Open Roads Series Dispatch: “Brave Men”

BraveMen

To close out my dispatches from the Open Roads series, I will write about film I enjoyed the best of those I was able to attend this past week: Edoardo Winspeare’s Brave Men / Galantuomini. Taking place in the Salento area of the Apulia region (visually speaking, the “heel” of Italy) in and around the town of Lecce, the film explores a different flavor of organized crime than the Mafia films about Sicily and Naples: Sacra Corona Unita. (This organization, dating from only the 1970s, has a very different history than other European criminal organizations.)

Brave Men introduces us to a handful of children growing up in Lecce decades ago and then picks them up again in adulthood when they have taken up quite different occupations, most notably Ignazio (Fabrizio Gifuni), who headed the North to became a respected judge, and Lucia (Donatella Finocchiaro), who stayed in Lecce and has made herself into a local crime boss.

Actress Finocchiaro talked with audiences after the screening. A better translation of the title, she told us, might be “gentlemen.” Finocchiaro explained further: “Galantuomini is a term, now rarely used, from the south of Italy, Salento, Sicily, to talk about men of honor. Not Mafia “honor” but the desire to do good. The title of the film was meant to point at the absence of these men in the [contemporary] world.”

Ignazio remains the last of these “gentlemen” for his generation — and as Lucia’s position in the criminal hierarchy is threatened both by the law and by rival gangs, he represents something of a last chance for her to experience a relationship that is decent and good.

How likely is a woman like Lucia to exist in the real world? Finocchiaro: “There are women close to powerful men, but there are not women who have grabbed the power to be crime bosses yet; in the film, the director filled the power vacuum in the town with an imagined powerful woman.” Finocchiaro did however draw on the women of Salento to help her construct the Lucia role: “The women from Salento: their eyes are volcanoes. There is a thing called Salento pride, the dignity of belonging to the area. These women certainly run their households.”

Speaking of her previous role as the titular character in Angela (2002): “Some people have said ‘we see Angela again’ but Angela was to the side, the wife of the boss whereas Lucia takes on the role of the boss. She feels more suitable for that role than the men in her life.”

— Matt Griffin

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