An Italian-American woman asks herself, “Who am I?”
In the opening scenes of Antonello Faretta’s first feature length film Montedoro, a taxi driver wistfully chats with his fare, an American who is in search of her Italian roots and has asked to be taken to a place in Italy’s Basilicata region called Montedoro.
“Look how beautiful it is here”. He stops the cab to gaze over the Basilicata countryside. “It’s been years since I’ve been here.”
We realize right away that the “here” is not just a geographical location for him. It’s the place where simple people lived simple lives, respected the land, and loved their lives. He’s living far away both physically and spiritually from this “magical place” and the realization breaks his heart.
His fare, an American woman from New York, has just lost her adoptive parents and has come looking for her natural mother in Monterdoro, but hadn’t realized that it was now a ghost town. The cab driver wants to take her to a hotel that’s 20 miles away, but she’s tired and wants to stay, so he finds her a guest house that’s right outside the abandoned ruins of the town.
Montedoro was filmed in Craco, an ancient town that was evacuated in 1963 due to multiple landslides and was first named “Montedoro” by the Greeks that inhabited it in the first century. The story is based on the protagonist’s (Pia Marie Mann) true story of the search for her birth mother, and her roots, as she tries to connect with a long forgotten past aided by some of the “ghost” town’s mysterious holdouts. Pia’s main co-star is Basilicata, far from the more well-known tourist areas in Italy but stunningly beautiful and begging for exploration.
Faretta takes a seemingly very specific circumstance of one woman’s story and makes it wondrously universal, urging us all to look to our own roots to understand who we really are. Pia, born in Italy and adopted at age four by an American couple, knew little about her real mother before her journey to her homeland, and so she searches for her mother in the way that many adopted children do; but there’s something more.
We are reminded that, as we all grow farther from our mothers, from our homeland, and from our roots, we do so at a cost. We do better to hold on to those roots, because sometimes they are the only thing that can answer the question: Who am I?
– Cheri Passell