Is Italy a glossy land of shopping malls and corporate headquarters or a wilderness of ruined industrial spaces and crumbling social services? Both sides are on display in this series of 12 films. The documentary A Private Silence charts the relationships among filmmaker Stefano Rulli, his wife, Clara, and Matteo, their 24-year-old autistic son. The film is organized around their visits to a vacation home for mentally challenged adults in the Umbrian hills. Handsome, prone to violence, but also terribly fragile, Matteo remains on the sidelines despite his family’s efforts to draw him out. At the heart of their dilemma lies a challenge common to parents—how to make contact with another person on his or her terms.
The older generation resolutely fails at that task in Daniele Gaglianone’s Changing Destiny. Alessandro, 15, takes care of his mentally ill single mother; his best friend Ferdi, 17, puts up with an alcoholic father who lives off disability payments from the factory job that poisoned him. Moving between recollection and fantasy, the film follows their increasing disaffection from school and society. Though marred by melodrama, it’s an affecting portrayal of Italian youth in crisis.
For midlife crisis, see Amatemi! (Love Me). Renato De Maria’s sophisticated tale of erotic misadventures stars his wife, Isabella Ferrari, as Nina, a beautiful 35-year-old who loves her job as an announcer at a shopping center and her husband of 20 years. When he suddenly leaves her, she flails about—then finally gets her act together, buys some new clothes, and begins a series of (at times hilarious) encounters with men. And presto—she’s suddenly able to sell everything from lawnmowers to green apples. With a sly wink to commodity theory, De Maria even gives this genre-bending fable of one woman’s needs and pleasures a happy ending.