Review: No Dogs or Italians Allowed
- Combining poetry and realism, small and big history, in an original and personal animation style, Alain Ughetto signs a very endearing work of testimony on Italian migration
"When it snowed, people said: happy are those who have bread and polenta.” In the swirling speed of information and the consumer materialism well anchored in habits, the Western world, especially Europe, has an unfortunate tendency to forget its recent history, the destitution that preceded the abundance, and its past of economic migration. To bear witness, to give existence back to the shadows of time and to pay homage to his family of Piedmontese people forced by extreme poverty to go into exile in France in the first half of the 20th century, such is the mission that French filmmaker Alain Ughetto has chosen for himself with No Dogs or Italians Allowed [+see also:
interview: Alain Ughetto
film profile], unveiled in competition at the 41st Annecy Animation Film Festival.
A very personal subject intertwining the small and the great History to which the director has lent all his original and inventive creativity (born in childhood: "my only friends were called modelling clay, scissors, glue and pencils") for an animation in relief, with everyday objects (a potato shared in five as the only meal, charcoal, broccoli, chestnuts, sugar, etc.) bursting in the middle of his puppet characters, the filmmaker's own hand entering the frame and the narrative woven by his dialogue with his grandmother Cesira who tells him about her life.
Once upon a time, therefore, at the end of the 19th century, there was the small village of Ughettera in the shadow of Mount Viso, and grandfather Luigi, one of the 11 children of an Ughetto family. They all sleep in the same stable, hardly ever eat meat and, for lack of work, have to migrate painfully through the passes to France or Switzerland when winter comes. A miserable existence of sacrifices dominated by the figures of the priest, the witch doctor and the witch (the "mascha") that will be shaken by the drama of wars (the Italian expedition to Libya in 1911, the First World War), accidents, the Spanish flu, the failure to leave for America. But there is also the love of Cesira and Luigi, the wakes, the births, the children who grow up, the border exile according to the great (and dangerous) building sites (the Simplon tunnel, the Izourt and Genissiat dams). Because "France needed a lot of labour and Italians were much sought after," "chimney sweep, ragpicker, sausage maker, stonecutter... They were good at everything", "used to the bite of the cold, to the icy embrace of the winds". A need for economic survival and an existence of very hard work (in a xenophobic atmosphere with Italians being called "macaroni") that the rise of Fascism sealed by making the Ughetto family French: "I am Piedmontese, Italy is Mussolini's country, but France is my mother.”
Oscillating between "laughing and singing, it didn't cost much" (from the Popular Front to the Tour de France) and "we had too many people to cry and not enough tears left," No Dogs or Italians Allowed is a film that is both tender and rough, intimate and historical, poetic and realistic. Through the peregrinations of his very endearing family, Alain Ughetto restores fragments of memory from a century, and he manages to inscribe these imprints through an animation whose artisanal, DIY appearance modestly masks a very sophisticated work where the imaginary and the real are combined marvellously in a state of mind that is always positive, beyond the bumps of existence. "For one is not from a country, one is from one's childhood.”
Produced by the French companies Les Films du Tambour de soie and Vivement Lundi ! and coproduced by their compatriots of Foliascope, by Belgian company Lux Fugit Film, Italian outfit Graffiti Film, Portuguese company Ocidental Filmes and Swiss outfit Nadasdy Film, with Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes Cinéma, the RTS and the RTBF, No Dogs or Italians Allowed is sold by Indie Sales.
(Translated from French)
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