June 1982, Sicily. While Italians dream of winning the World Cup, two adolescents dream of living their love story without fear. Seventeen-year-old Gianni is bullied because of his homosexuality but his life changes when he meets by accident Nino, a captivating and innocent boy. The profound friendship they develop will without embarrassment turn into love, as they start working together for Nino’s father, shooting fireworks. When their bond is discovered by their families, the consequences are as violent as the times and mores are conservative. The two teenagers are separated by force but ready to challenge everything and everyone, convinced their love can defeat death.
In the words of its director, Giuseppe Fiorello, a veteran actor here making his first film as director, “Fireworks” is a reimagining of a true, and tragic, event that occurred in a an emotionally straitened Sicily in the early 1980s. At the U. S. premiere this afternoon at Film at Lincoln Center, he stated that he made it not from any generic ambition to become a director, but from an urgent need to tell this specific story, and to tell it sincerely and without any genre encumberments – there is no post-facto investigation of the events, and no trial of the accused – only the events themselves, as seen mainly through the eyes of the two young protagonists, Gabriele Pizzuru and Samuele Segreto, who are both magnificent in their openness and spontaneity. Fiorello wanted, he said, to make this film to be about, above all, the “delicacy of adolescence” (“and we all have been adolescents,” he added), and in achieving this, he chose well.
The tale unfolds in small-town Sicily, at a time of Vespas, lire, and bellbottoms, with the 1982 FIFA World Cup as background (Italy’s victories, played out locally on ancient TV screens, punctuate the action). While there are a few lovely seashore settings, this is not the Sicily of postcards, of the streets and cathedrals of Palermo or the majesty of Mt. Etna. This is a place where the earth is bruised by a huge quarry and where there is constant censure and bullying by a community of small minds, the better to enforce a stifling conformity, drawing on Mafia thugs to beat it into errant neighbors if all else fails. All this is portrayed by an ensemble cast that includes what seem like quite a few local amateurs. (For greater authenticity, the film is in the Sicilian language, with only occasional, and brief, code shifts into Italian – even the original title, “Stranizza d’amure”, is in Sicilian. I assume the film must have been shown in Italy with subtitles.) In the Q&A, the still very boyish leads emphasized how working as part of such a collective of more experienced actors was deeply enriching.
There are sequences that seem a bit overstaged (again, this is a début film), but this matters less and less as the boys meet by accident (literally, in a motorbike collision – too cute? Possibly, but very nicely done), and form an instant friendship that moves on to what,, in this setting, becomes far more perilous. Gianni is absorbed into Nino’s welcoming extended family, and eventually joins Nino in his father’s fireworks business (hence the English title). The intensity of all the many intersecting relationships increases bit by bit, reaching an almost unbearable level, until the hammer blows of local reality strike unforgivingly.
Bring plenty of Kleenex for this one, but, with its powerful social and dramatic subtext, the film is something far more moving and meaningful than any simple weepy could ever be. Is it a bit operatic? Yes, for sure, but, as at the end of any decent performance of Mascagni’s Sicilian masterpiece, you wipe away your tears and jump up to shout Bravo – as the audience this afternoon indeed did. May the fickle gods of U. S. distribution get this terrific gem onto as many screens as possible!
Director: Giuseppe Fiorello
Writers: Andrea Cedrola, Giuseppe Fiorello
Stars: Simone Raffaele Cordiano, Antonio De Matteo, Simona Malato
Country of origin: Italy
Also known as: Fireworks
Format : Matroska
Format version : Version 4
File size : 5.60 GiB
Duration : 2 h 13 min
Overall bit rate : 5 987 kb/s
Links: iMDB | NFO | Screenshots backup