N. Santora reviews “Sicily: Land of Love & Strife” for The Sound View Independent Film Digest, October 2021 edition.
(Reprinted by permission from the editors)
Director Mark Spano takes a trip deep down into the very core of one of the most historically renowned Mediterranean Islands. Thanks to an extraordinary plethora of transnational academic perspectives and feedback from the locals, his work auspiciously leans on a polyhedral approach, which certainly fits the subject at hand: The crossroad ancestrally deemed as the center of the world, which is now often subject to a numerous amount of misinformation and, somehow, normalized negative stereotypes.
By embarking on this highly educational journey, the audience gets to witness not only a detailed and overall analytical deconstruction of what Sicily meant throughout history, and currently does as a piece of land placed in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea, but in addition, they are presented with a diamond diagram that exudes some of the most truthful essences about the renowned southern Italian region. Sicily is a strategic site that has seen at least 17 different colonizations. Cultural and political repercussions have molded it into one of the most diverse and multifaceted places on Earth.
Along with the vast array of themes emphasized in Spano’s work, the matter of “Sicilian identity,” and its vivid ambiguity seems to be dominating the scene. This portrayal of the Island is somehow vehemently aimed to defy and debunk the grim cliches associated with the island and its inhabitants. It is in fact a one-of-a-kind audiovisual description, which goes above and beyond when it comes to addressing social issues that, however much nefarious, are still an integral part of what Sicily is today. The director seems to make it his mission not to pigeonhole anything about what actually goes on in the Island, especially when it comes to LGBT rights and the growing acceptance and overall open-mindedness that comes with the times.
The emphasis placed upon not only the art, music, food but more importantly the roots made of poverty, classism, and what today could well be deemed as human rights violations. As it is fairly pointed out in the documentary, despite being in the spotlight during its massive agricultural revolution, Sicily failed to follow England and France’s example and never got involved in an industrial revolution, which has eventually left the island’s economy stuck in time, generating a disastrous monetary depression that enveloped Trinacria for several years.
“Spano’s documentary comes across as a devoted tribute to an island drenched in a whirlpool of magicand sacred creed. Highly recommended.”N. Santora
By relying upon a thorough and quadra-dimensional research, the documentary highlights the artistic key points that clearly have the potential to enable critical thinking even in the average film viewer who is either considering rekindling with his or her roots with long lost Sicilian relatives or are simply interested in enlarging their international cultural baggage.
When it comes to the presentation of the Sicilian culinary patrimony, marvelous would only classify as a diminutive euphemism. Not only does the storytelling manage to reach all the way back to the utmost veracious origins of pasta – which made its way into Italy through Sicily with the Arabic colonizers — as well as the historical and sociological layers, but moreover the director deeply explores Greater Greece’s gastronomic scene, carrying the audience through a tempting phantasmagoria of flavors. Spano’s documentary comes across as a devoted tribute to an Island drenched in a whirlpool of magic and sacred creed.
The Islanders’ obsession with Catholic religious practices, and the obvious pagan remnants dwelling within them that help shape the Sicilian esoteric heritage as one of the most individualistic and unique worldwide. For the ones who will end up getting enamored with Spano’s audiovisual masterpiece, and are interested in taking a more profound journey within the higher significance of Sicily’s soul, the audiobook Sicily, Land Of Love and Strife: A Filmmaker’s Journey, narrated by Pete Cross and published also by Dreamscape Media, is available.
Remarkably, Mark Spano takes the extra step in mentioning the appalling conditions that minors were forced to endure during the years of famine and mind-boggling Caresty that had taken down Sicily during the late 19th century, fueled by one of the highest, most socially carcinogenic phenomena in history, often awkwardly subject of gargantuanly low-grade humor and classless banter: The Mafia.
The dual nature of Mountain Etna is perfectly captured. A geological treasure drenched in mythology and austere respect, as well as a destructive presence that, throughout the decades, has claimed lives and infrastructures, causing the earth to perpetually tremble, therefore predisposing Sicilians to feel, as the director states, naturally “on edge.”
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For more information on Mark Spano and his documentary, visit markspano.org.
Documentary / Dreamscape Media
$24.95 / 818506024259
Release date: 11/3/18