True/False Film: Sacro Gra

Sacro Gra is one of those movies that you just get swept inside of. The repeating characters become friends, neighbors, people who you- as a strange voyeuristic audience member- check in on from time to time to see what they are up to. You worry about their futures. Their families. Their careers. But like all superb stories, Sacro Gra uses this highly controlled sense of the familiar to express something much larger: the current condition of not only Rome but of all cultures whose natural ways continue to be compromised, improved, or altered by our notions of progress.

The title Sacro Gra is apparently a play on Holy Grail (Sacro GRA(il), the GRA being an acronym for the large, speeding, roaring ringed road that encircles the city of Rome, Italy and also maybe referencing our changing notions of modern worship. The filmmaker, Gianfranco Rosi, circled around this highway for years capturing the lives of various roadside dwellers, each with their own sprawling personal narrative that became tucked into the folds of the film, creating a give & take that really captures the watcher: will we learn more about the ambulance medic's remote family that he speaks to via webcam? Is the scientist going to conquer the invasive beetle population? Will the "Luccioles" (aka Fireflies, aka Prostitutes) be ok dancing in heels on such a high countertop? Nearly all of these questions remain unanswered, the rhetorical nature of the film lending itself to a slight lean in, a personal investment, that makes the film speed by. The way the camera in this film positioned itself added to this near audience participation too.

Most of the shots were distanced, a series of scenes filmed outside of the windows of a large apartment complex, a floating omnipresence that allowed the characters to take on a dreamy, zoo-like quality. Sometimes I felt like I was on a European Safari, an anthropological National Geographic documentary revealing, educating, transmitting the lives of a wild world we've never seen but is still very relatable. The film is also the single best document of the Anthropocene Era yet, deftly displaying our ability to carve into nature our ways of life- positioning the great feat of an enormous roadway against a snow that renders it useless, the outspoken Eel fisherman debunking the newspaper article about the traits of his slithering income, the strange, unnatural ways we have learned to entertain ourselves. And I think that was the whole point of this film, to express the connectivity in all things- from humans to animals, from palm trees to car accidents. No matter how far away one's own culture is from another, or how much we as a species inflict our realities upon the natural world, we are all humans on an Earth that is changing as rapidly as the rush of the highways that connect it. Sacro Gra, in a gorgeous, dark, hypnotic, watchful way, reminds us that we are all responsible for the future, the extreme artistry of the film acting not so much as a warning but as a reminder to see the potential for beauty in the ever fluctuating truths, and truth in the fluid ideas of beauty. Filmmaking at its finest.


 

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