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IDFA 2020

Review: Ultimina

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- To savour this documentary by Jacopo Quadri, viewers need to relax into the pace of rural life of times gone by and breathe in time with a proud-spirited woman

Review: Ultimina

Ultimina has countless memories, a few regrets and one certainty regarding the women of her time, who were victims of master-fathers and drunken husbands: “I would have made them all get a divorce if I could”. Today, Ultima Capecchi is 86 years old and is the one true protagonist of the documentary Ultimina [+see also:
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, which is dedicated to her by Jacopo Quadri and was screened in a world premiere within the Mid-Length Documentary Competition of Amsterdam’s IDFA International Documentary Film Festival - the biggest festival of its kind worldwide.

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Jacopo Quadri is considered one of the best editors in Italy. He edited all of Mario Martone and Gianfranco Rosi’s films and the list of directors he has collaborated with boasts the names of Bernardo Bertolucci, Zhang Yuan, Apichatpong Weerasethakul and Paolo Virzì. As a filmmaker, after a series of experimental shorts, he directed the feature-length documentaries La terra trema and Un posto al mondo in league with Mario Martone. His third doc Lorello and Brunello [+see also:
film review
trailer
film profile
]
(the winner of the Cipputi Prize and a Jury Special Mention at the 2017 Turin F.F.) was the journal of a year spent with the titular farming twins in the rural landscape of Maremma in Tuscany, and it was here that Ultima Capecchi was first introduced to us, a cheerful and witty presence throughout the film. For this reason, Ultimina might be considered some kind of Lorello and Brunello spin-off, commissioned by the director to immortalise a woman of indomitable spirit, hailing from another age.

Born within the Sovana region, in the province of Grosseto, and into a poor family of tenant farmers, Ultimina, the fifth of six siblings (“they called me that because my parents couldn’t face having any more children”), is proud of the difficult life she has led: tending to the sheep in the snow, clad in rough woollen socks and vest which scraped at her skin (“I can still feel them itch”, she jokes), only attending school until the second year of primary school, hardly having access to any water to wash with and battling in a universe where downtrodden women are forced to win themselves their place in the world centimetre by centimetre. She went dancing once but never again because it was her brother who got to choose who she danced with. She meets Goito and marries him at 17 years of age. Her father-in-law treats her like an animal, as he does all of his children, moreover. Goito, meanwhile, swiftly reveals his true colours as an alcoholic slob. Ultimina shows us old photos of her husband, her parents, her brothers and her grandchildren, and snapshots of marriages and communions. Now she lives alone in the heart of a magnificent and unpopulated Etruscan landscape peppered with reddish tuff. The director is by her side as she tends to her vegetable garden or hangs clothes out to dry in the sunshine; he follows her on a trip to the cemetery. “Hello everybody” is Ultimina’s greeting to the deceased. And as she sits in her kitchen, she thinks back on the events of her life, testifying to a past world of which very few witnesses remain.

In order to savour this 61-minute documentary, viewers must forget the aesthetics of haste, relax into the pace of rural life from times gone by, and breathe in time with this proud-spirited woman who didn’t stop for a single second.

Ultimina is edited by Jacopo Quadri, with photography in the hands of Greta De Lazzaris, music in those of Valerio Vigliar and sound coming courtesy of Daniela Bassani and Nicolò Tettamanti. The film is produced by Ubulibri in association with RAI Cinema, and sold internationally by Taskovski Films.

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(Translated from Italian)

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