Offering an intimate look into organised crime in the Calabria region of Italy, To Chiara forgoes the shock-value of violence and drug addiction to consider the heartbreaking impact on family and culture.
Screened as part of NZIFF 2021
Italian-American director Jonas Carpignano’s To Chiara works as a standalone feature that expands the world of his previous two films, A Ciambra (2017) and Mediterranea (2015). Cameos from past collaborators illustrate the world of eponymous heroine, Chiara, and her southern Italian home of Gioia Tauro, nestled into the coast of provincial Calabria.
Shortly after older sister Giulia’s 18th birthday, the family car is blown up and father Claudio disappears into the night. What follows is a daughter’s determined effort to unveil the truth about her missing father and his connection to the notorious ‘Ndrangheta crime syndicate. Seen through the eyes of 15-year-old Chiara (remarkable newcomer Swamy Rotolo), To Chiara peeks into the family ties, hierarchies and loyalty that the ‘Ndrangheta rely on – for what wouldn’t we do for our family?
A riveting portrait of a young woman facing an impossible decision, Carpignano lets each consequence play out with near-fatal finality. Chiara, impetuous and strong-willed, bowls through her small town like a wrecking ball, for better or for worse. Lived-in dynamics, brought to life by several members of the real Rotolo family, capture the easy love and domestic joys of large families.
To Chiara explores what it is like to be a teenager and believe you know best, unable or unwilling to fathom the adult motivations beyond your immediate desires.
Carpignano avoids any easy moralising, instead offering an intimate, personal exploration of what it is like to let go of someone you love; for your favourite person to suddenly appear unrecognisable. — Rachael Rands