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UNA FEMMINA – THE CODE OF SILENCE (2022,ITA)

Italian filmmaker Francesco Costabile presented a poetic and stylized crime drama about the Calabrian criminal organization ‘Ndrangheti at the festival in Berlin. “Una femmina” was also the first feature film of this documentarian born in the south of Italy who told the whole story from the perspective of a girl who will cause complete chaos in one of the clans of a notorious criminal organization. We first meet Rosa (also debutant Lina Siciliano) as a little girl whose mother was murdered. What exactly happened, she is not clear either and everything is somehow blurry, unfocused (as is the photo in the introduction), somewhere halfway between a dream and the worst nightmare.

Nevertheless, Rosa is convinced that her mother was killed by her grandmother and uncle, with whom she still lives, as we shall see, even as a young woman. And it is clear to us that Rosa is furious, bitter, eager for revenge for what happened to her mother, and when the right moment arrives, she will begin to cause real turmoil in the ‘Ndrangheta and take revenge not only on those who harmed her, but on the whole the local branch of the mafia. Thus, this film unexpectedly turned into a somewhat slow-moving revenge thriller until the end, and Siciliano seems to continue in the path of his compatriots and made a film that seems to be somewhere halfway between classic naturalism and Italian magical realism.

Although the pace of the film is quite slow, one of the reasons for this is that there time seems to have always stood still and practically nothing changes for years, decades, centuries. The laws don’t apply there like in the rest of the country, but silence and submission are what everyone in that part of Calabria has to obey, and the Ndrangheta is there as well as the police and the court. It must be acknowledged that Siciliano found a fantastic place in the interior of Calabria in which to set the film, and that sleepy, old town where everyone just keeps quiet, doesn’t wave and adheres to the imposed rules, is perfectly shot. But silence, submission and calm will become a thing of the past for Rosa, a girl who has decided that she no longer wants to live in a kind of psychological prison and the way it was imposed on her.

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