An engaging but uneven first full-length feature by Fabio Mollo, South is Nothing tackles a coming-of-age story of a young woman, Grazia, through the context of a Mafia-controlled city in Reggio Calabria. Mr. Mollo and his collaborators capture the region’s sharp beauty, daily and seasonal rituals and rhythms, the endemic corruption, the firmly entrenched gender mores and relations, and finally, that oppressive silence about the Mafia which keeps citizens at bay and in fear. At the San Francisco Film Festival, Mr. Mollo reminded us that this movie is very much about silence— Grazia’s silence, as the truth about her brothers’ death is kept from her; her father’s being bullied into silence by a local overlord; the silence of her brother’s ghost; and, the silence of the sea, from which she gains much solace. But in some ways this film is too silent; we are only briefly and obliquely told that her brother died under mysterious circumstances, and that her father owes a large debt to the Mafia for unknown reasons. While I appreciate that this film is less about plot and more about atmosphere, it would have been much stronger had we been told a little more. Then the outbursts which punctuate Grazia’s silence would have been more cathartic.
Il Sud è Niente (The South is Nothing), dir. Fabio Mollo, 2013. 90 min. In Italian.