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I’M NOT SCARED (R) (2004)


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Director: Gabriele Salvatores

Producers: Ricardo Tozzi, Maro Chimenz

Written by: Niccolo Ammaniti and Francesca Marciano

Cast: Giuseppe Cristiano, Aitana Sanchez-Gijon, Dino Abbrescia, Giorgio Careccia, Mattia Di Pierro Diego Abatantuono, Susy Sanchez



How long has been since Fellini died? How long has it been since Italian cinema was relevant? Back in the ’50s and ’60s a generation of masters helped put Italy at the forefront of world cinema, those were the days of Felllini, De Sica, Rosselini, and Bertolucci, true gods of the art houses. Now it seems that instead of the daring films made by those legends, all the Italian imports we receive are quaint travelogues, postcard cinema, like Il Postino, and of course there’s also the ever-toxic Roberto Benigni, who sells his wares with remarkable, unfathomable success. I’m Not Scared isn’t going revive Italy’s artistic fortunes, and in fact it bears several of the hallmarks of the postcard cinema, such as endless sweeping shots of children running through the golden fields of rural Italy. Nonetheless, I’m Not Scared is buoyed by an interesting twist on the familiar coming-of-age genre film.

Michele is a 10-year-old boy living in tiny, sun-soaked village in Italy. He and the other children in town seem to have nothing more to do than play in the vast fields around their home. Their parents are all poor working-class people, eking out life in the middle of nowhere, (Michele’s mama seems particularly glum, trapped in such desolation). Still the children find ways to amuse themselves, and one day happen upon a deserted old house, where Michele proves his courage to the other children by walking across a bare rafter on the second floor. When the other children leave, Michele stays to further investigate, and discovers that the house is not as deserted as it seems.


It turns out there’s a boy in the cellar. A boy who thinks he’s actually dead. Michele builds a relationship with the boy, who’s actually imprisoned in the cellar, and eventually he learns that the boy has been kidnapped and is being held for ransom. Michele learns that the whole village is in on the plot, including his parents, so to help the boy he must betray his parents.

The film is handled well by director Salvatores, who, like so many of his countrymen, has a gift for lush, visual storytelling. Where I’m Not Scared disappoints is in its underdeveloped characters. Michele is brash but honest, and he well played by Cristiano. But whereas in the best coming-of-age films there’s usually an ensemble of well-defined characters, I’m Not Scared leaves Michele to his own devices for most of the story. This is shame because the other actors do well with their bits and Michele’s internal drama is often rendered curious, but his lack of confidantes does not serve him well. All together not a bad film; if watching Italian children running through fields is your idea of good picture this may well be the ticket for you.

—Edward Rholes


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