Private Virtues, Public Vices By Daniela Bisogni

in 7th Buenos Aires International Festival of Independent Cinema

by Daniela Bisogni

For Saverio Costanzo, who is thirty years old, the fact of being the son of one of the most famous men in Italian television, Maurizio, did not cause any creative problem: in fact his debut feature, Private , after winning first prize at the Locarno film festival, had a good reception in Italy and was well accepted and distributed in many countries, such as the United States. In the USA the film was released in the last week of March. In Argentina the local distributor brought it out just the day after the film’s screening at the Seventh edition of the Buenos Aires festival de cine Independiente, where it appeared in competition.

The Italian writer-director created a realistic and suspenseful drama that presents a scary portrait of humiliation, inconvenience, and psychological horrors coming from having one’s home occupied by enemy soldiers. The best feature of this narrative is that Costanzo at the end shows the enemy at home as real human beings. Private , the title, in fact means soldier but also the Private life, at a person’s home. In the movie Costanzo acknowledges that the enemy isn’t much different from us, even if in War he is forced to behave in a violent way.

In Palestine, in the Occupied territories, Israeli soldiers, in their attempts to control the disputed border country, take over Palestinian houses to use them as bases for their manoevres. A squad of youthful Israelis appear at the home of a middle-class school teacher Mohammed (Mohammed Bakri), his wife and five sons. The squad claims the house as property of the Israeli army. Therefore they should leave at once. When the family, led by Mohammed, refuses to go, the soldiers offer them a deal: they can have the ground floor but they have to be locked inside the entire night, and the soldiers get the first floor with the bedrooms. None of the family should ever break the rule, that is “never go upstairs”. But it is well known that when something is forbidden this only stimulates the curiosity and a person’s desire to break the rule. But breaking the rule creates the opportunity for building human relations. At the beginning the violent confrontation with the soldiers and the change of their lifestyle, tear the family apart, while the mother worries more and more about the traumatised youngest children. But the father believes that this non-violent protest helps them to find a way of living with the soldiers. This, in fact, is the bridge to start more peaceful relations in a story that presents itself as a distillation of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.