BFI LFF 2021

Nascondino review – sublime exploration of nature versus nurture

This intimate documentary, shot over four years, follows a nine-year-old boy's grappling with organised crime in inner-city Naples

“I hope he chooses a better path than me,” says Addolonata, or Dora, when commenting on the fate of her nine-year-old grandson Entoni. There is a heavy undertone of concern in her voice, the weariness of experience slowly draining all hope. Dora has every reason to be concerned. Entoni has proven uncontrollable, recklessly spending his days stirring trouble in the sinuous streets of Naples, committing petty infractions and rebelling against his family with the most defying of smirks.

Entoni is one of many young boys to fall under the claws of endemic violence in Naples. Originating from the Spanish Quarters, where the Camorra Mafia reigns supreme, the kid has only known a life where sons are raised by mothers and grandmothers, and fathers pile up high in prisons all over the country. With Nascondino, first-time director Victoria Fiore grants the audience an intimate look into a notoriously private community, where people live under unspoken rules as old as the crumbling buildings that surround them.

Fiore treats the people of the Spanish Quarters with the tenderest of eyes, sparing them from the morality musings that often plague portrayals of the Italian Mafia while also cleverly dodging patterns of glorification that commonly accompany the myth of the Camorra. Instead, she opts to tell the story through the eyes of those who are trapped within this ironclad structure of corruption and violence, unable to swim against a current that is bound to drown them all.

Nascondino is framed through Italy’s recent campaign to combat youth violence, which allows the justice system to remove children from families involved in organised crime. One of these children is Entoni himself, who – in the space of the four years in which the film takes place – goes from playing with fidget spinners and getting away with paltry crimes to being engulfed by the institutions that have taken generations of men before him, making widows and single mothers of the women in his life.

The film’s commentary on the specifics of Naples’ gender politics is made even more poignant when the camera turns to Dora, her undisclosed age buried under layers of heavy make-up and ears never freed from the weight of heavy golden hoops. This woman, a former Camorra boss, talks about her days in the Mafia through carefully chosen euphemisms without ever shying away from the choices she made in the name of survival, her consciousness over the societal machinations of the Quarters equally illuminating and gut-wrenching.

As if Fiore's grip on storytelling wasn’t impressive enough for a first feature, the director also displays a firm command over form, creating something that's just as spellbinding in its visuals as it is in the quality of its chronicles. As the final frame leaves the screen, one is left void of any relief, overwhelmed by the knowledge that this inescapable cycle of sorrow will survive way beyond the credits.

Nascondino was screened as part of the BFI London Film Festival 2021. A UK release date is yet to be announced.

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