Us, suburban boys
Federica Araco - 28/02/2014
"There are a lot of people who come to do research about the suburbs, and I always tell them to make a change… If you want to understand the suburbs, come to stay here for two years and I move to your house."
So begins one of the characters of “Il Contagio” (Mondadori) the novel by Walter Sites published in 2008. Curator of Pasolini’s work in Meridiani, the author, a retired academic, tells how the Roman suburbs have changed since “Accattone”. Anything but gentrified, as was imagined Pasolini, today the suburbs welcome a varied and complex range of people, made up of young couples with little budget, college students, immigrants, temporary workers and families who live in those areas since generations.
A complex human tissue, where, diversity emerges as a substantial element in its full potential and wealth through the meshes of a uniformity of jargon and lifestyle,
Simone Amendola, Roman director born in 1975, who has collaborated with Citto Maselli, Ken Loach and the Iraqi Ali Assaf, tells of this unknown and stereotyped world in two documentaries.
“Centocelle Stories” (directed with Floriana Pinto, Italy, 2013, 48') was realized in the historic district of the capital during the cinema workshop “Corto a Scuola” (Short to School) with the students of the Ambrosoli Technical Institute thanks to the support of the Municipality V. From poetic interweaving of simple stories of everyday life, the film chronicles the transformation of this old suburb, bringing to light a reality very much anchored in the territory but crossed by deep winds of change involving the entire country. The boys have worked actively in all phases of dramatic construction, from researching stories, talking to people in the street or documenting archival material, to the writing of the canvas which are then used to start the shooting.
Between past and present, Amendola rebuilds the elements of the transformations that Centocelle is going through, inspired by the life of the young protagonists: the timid love, veiled or unreciprocated, among the teenagers; the dynamics in school; relationships with merchants of the area and the difficulties of the youth from the second-generation, "different" in manners and in language although Italians (and Romans).
Business areas sprung up around the old tram terminal in the Mirti square, Centocelle began to develop at the beginning of the last century on the occasion of the opening of eponymous airport, later reduced to a heliport. In the forties and fifties it was populated by immigrants from southern Italy but also by Roman workers, small shopkeepers, artisans, farmers, tram drivers. All around, beyond the aqueduct, on the bumpy dirt roads, small tin shacks are scattered in a disorderly manner.
Even today, the area does not offer much to its young inhabitants, who live in expectation of the end of the construction work for the subway that will someday connect the district to the city center.
The protagonists of “Alysia nel paese delle meraviglie” (Alysia in the wonderland), which was shot entirely in Cinquina, in the extreme north-eastern outskirts of Rome and received the Ilaria Alpi award in 2010, are even more isolated and unreachable. Here, occupants from Ostia seaplane base and ex Bastogi residence have converged in public housings built recently. The voices of their teenage children tell stories of street life, loneliness, marginalization and violence.
Among the paved avenues of this neighborhood built in the middle of nothing, no green, no parks, no shops , no schools, no offices ,no meeting places or any services, far from the center and poorly connected by public transport to any area of Rome, Italians and foreigners are living together in a natural way compared to other contexts where integration is often problematic or non-existent .
What Amendola shows is an Italy which is rarely spoken of, in which the housing crisis is resolved with a popular housing that continues to marginalize and hide.
The words of these guys are bitter and very realistic, often moving but also full of humor and a kind of mature wisdom. Youssef, 14, is of Moroccan origin and dreams of becoming an accountant, having a big family and giving his children everything they need. Combo and Fabio vent their anger in rap, that has saved them from the streets and drugs. Serena, Fabio’s partner, is radiant while systemizing her tiny apartment in the basement of a building. She has just given birth to Alysia and feels that, with her, things will change. For the better.
Despite the wounds of the past and the real hardships of today, none of them intend to give up the dream of a better future.
Translated from Italian by Övgü Pınar