Biopic about blind sound wizard opens eyes at IFFI

Panaji, Nov 28 The critically acclaimed film may have taken a while to get into the International Film Festival of India (IFFI) programming, but the 2005 Italian feature, 'Rosso Cone Il Cielo' (Red like the Sky), doesn't look the least bit dated.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007 | 2:19:50 PM IST (+05:30 GMT)
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Panaji, Nov 28 (IANS) The critically acclaimed film may have taken a while to get into the International Film Festival of India (IFFI) programming, but the 2005 Italian feature, 'Rosso Cone Il Cielo' (Red like the Sky), doesn't look the least bit dated.

The film is after all based on the amazing life of Mirco Mencacci, who lost his eyesight at the age of eight but went on to become one of Italy's finest and busiest sound editors.

Mencacci owns his own sound post-production company in Rome, besides a recording studio in the Tuscan town where he was born.

One of the high points of the strong Italian cinematic spread at the ongoing 38th IFFI, 'Red like the Sky', directed by Cristiano Bortone, is a feel-good, inspirational and deeply moving tale that underscores what the human imagination and innate creativity can achieve against seemingly insurmountable obstacles erected and perpetuated by prejudicial notions about blindness.

In the early 1970s, when Mirco went blind after he accidentally shot himself in the head with his truck driver-father's old rifle, Italy had a law that barred blind children from enrolling in regular educational institutions.

So Mirco was forced to enter a school for the blind where the visually challenged were put through the grind and equipped to become weavers or switchboard operators, the two occupations that were considered to be suitable for people who couldn't see.

But Mirco clearly did 'see' every bit of the world around him with his richly evolved sense of music and sensitivity to sound, and he fought tooth and nail to be allowed by the institute authorities to follow his unconventional methods to surmount his handicap.

Eventually, in 1975, the Italian government abolished schools for the blind and allowed sightless children to go to regular public schools.

Bortone's retelling of the real-life story of a remarkable man -- Mencacci has to date been sound editor for 340-odd Italian films besides being a professional musician and music producer -- has a quality that is poignant and rousing by turns.

'Red like the Sky' has moments of high drama, but Bortone resists the temptation of playing to the gallery. And that heightens the impact of the tale manifold.

Significantly, many of the child actors in the film are blind in real life, and that is reflected in the sheer spontaneity and veracity that they are able to achieve while fleshing out their characters.

Among the other Italian films at IFFI this year is Silvana Maja's 'Ossidiana', which is being accorded a world premiere in Panaji. Yet to be released commercially in Italy, 'Ossidiana' is based on Maja's own novel about Maria, a young Neapolitan painter who is drawn into the exciting wave of experimentation that rippled through the arts scene of the 1960s.

Also on show is 'The Lark Farm', directed by the famed Taviani duo, Paolo and Vittorio. 'The Lark Farm' like 'Ossidiana' is based on a period novel. The drama hinges on two members of an Armenian family, one a landowner in Turkey, the other a doctor in Venice, who decide to meet in the land of their forefathers.

But political turmoil is brewing and the two brothers never meet as the genocide perpetrated by the Young Turks, in the wake of coming to power in 1913, tears them asunder.

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