Monday, 22 July 2013

io sono li (w&d andrea segre, w. marco pettenello)

Immigration is and will remain a hot topic. Where once the treatment of this theme on Europe was radical, it has now become tepid and somewhat conservative, a favourite of funders on the euro film circuit. There is little that is innovative, stylistically or from a narrative point of view, in Segre's film; it's not breaking down any aesthetic boundaries. Nevertheless, it exhibits the virtues of a simple story well told.

Recounting the history of Li, a Chinese immigrant in Italy, the film centres on her relationship with Bepi, a fisherman/poet who is getting on in years and is himself an immigrant, from Yugoslavia, albeit he is now so integrated within the community you would never guess. Their friendship creates problems for both of them. Conservative Italian society struggles to accept a man in his sixties enjoying a platonic relationship with the younger Chinese woman; whilst the Chinese community believes that Li is causing trouble and threatens to annul the savings she has made which will eventually allow her son to join her. In the end she is forced to sacrifice her friendship with Bepi in order to ensure her son can come, something he can do nothing about. 

All of this is told in a cinematic language which is efficient and constrained. The filmmaker makes good use of location. Most takes place in quayside bar which Li is sent to run. When the quay floods, so does the bar. On her first and apparently only day off, Li takes a trip to nearby Venice, filmed with a suitable absence of panache. This is not Europe experienced through the tourist's eye, but through the worker's. Segre's film lacks the visceral power of the work of Fatih Akin, for example. Nevertheless, within its own terms it is a quietly effective tale of inter-continental friendship, with charismatic performances from the film's twin leads, Tao Zhao and Rade Serbedzija. 

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