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The Best of Youth


Futura (2021)

Three notable figures among the next generation of Italian filmmakers – Pietro Marcello of “Martin Eden,” Francesco Munzi of “Black Souls” and Alice Rohrwacher of “Happy as Lazzaro” – team up for the documentary “Futura,” about youths across Italy disillusioned by a grim future, lack of economic opportunities, insufficient government investment and disruptions brought about by Covid-19. This filmmaking collaborative doesn’t have ambitious aims to disrupt the status quo with a major stylistic movement like la nouvelle vague or Dogme 95. Rather, here they retreat to the country’s great cinematic tradition and follow in Pier Paolo Pasolini’s footsteps.

The result is the complete opposite of “Stanley Tucci: Searching for Italy,” which, despite having a platform on CNN, apparently presented a very skewed American view, romanticizing the charms of a vanishing old world and its old money while using culinary anecdotes to only minimally engage Italy’s sweeping demographic shifts. “Futura” presents a sober and far more ominous prognosis of the state of the affairs: Young people who love their country see a societal landscape with a dark horizon and dread the day their bleak prospects will force them to move away. It brings to mind all the neorealist films about Italy’s improvised past and many more Hollywood movies about similar circumstances that drove millions of Italian immigrants to the United States at the turn of the 20th century.

Obviously things aren’t as dire now as they were, say, in “Bicycle Thieves.” Some of the issues they experience are first-world problems: per a Romani kid, “nobody knows how to farm;” “young people are good for nothing.” A few have seemingly impractical goals of becoming professional soccer players, while others are more preoccupied with frivolous concerns such as Instagram and Facebook.

Young people aspire to la dolce vita. They don’t want to just work to get paid and become unhappily stuck in their jobs at an old age. Indeed, the most responsible among them are in trade schools learning to become chefs, beauticians and mechanics. A black-and-white archival clip shows that, at minimum, kids back in the day were much better read. Even today’s most socially-aware young Italians surveyed by the film seem oblivious of any historical context – to the point of actually being unaware of the violent protest that took place in their backyard only two decades ago during the G8 summit in Genoa.


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