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Bella Ciao (Film Review)

2 min read

Music has been called the truly universal language. Able to cut across the boundaries of language, race, nationality, and gender to inspire and sadden, heal and entertain. It can reach parts and stir emotions that we thought long lost. So it would take a truly epic and bombastic song to become the anthem for revolutionaries across the globe. Or, maybe, just a simple song sung by partisans over 80 years ago.

Filmmaker 's is a deep-dive investigation of this short tune's history, legacy and importance. Bringing together artists, musicians, scholars, and revolutionaries, Giapponesi tracks the emergence of ‘Bella Ciao' across the decades. From a rebel song of Italian partisans fighting against Mussolini, it became ingrained into the Left-leaning movements of the post-war world. Giapponesi shows how a song, this song, has become as much a political statement in itself as seen in the hijacking of speakers in Turkey. Despite becoming the collected hymn of Kurdish fighters against ISIS to Italian folk rock bands protesting against Berlusconi, so little is known of the creation of Bella Ciao. Giapponsei and her team attempt to find the roots and legacy of the song, from its adaptation of an Italian labourer protest song to its memorable presence in Money Heist.

Beautifully filmed and blending newsreel with infographics, Bella Ciao includes interviews with Carlo Pestelli, Mohammed Osamah Hameed, Hazal Koyuncure and Aimare Isola, all whose lives have become wrapped up with the song.

However, Bella Ciao does have some problems. The viewer who goes in thinking they'll be getting a historical or social documentary will find themselves watching an art and culture one instead. Likewise, the one expecting a cultural documentary will find a social history one. It feels like it is trying to widen its appeal to convey its message. With only a 90-minute run time, Bella Ciao attempts to spin too many plates in the air. And it is to the credit of Giapponesi's filmmaker skills that only a few fall and smash. But they're loud enough to cause the viewer to notice. It would have created a stronger film if it pushed an extra half hour to balance the artistic history with the political or focused more on those who ‘Bella Ciao' has become a rallying cry for.

Bella Ciao is a thought-provoking documentary that shows music's impact on those seeking liberty, freedom and equality.


Bella Ciao will be screened as part of CINECITTA ITALIAN DOCS season at Bertha DocHouse