From Cinemasud San Diego: My brother in-law – Mio Cognato (Alessandro Piva – 2003)

Friday October 11, 2007

Cinemasud discretely opens the doors. At the Museum of Photographic Arts of Balboa Park, we find all the organizers calm yet excited personally welcoming the guests.

Victor and his big smile impossible to miss. Black-dressed, he lost some weight I guess, maybe due to some insomnia and certainly a lot of work. Happy and thrilled ‘the movies are here’ he whispers relieved.

Giuseppe, impeccable, sober, professional. He politely thanks us for coming. Pasquale, friendly and discreet, overlooks the movement from his academic distance. (He is also tall).

Many people I know, we know, from many different networking, Italians and not. Some time spent complimenting, greeting and kissing (the Italian way). People are interested in the movies, and this is why we all came.

It is nice to have the organizers waiting for some latecomers. It’s cute.

The room is actually crowded and we have to hurry for three far seats. Yes, it definitely feels like being in a movie theatre watching Italian films. I think the last one in San Diego was La vita e’ bella. Well, no true, it was the beautiful Nuovomondo di Emanuele Crialese.

Grazie Victor, and everybody.


Here is my impression about the first film shown – My Brother in-law – Mio Cognato (Alessandro Piva – 2003).

Mio cognato has been filmed in Bari, Puglia. The scene starts with the baptism of the son of Toni, ‘o professore’, an excellent interpretation by Sergio Rubini. The scene is strongly colorful but not neat. The place of the party is the empty terrace of a dreary restaurant facing the harbor of Bari. It is typical and tacky at the same time. It’s amazing how the typicality, the simplicity of people could mutate from being picturesque to sad and squalid in a different background. The suburbs of an Italian province, especially from the south, could be really desolate, and so its inhabitants.

However Toni o professore, in its yellow suit, black shirt and square ray-ban is so excessively tacky that could be even charming – at the Tarantino way.

It all starts when the car of Vito, his brother in law, gets stolen during the celebration. Toni is a magician of insurances, in the sense that he has an insurance business where policies if well managed could be very customizable. We don’t even know if the business exists for real, we only know that he is a professional in manipulating car or other insurance contracts. Of course in order to do that in a southern town you need to have the right connections.

Vito, Luigi Lo Cascio, is the young ordinary husband of Toni’s sister. Naïf style, he only wants to find his Opel Corsa, apparently the only thing really important, besides the fact that he was not chosen as the godfather of his nephew. This kind of things could be extremely crucial in the provincial life-style values.

The movie develops its story of small local criminality with Toni who tries to find Vito’s car through his special friends, discovering though that not too many friends are left in his risky relationships.

One night spent among quaint bad characters, improbable as well as real locations like la casa delle luci (the house of lights) a sort of street terrace illuminated like a funfair where all kinds of men spend the night playing ‘la morra’; the kitchen of a restaurant where Toni, waiting for one of his buddies, start preparing some spaghetti al nero di seppia (italian scale of values doesn’t change with circumstances); an ambulance-taxi to bring Vito to the emergency, after Toni smashed his nose in a moment of frustration.

It is a pot-pourri of tragic-comic situations and characters very well represented. Funny, excessive, bizarre and typical at the same time. The symbol of lemon that the mafia guys leave as a signature, is cute too.

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Unfortunately Toni, o professore, unaware or stubborn to the truth, breaking the rules will bring the poor Vito to die. He was in the end more naïf than his brother-in-law.

By Laura Bianconcini

A Native Italian from Rome who is master disseminator of Italian culture through travel.

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