Projections - Movie Reviews

Ciao, Professore!

This intimate little film from Italy will warm your heart.  Paolo Villaggio stars as Marco Sperelli, a kindly, sophisticated teacher from the North who, through a bureaucratic error, is assigned to teach in an elementary school in the southern village of Corzano.  Marco must adapt to the culture shock inherent in leaving his wealthier, calmer surroundings and contending with the chaos and corruption of the south.  Upon arriving to teach on the first day of class, he is greeted by only a few students.  He then sets out to locate those missing and succeeds in finding them serving in local cafes, pumping gas and selling black market goods.  Once he manages to get these kids to school, the real challenge begins.

He learns to understand their behavior:  they're sleepy in class because some work all night; they swear because that's how Neapolitans earn respect; they're tough because that's what it takes to survive in Corzano.  As Marco comes to understand his students, he learns how to better function in his new surroundings.

The real stars of this film are the street-smart children of southern Italy who are played by children from various Neapolitan villages.  Internationally acclaimed Director Lina Westmuller (Seven Beauties, Swept Away) interviewed 50,000 children off the streets before narrowing down the selection.  In seeking to capture what she refers to as the "quintessential Southern verve and vivaciousness" Westmuller worked with the children in play groups.  "For them it was a great game.  I wanted spontaneity and playfulness, to capture what is wonderful in children."

Also noteworthy are the performances of Isa Danieli as the principal of the school (what a character!) and Gigio Morra as the greedy, toilet paper selling custodian.

I recommend this film to all who delight in the indomitable spirit of children.  It shows clearly the hope that one caring person can inspire in a struggling community.

Ciao, Professore!


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