La Pivellina, which translates to “the little one” in English, is an extraordinary movie filmed and produced by Italian filmmaker Tizza Covi and the Austrian director Rainer Frimmel. This beautiful film shows an almost awe-inspiring level of restraint which allows viewers to develop a deeper level of empathy with the characters. It is a simple story of a husband and wife, carnival performers, who happen upon an abandoned two-year-old girl, and what then follows from that chance encounter.
The film was screened at Cornell in Rome, where we were joined by Tizza Covi, the writer of the film and one of its producers. The talk that followed gave me a much deeper appreciation of both the film and the film production process. Tizza explained their approach to filmmaking in great detail and I would be doing her a disservice to to recount it too summarily. However, I will explain several basic methods that were employed and the impact they had on the film. Firstly, all of the film’s actors are non-professionals, simply playing themselves in the context of the story. In order to build a rapport with those involved, the producers decided to live in the community throughout the filming. Additionally, and this was perhaps the most important aspect, the film was produced chronologically, with each scene filmed in sequence. Because of this, the growth of the characters is palpable; the viewer enters the film feeling like a stranger but by the end feels like a part of characters’ world. You can see the actors becoming more comfortable around each other and the filmmakers, producing a powerful emotive thread throughout the movie.
I could say much more about this film, but I sincerely do not want to spoil it for any future viewers. You can find a trailer for the film here:
Before the screening of the film Profs Shara Wasserman and Carolina Ciampaglia organized a brief field trip to visit San Basilio, the neighborhood in the film. There we were able to meet the main protagonist, the no longer two-year-old girl from the film and see the community that she lives in. It was quite extraordinary to see the ways in which the filmmakers were able to capture the spirit of their location.