dry season. It also brings up memories of Casablanca, “the lives of two little people don’t amount to a hell of beans in this crazy world”, where two who should be together break apart and go their own way for the sake of a third. And the audience understands that there is always a greater love.

Photo by Simone Falso
There is the sacrifice of a friend, who left the money to pay for her son, before disappearing herself. One who gave up on life or escaped it? And the ultimate tribute to a loved one, echoing the symbolic “Viking Funeral” in Beau Geste, this time with a Chinese reference. We are all one world after all.

Io sono Li will be shown on June 20. Click here for more information and to purchase tickets. Click here to follow the series on Facebook. 

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