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VENICE 2009 Controcampo Italiano

Communists hoping to reach space in Cosmonaut

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Dressed like a young bride, Luciana is on her way to receive her first communion along with her friends. But suddenly, she breaks away from the group and flees the church to return home. Later, she explains to her mother that she couldn’t go through with communion because she’s a communist. A long tracking shot follows her running away while the opening credits roll.

Thus begins Cosmonaut [+see also:
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, the debut film by 33-year-old Rome-born director Susanna Nicchiarelli (who studied film directing at the Italian National Film School and has worked with Nanni Moretti), shown today at the Venice Film Festival in the Controcampo Italiano section (see interview).

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For her first narrative film, the director has chosen to focus on a world and era she never knew, that of the Space Race, when even in Italy people had to side with either the US astronauts or the Russian cosmonauts, repeating the national divisions of the Cold War era between the Christian Democrats and Communists. Luciana, played by newcomer Miriana Raschillà, immediately chooses to follow in the red footsteps of her deceased father and spends her adolescence caught between branches of the PIC (Italian Communist Party) and passionate, youthful crushes.

In Cosmonaut, Nicchiarelli constructs a colourful and naive world, full of symbols that no longer exist, to create a comedy that aims to light-heartedly depict the transformation of a country dominated by a vision that has now completely disappeared. Original in its choice of subject matter, the film is less successful in its narrative structure, which is not particularly dense.

Produced by Fandango and Rai Cinema (who are releasing it on September 11), Cosmonaut also stars Claudia Pandolfi as the protagonist’s mother, a conformist and dispassionate housewife. Sergio Rubini plays the latter’s second husband, a strict fascist, whom she turns to for comfort.

Amid the protagonist’s trials and tribulations, we also get a glimpse of various archive footage from the period, including images of Laika the dog, Gagarin, Tereshkova (the first woman in space) and the rapturous crowds before the "men of the stars".

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