In 1964, Pier Paolo Pasolini travelled around Italy to solicit thoughts on sex and love from his fellow countrymen for the film, Love Meetings. (One child, having been asked “Where do babies come from?” may have prompted an extended family discussion when he answers: “My uncle”.)
In 2020, three of Italy’s best contemporary directors, Pietro Marcello (Martin Eden), Alice Rohrwacher (Happy As Lazzaro), and Francesco Munzi (Black Souls), set out to follow in Pasolini’s footsteps. Their subjects are young people aged between 15 and 20. Their inquiries vary, but boil down to a central conceit: how do the interviewees imagine their future?
Inevitably, this vibrant, vital chronicle was impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic. A visit to a culinary school in Milan reminds us that a mask is now as obligatory as a chef’s hat. Strangely, given the demographics, social media is scarcely mentioned, save as a tool to keep in touch, or, by one kid’s estimation, “a plague”.
As a social group, they touch on racism, queer acceptance, politics, and sports. The aspirations of Genovese choral singers and female jockeys from Torino are varied, but many of those interviewed expect to leave Italy to seek better opportunities. Others are happy to work the farm where they were born or to land a husband.
Boxing-club hopefuls lament the position of their sport and the wages lavished upon footballers: “I hate soccer players,” one young boxer says firmly. “They earn millions just to kick a ball. Construction workers work their butts off 12 hours a day. You should give more money to the worthy.”
There are delightful characters, including the adopted duck who won’t swim without his young human companion watching over him. The inclusion of older footage from the Armando Diaz school, where Genoa police kettled protests during the 2001 G8 summit, reminds us that previous generations have equally hoped for change.
There is, however, an alarming sense of uncertainty among the collective. It’s not simply the grim realisation that “...after school and during holidays we have time to do what we want; we won’t be able to do that when we get a job” that irks; it’s the sense that “parks, schools, jobs, common resources, are losing their meaning and power”.