Piccola Patria (Small Homeland) – Venice 70 Orizzonti

A typical rural kitchen sink drama in the industrialized Italian region of Veneto that now faces the economical crisis. Directed by Alessandro Rossetto.

Piccola Patria

Alessandro Rossetto is an experienced documentarist from Padua, Italy. His first feature-length film, Piccola Patria (Small Homeland) is a bleak rural tragedy set in his homeland in the region of Veneto which is in the Northern East of Italy. Piccola Patria has participated in the section Orizzonti of the 70th Venice Film Festival.

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Luisa (Maria Roveran) and Renata (Roberta Da Soller) are two young women that live in a village near Verona. They both work as maids at a local hotel and they both hate their lives and their work. Luisa has a relationship with a young Albanian immigrant, Bilal (Vladimir Doda) and lives with her parents Anna (Lucia Mascino) and Franco (Mirko Artuso). On the other hand Renata has a whorish sexual relationship with Rino (Diego Ribon) which is based on money and filthy games. A strange plan for blackmail will shuffle everyone’s relationships and situations.

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Piccola Patria could be a typical rural kitchen sink drama in an industrialized region such as Veneto. Each of the characters have a strict position in the story. Luisa seems innocent, romantic and easily carried away. Renata is dark, cynical and materialistic. Bilal is the typical good boy that gets in trouble. Franco is a nervous peasant and racist. Anna tries to keep everything in equilibrium. Finally Rino seems to be the victim but he always has two faces. Probably this presentation seems quite schematic, but when all these characters are put in a closed society’s environment then one false move could pull the trigger and the effects will be catastrophic for everyone.

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The setting of the film is not chosen by chance. Of course Rossetto knows well hot to move there since it is his birthplace but Veneto is more than that. The region was once the point of reference of a successful and rich industrial zone, which could drive the whole country forward. Now it has become a different region which is similar to anywhere else, desperation, unemployment, large number of immigrants and the risen “stars” of right-wing separatist and racist groups are present the one close to another. Like film’s heroes lives everything should be kept in extreme balance. But this is impossible, so we follow the fall of the heroes, of the region, of the society and of a whole country.

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Is a “simple” and easy blackmail an easy way out of every day’s misery? Probably that is the profound answer to Piccola Patria’s heroines. They are trapped in a vicious cycle that never ends. They are desperate to escape; everyone around them is just a pawn to be used on the right moment just to make them queens. There are no real sentiments, everything is a preface and a plan should be followed. Probably just the latent lesbian sentiments of Renata towards Luisa are the only real feelings that those girls have. It seems so cynical and cruel but their moves are predicted and there will be no surprises.

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Rossetto’s experience in documentaries is more than obvious in a sense that Piccola Patria seems more like a dramatized documentary rather than a fiction film. The opening panoramic scene travels throughout the Venetian plain with the sounds of “L’acqua ‘ze Morta” proves that this is a film about reality. The camera doesn’t work as an instrument for emotional manipulation it is present just to record the facts as they evolve. Luckily everything seems so natural and real that even when the scenes are looked upon distance you can still feel involved. The director said that even the dialogues are mainly based on improvisation and we should note that they speak in the Venetian language instead of the Italian.

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Film’s thematic reminisces many similar recent Italian films that are usually set in the neighborhoods of Naples and Rome that were “traditionally” underdeveloped. Piccola Patria is one of the few examples where the action goes to North that now faces similar problems. Rossetto and his co-writer Caterina Serra could keep their screenplay stricter and focused on the social drama and the aspects of it. Instead they tend sometimes to expand in every direction and that attempt weakens the focus on the main issues set at the beginning. A more controlled direction would also give to the film a better pace and development since sometimes seems a bit stretched especially in the middle of the story.

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Piccola Patria is without doubt a pure Italian film. At the same time it could be a film set anywhere, the problems are common and the situations repeat themselves in every small community. The Albanian “nigger” could be anyone and the desperate generation of the 20somethings is a reality. The academic and a bit cold approach on the issue, put Rossetto’s film closer to Dardenne brother’s cinema rather than Matteo Garrone’s.

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