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Review: Gelsomina Verde


- This debut feature film by documentary-maker Massimiliano Pacifico follows the theatrical staging of a young woman’s murder in Naples at the hands of the Camorra

Review: Gelsomina Verde
Maddalena Stornaiuolo in Gelsomina Verde

Five actors travel to Polverigi, in Italy’s Marche region, and converge at the Villa Nappi Theatre, a wonderful establishment which welcomes companies and artists hailing from all corners of the globe to take part in the local theatre festival. Awaiting them is a great director, Naples’ Davide Iodice, with whom they will embark upon a theatre project which he himself describes as “delicate and risky”. Maddalena Stornaiuolo and Giuseppe D’Ambrosio both come from Naples - from the troubled neighbourhoods of Scampia and Sanità, to be precise - while Margherita Laterza is joining them from Rome, and Pietro Casella and Francesco Lattarulo from Turin. As explained by Davide Iodice, the story of Gelsomina Verde is “controversial, full of light and shade”. And it is this theatre production which forms the focus of Gelsomina Verde, the first feature film to be directed by Massimiliano Pacifico, who has previously signed his name to art videos and documentaries exploring social issues and the theatre world, including two on Toni Servillo: 394 - Trilogia nel mondo and Theatre at Work [+see also:
interview: Massimiliano Pacifico
film profile

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It is through the words of Francesco Verde that we are first introduced to the tragic affair: “My sister died on 21 November 2004. It was a Sunday evening, in the Secondigliano district of Naples. Her death took place at 11pm. She was tortured, then shot in the head before they set fire to her inside the FIAT 600 that I’d bought her”. Gelsomina, or Mina as she was known in the local area, was a twenty-two-year-old woman who worked in a leather shop and who helped the children in her neighbourhood with their schoolwork, also lending a helping hand to families in need. In November 2004, she was kidnapped and tortured. Her captors wanted to know the whereabouts of Gennaro Notturno. The only thing she was guilty of was having dated Notturno for several months, a man who chose the wrong side during the war waged by the Camorra at that time.

In order to convey the complicated geography of this story, Davide Iodice asks his actors to take risks and to improvise, to highlight the contrasts surrounding these events which took place twenty years ago. Mina was betrayed by the very people she was helping and who were responsible for hiding the murderers. She was abandoned, left to the flames. The theatre group is divided into victims, perpetrators and spectators. Massimiliano Pacifico films rehearsals, behind the scenes activity, breaks in proceedings, set construction, vocal exercises, text revisions, instructions given by the director, confrontation and conflict. Through Cesare Apolito’s editing, carried out in collaboration with Diego Liguori, and with the addition of a few scraps of archive material, theatre is transformed into film. The writing is clean and to the point, enhanced by an emphasis which never feels rhetorical. Based on a treatment by producer Gianluca Arcopinto, Walter de Majo, Pacifico himself and Francesco Verde’s consultancy, the screenplay by Massimiliano Pacifico and Dario De Natale had felt like “a necessary act” ever since Arcopinto, along with Gelsomina’s brother and various Neapolitan associations, made the decision to create the Mina Collective in 2014 in honour of Gelsomina Verde. “We owe it to the people who are still fighting, because the State still hasn’t recognised her as an innocent victim”.

Gelsomina Verde is a fine example of civic theatre and film which takes a specific case as its starting point and, without going into the legal ins and outs, manages to open up a wider debate on the serious deterioration of social fabric in certain areas of southern Italy. As Maddalena Stornaiuolo stresses in her first monologue, “Gelsomina taught me to stay put. Not to move. Because it’s easier to run. Staying, without succumbing to anger, is important. Filling in the blanks. Making noise” … which is also, moreover, the role of film.

Gelsomina Verde is produced by Lama Film and Bartleby Film together with RAI Cinema, and is available in Italy via the 1985 platform, courtesy of Pablo.

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(Translated from Italian)

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