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The places of the film story: The New World

Well included in the IWB register of the Sicily Region (The Places of the literary, television and filmic story) - Sector "Places of the southern identity of Sicily in the cinematographic story

Nuovo Mondo ", 2006, directed by Emanuele Crialese:

  • Ragusan countryside (Ragusa),
  • Mountains of San Vito Lo Capo (Trapani)
  • Catania city streets,
  • North Pier (Palermo)



Salvatore, a Sicilian pastor in Italy in the early twentieth century, a widower, lives in conditions of extreme poverty and cultural backwardness with his teenage children Angelo and Pietro and with his elderly mother Fortunata. After asking for a divine sign on the opportunity to emigrate to America, which takes the form of some unmistakable photos of the "land of abundance", he decides to leave with the whole family. The group is also joined by two young girls from the town who are promised wives by proxy. The journey in third class on a gigantic ocean liner, in conditions of terrible crowding and promiscuity, is cheered by the enigmatic presence of Miss Lucy, soon renamed “Luce”. Well dressed, cultured, of English origin, the strangest and most imaginative stories circulate about her; the young woman soon becomes the object of desire for all passengers, but she seems to have a particular interest in Salvatore's family, so much so that a few hours after disembarking she asks him to marry her in order to allow her to enter the United States . Before being able to set foot in the "new world", however, immigrants undergo the long and exhausting process of physical and psychological exams in the huge Ellis Island facility. Here the wedding date is set and Salvatore and his two sons Angelo and Pietro, who proves in extremis that he is not mute, get the pass, while the elderly mother pretends to be mad to be repatriated.

Critical presentation. The role of the minor and its representation

The old and the new

Nuovomondo di Crialese, unlike many previous films dedicated to the phenomenon of Italian immigration in the United States, it focuses on the moment of travel and the first reception. All the attention of the film is therefore dedicated to the moment of the transition, intended both in the physical sense of displacement and in the metaphorical sense of social evolution. The presence of the two teenage characters, the two sons Angelo and Pietro, is therefore not a peculiar condition but a position shared by all the traveling companions. The transfer becomes a rite of initiation, a painful and necessary process of growth, in which something is acquired and something is inevitably lost. In an obstinate game of opposites, the film opens with the insistent representation of the stones (the ascension to the peak with the stone in the mouth by Salvatore and Angelo), of the animals, of the ancient rituals in the smell of witchcraft (the esoteric practice of Lucky to extract the devil's serpent from the girl's body), the earth, to emphasize the background of the characters, their starting from a condition of extreme backwardness, old age, immutability. The second term of comparison is a world that in the term "new" (inextricably linked from the title) contains all its charm full of promises. A world only imagined through the insane photographs that show hens as big as cows and giant carrots, and fabled thanks to the stories of those who have been there, which show rivers of milk and trees loaded with money. Faced with such promises of abundance, all those who are preparing to face the journey are transformed into children, naive and credulous, victims of a fable that must be all the more wonderful the more miserable the reality of those who remain.

The different states of mind with which one faces the journey are well represented by the characters of the two sons Angelo and Pietro. The first, a few years older, experiences the move with restrained but evident enthusiasm, and his attitude is that of a curious person and well disposed towards news. His always serious and almost expressionless face betrays alert and lively eyes, and his gestures show his resourcefulness: it is he who disguises himself as a woman to be able to enter the female dormitory, to bring messages from husbands or lovers, and that late at night wanders like a ghost among sleeping bodies to smell and touch, with the lightness of a breeze, mysterious thighs and private parts. Pietro, on the other hand, closed in his silence, is evidently very attached to his grandmother, with whom he communicates on a non-verbal level, and represents the link between the old and the new; between the two worlds, within the character's psychology, there is mistrust, conflict, sometimes clash. The two brothers are united by a condition of absolute virginity, understood in a much broader sense than that referred to the simple sexual relationship, but lived in a diametrically opposite way. Angelo lives his own as a burden from which to free himself as soon as possible, while Pietro jealously guards it, inviolate and inviolable, further protected by the silence that makes him impenetrable and, in the eyes of all, impaired. It is only after receiving a sort of supreme order from Fortunata, who communicates her intention to be repatriated and breaks the ring that binds them, that Pietro expresses himself in words and completes his own definitive metamorphosis.

Of course, as mentioned above, the transformation rite is a theme that unites all third-class passengers, with the exception of the character of Luce. The latter symbolizes a sort of "taste" of the new world, and for this reason it becomes a universal and irresistible center of attraction. Salvatore and his children are not immune to the power that she exercises, partly with satisfaction and partly against her will. The woman thus transforms herself into a ferryman for the family, an instrument that, not without a personal gain on which the film does not dwell, takes the three bewildered inhabitants of the old world by the hand to introduce them to their new life. A life that the film leaves the viewer to imagine, since the credits roll over the images showing the family immersed in the sea of ​​milk.

References to other films

The film deals with a theme scarcely practiced by contemporary cinema and by that of the past; if, in fact, titles that deal with the theme of social and cultural integration on the part of immigrants abound, those that focus on the moment of the journey and on the conditions of departure of those who are preparing to leave their place of origin are rather small. Without doubt it should be mentioned Cose di questo mondo di Michael Winterbottom (UK, 2002), in which the teenage protagonist leaves Afghanistan to embark on a terrible journey that leads him to arrive, the only survivor of the group of migrants who left with him, in Italy. More closely related to the trip and the era, The Legend of the Pianist on the Ocean di Giuseppe Tornatore (Italy, 1998) is entirely set on a large ocean liner and shows the social distinction between the various classes of passengers, as is the case in Titanic di James Cameron (USA, 1997), fictionalized reconstruction of the famous sinking. On the side of recent immigration they should also be mentioned Terraferma of the same Crialese (Italy, 2011), Middle Earth di Matteo Garrone (Italy, 1996), Lamerica (Italy, 1994) So they laughed (Italy, 1998), both di Gianni Amelio.

Didactic ideas

As mentioned, the film specifically addresses the theme of the journey of those forced to migrate; the intent cannot fail to be explicitly political as well, in linking the Italian migration of the past with the recent, numerous migrations from the southern hemisphere that have identified Italy and Europe as a “new world”. In this sense, the film can be included in a broader path on the theme of travel understood as the abandonment of one's roots and one's culture. A painful rite of passage to somewhere else which, instead of welcoming, tries to identify and reject any foreign body. The difficult integration of the protagonists into the new world, heralded by the long and exhausting process of obtaining a visa, comes only after an equally long and exhausting journey, which was in turn decided out of painful necessity. In the multiethnic and multicultural society that school-age children experience every day, often in a completely natural way, it can be interesting, in reaffirming the equal rights and duties, to analyze the personal stories of first or second generation immigrants. The film, with its language suitable for first and second grade secondary school students, can be very useful for creating an ideal connection bridge and stimulating reflections and comparisons. (Text of the Marco Dalla Gassa website: https://www.minori.gov.it/it/minori/nuovomondo)

Card insertion: Ignazio Caloggero

Photo: web

Information contributions: Ignazio Caloggero, Region of Sicily

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