A Young Fire – The Ciambra (Film Review)


Set in a small Italian town of Gioia Tauro, where the Italians, African refugees and Romani are all doing their best to get by however possible in a place of great poverty. Cosimo, the older brother of Pio – our 14 year old hero – finds crime to be the only way to stay afloat and Pio – smoking, drinking and with an admirable eye on his brother wishes to follow in his footsteps. The Ciambra (2017), directed by Jonas Carpignano (Mediterranea, 2015), is a full blown experience that puts the viewer in the restless skin of Pio as he comes closer to manhood.

Pio’s family are a large pack and when their two sole providers – the brother and the father – are arrested and the family are charged €9000 by the government Pio decides to showcase just how much of a man he is by doing his best to clear the debt.

Robbing passengers of their luggage is Pio’s choice of crime and he manages to gain enough money selling the valuables he has from his takings with the help of African refugee Ayiva (Koudous Seihon) – a friend and paternal figure to Pio. This success seats Pio as the provider and he temporarily holds the throne until both Cosimo and the father are released in time for the grandfather’s funeral.

The Ciambra (2017) is a neorealist story about a boy, survival and the violent desire to grow up. With a director that intends on staying side by side with realism it’s no surprise that the entire family featured in the piece are a true family, including our hero Pio Amato. It’s a great compliment to Jonas that he’s able to draw such powerful performances from a selection of untrained actors. This only managed to aid the piece in its believability and result in having the viewer draw compassion for these individuals as they struggle to eat.

One trained, brilliant actor and a favourite of Jonas’s is Koudous Seihon, who’s no stranger to the part of African refugee. Having played this part in Mediterranea (2015) and A Chjàna (2012) Koudous proved more than able to play this role. Such a varied level of characters only managed to give more depth to the world we’re welcomed into by Pio’s hand.
The piece is filmed in the style of a documentary and with a handful of untrained actors playing a part they’re accustom to, it’s easy to make the mistake that this is in fact a documentary piece. Needless to say, there are no crane shots or flashy editing, it’s simple and this only adds weight to the story rather than putting itself through the ugly Hollywood machine that only seems to generate overworked stories with a saturated aesthetic.

A director such as Jonas whose interests seem to lie in communities that struggle to eat, to get by, to live, it’s no surprise that his second feature length piece is focused on much of the same thing. Although he never puts those communities under a particular lighting as to invoke sympathy, but rather to show the strength they have and the heart. Jonas Carpignano is certainly a director to keep an eye on, as each piece he’s produced so far has been worthwhile.

A piece like this is always welcome in cinema as it sheds light on communities and corners of the world that have been left in the dark. The camera is a tool that can either be used for pure, slapstick entertainment or it can provide the viewer a walk down a path they’ve since been ignorant of. The Ciambra (2017) provides the viewer with such an experience, although they walk as Pio, a struggling boy that’s impatience to look eye to eye with men leads him to chaos and a premature growth.

Dir: Jonas Carpignano

Scr: Jonas Carpignano

Cast: Pio Amato, Koudous Seihon and Damiano Amato

Prd: Martin Scorsese, Fernando Fraiha and Joel Brandeis

DOP: Tim Curtin

Music: Dan Romer

Country: Italy

Year: 2017

Runtime: 118 mins

The Ciambra is in cinemas from 15th June 2018