The Orchestra Of Piazza Vittorio

The Orchestra Of Piazza Vittorio


Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

Music documentaries have a fine heritage, from the Cuban rhythms of the Buena Vista Social Club to those finding therapy through music in The Refugee All Stars and the quirky choir in Norway’s Cool And Crazy. This enthusiastic offering from Italy is a fine addition to the list.

The orchestra of the title begins as a pipe dream for Mario Tranco, keyboard-player with Italian group Avion Travel, and documentarian Agostino Ferrente. They live in the Piazza Vittorio district of Rome – a working-class area that is also home to a huge ethnic mix of migrants. With the aim of saving the area’s Apollo Theatre – due to be turned into a bingo hall – they set up the Apollo 11 committee. Their secondary mission? To gather together musicians from across the globe to found a fusion orchestra that will become the focal point of the new multi-ethnic community hub.

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Needless to say, ambition is one thing and achieving it very much another. Ferrente records their five-year journey with a humorous verve, finding a wry glee in their tribulations – from riding the subway all day just to catch up with an itinerant cimbalom player to facing a barrage of shaking heads as they ask shopkeeper after shopkeeper if they know any musicians who want to join in, and their attempts to get everyone from a wideboy Tunisian singer to an Indian tabla player to sing from the same sheet.

There is a rough and ready energy to the camerawork, which gathers you up in its enthusiasm. Each of the musicians – from countries as far removed as Senegal, Ecuador, Greece and the USA – has their own story to tell and are frequently captured in unguarded moments, as Mario and Ferrente buzz about on a scooter like men possessed. There is a home video feel to certain segments, such as a Bollywood-style episode over the opening credits, which invites you in – as though their audience, like their orchestra, are just an extended family they haven’t met yet.

The action is set to the music of the orchestra, which has a catchy, cosmopolitan feel, as instruments and voices which wouldn’t normally get to share houseroom, glide over one another in fresh harmonies. Although this is not an overtly political film, demonstrations – many scarily anti-immigrant – are glimpsed in the backdrop of the action, giving an insight into what inspired the men to try to promote a multi-ethnic approach. Let’s hope their continued success soon has more marching to the tune of racial harmony – complete with all its glorious quirks.

Reviewed on: 20 Nov 2007
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The Orchestra Of Piazza Vittorio packshot
Documentary charting two men on a mission to found a multi-ethnic orchestra.

Director: Agostino Ferrente

Year: 2006

Runtime: 93 minutes

BBFC: 12 - Age Restricted

Country: Italy

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