Castro was the name given to an old occupied building in Rome where poor people, the unemployed, the retired, foreign families would come together, live together, and find a place of their own in an attempt to re-establish their lives. The occupants of Castro adored it, and not because of the bare rooms and basic amenities found in the apartments, but because they found solace in the warmth and friendship of their neighbours, a rare sense of community that is so lacking in the real world; the world outside the Castro’s walls.
For a year, the film’s director, Paolo Civati, shared an intimacy with the inhabitants which bestows the film with a startlingly moving atmosphere. He moves in and out of the stark but cosy living spaces, giving the viewers an inlet into a few groups of regular people trying to get through the harsh and demanding life of the Italian capital in the face of unemployment and threat of eviction. And it is in this year that we see the documentary’s subjects prepare themselves for reality – soon these people will be forced to move out, move on, into a world without known allies.
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The camera shifts from individual to individual, but Civati places most focus on a young couple living together in a cramped apartment, and as we get to know them, their story evolves into one of intense love, regret, and day to day struggle in which their conversations and outbursts shed light on national difficulties, Italy’s failings at not losing sight of the ordinary people that comprise its population, and an ongoing effort to find employment in an atmosphere that seems set on not providing it.
Other inhabitants include an ageing mother and her unemployed television-addicted son who spends his days cooped up in the darkness, napping to pass through the pains and boredom of his current existence. But one gets the impression that, in spite of the difficulties, this pair would be lost without the Castro. In other corners of the flat, young children bonded by vicinity and poverty, play games and share dreams with an intense fondness for one another and unbreakable attachment to their home. Or a proud old man who lives alone with his cat, no wife, no children, only the sanctuary of the Castro to cling to.
Probably the most touching aspect of Castro is this closeness. The closeness that the inhabitants share with one another. The viewer becomes aware that by being placed in the same building, these people, living on the margins of society, have developed a bond that almost makes the position and security that they are all fighting for worth it.
Watch a clip of Castro, here: