Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Respiro Film Event

The Italian American Association worked in collaboration with the Interfaith Center to show an Italian film called Respiro. The film was based in Lampedusa, a small Sicilian island in Italy and it provides a typical neo-realist depiction of community. This means that the events were more realistic than "Western" fantastical screenwriting; and moreover, to add to this sense of realism, the actors were unprofessional - being amateurs and using improvisation - the attire was common, and the language was mainly in the Sicilian dialect. The IFC provided the venue and the IAA brought snacks and drinks for the film. The event itself was successful: not only were there more attendees than expected but the discussion after was highly insightful.

The story follows the main character, Grazia and her troubles with depressive behavior in a society that does not necessarily understand her disposition. Her actions are witnessed not only by her family but are scrutinized, to her demise, by everyone throughout the small town. In the movie, an emphasis is placed on the love of family and on other spiritual influences. There were many examples of cultural differences between the society depicted in the film and the average American lifestyle. For starters, in the film, the community was a small, under-educated, and impoverished fishing village. The actors never once used a cell phone or watched a television; but rather, they spent hours of the day doing the necessary labor in order to live. The men fish in the Sea during the day and women (and children, to an extent) prepare the meals and engage in manual activities within the home. In this society, the women and children are not exempt from any work - they are relied on to assist in daily tasks. Gender roles play a large part in the film and in the culture too. The men in the village are the ones with the power: they are shown - and are even expected to do so should it be deemed necessary - punishing their wives and children in public. Like when the main character, Grazia, is told to go home for the day when her husband, Pietro, finds her swimming naked in the Sea not far from where he and his friends were fishing or, during one of Grazia's mental breakdowns, when Pietro commands his own mother to leave their presence.

Some cultural differences are not acted at all; they merely are real life skills. For example, a young boy - no older than eight years of age - quickly scooped a live chicken up from its pen and ridiculed the police officer from the North who before was hesitant to touch the animal. Adding to the neo-realistic nature of the film, this goes to show that these actors have been surrounded by this environment for their entire lives. This perception is expanded when the same young boy takes the fishes he had caught that day and "gambles" with a vendor - paying her the fish in order to get a chance to win a toy. He eventually won a train set from this and was more than ecstatic. In American society, people are less apt to be so grateful should they have the same opportunity, as the expectation for material items in our community is not the same.

In all, Respiro should have painted a bigger picture to the cultural differences embedded in other societies around the world. For the most part, those viewing the film were American students who presumably have not been part of a culture like that in the film. The hope is that everyone who attended learned something new about the world that they did not know before. Poverty is not strictly synonymous with developing countries; mental disability is not exclusive to fully developed societies; and in rural areas, the reach of the family can extend to the entire community. Lessons like this can shape one's understanding of their own life by looking through a different perspective on lifestyle, the reach of culture, and standards of living.

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