The Ciambra

A dazzlingly kinetic work from Italian-American filmmaker Jonas Carpignano which follows a young Roma boy trying to provide for his family after his brother is sent to prison

Film Review by Barry Didcock | 27 Sep 2018
Film title: The Ciambra
Director: Jonas Carpignano
Starring: Pio Amato, Koudous Seihon
Release date: 24 Sep
Certificate: 15

Italian-American filmmaker Jonas Carpignano first met 14-year-old Pio Amato, the Romani star of this his second feature, when one of Amato’s relatives stole his car and held it to ransom. It’s a real-life grift we see parlayed into fiction at one point in The Ciambra, whose title refers to the name of a Roma community on the outskirts of Gioia Tauro, a town in southern Italy’s Calabria region. But it’s just one of many acts of petty crime undertaken by the ballsy Pio as he tries to step up to the role of family provider after his elder brother, who’s connected with the ’Ndrangheta, the regional Italian crime syndicate, is sent to prison.

Carpignano uses Pio’s real name and extends the same courtesy, if that’s what it is, to his family members. They’re essentially playing themselves, in other words, and we never forget it. So as Pio rolls from one escapade to another there’s always this gritty, documentary-style quality at play to underscore the wider political points Carpignano is making: about life on the margins, about prejudice, about how disadvantaged communities (and Italy’s Roma in particular) negotiate a path between the police, the bureaucrats and the crime gangs.

And it isn’t just the Roma. Pio’s best friend is Ayiva (Seihon), twice his age and a migrant from Burkina Faso. He’s a grafter rather than a grifter, all his hopes stored in a lock-up where he keeps the electrical goods he plans to ship home to sell. Through examining that relationship Carpignano delves into the lives of Italy’s many African migrants, camp-dwelling recent arrivals whose place in the Italian state is even more parlous and ambiguous than the Roma’s. He also makes this unlikely friendship the focus of the film’s final act, as Pio is forced to decide how strong the ties of family really are. A dazzlingly kinetic work, it’s easy to see why The Ciambra was a hit at Cannes last year.


Carpignano’s short film Young Lions Of Gypsy, which also features Pio Amato.

Released by Peccadillo Pictures