“Forbidden to dogs and Italians”: polenta, love and family memory

January 26, 2023 by No Comments

Forbidden to dogs and Italians ***

by Alain Ughetto

Franco-European co-production, 1 h 10

From the age of 8

It is an artisanal film made with the heart on the hand and the hands in the polenta. Those of Cesira, first, the grandmother of Marseille filmmaker Alain Ughetto, who, all her life, kneaded corn flour to feed her family, poor Italians from the mountains of Piedmont. Those of the director, then, who we see interacting with his endearing characters, resin figurines, and shaping his unusual decors, broccoli trees, pumpkin houses, sugar cube bricks.

In her kitchen, where a Mocha coffee maker whistles, Cesira serves a tight little black to her grandson, who drinks it bottoms up from a tiny cup. Through a fictitious dialogue, Alain Ughetto questions his grandmother about her long life of hard work, joys and misfortunes. She then recounts a past of misery in Ughettera, this village at the foot of the Italian Alps where everyone was called Ughetto, at the end of the 19th century. We were born there, lived and died in the stable, with the animals. For lack of sufficient harvests on this arid land, all will hire their arms on the other side of the border to survive and “spend the winter”. Everyone, including children…

Communicative joie de vivre

It is on one of these road and tunnel construction sites that she meets Luigi, the love of her life, a solid worker capable of killing a fly while digging the rock! Those who survived this slave labor were then sent in the 1910s to invade another desert, that of Libya, before going to have their skin pierced during the Great War.

Not everyone will return, but Luigi will. Determined to go to America, the family will go no further than Ariège… The first French words that the children learn are: “Son of a macaroni bitch!” ». “Forbidden to dogs and Italians”, is it displayed on the door of a cafe. “They are afraid that the Italians will be bitten by dogsLuigi invents in front of his perplexed children. But we are not afraid of dogs! » Italian immigrants, on the other hand, fear the fascists who reign terror in their native country and drive many of their compatriots into exile in the 1920s.

This painful story is nevertheless recounted with an infectious joie de vivre in this wonderful animated film for all audiences. Animated in volume, the film is full of ideas that never cease to amaze without the filmmaker ever losing sight of the chronological thread of his story.

Memory at your fingertips

The constant DIY to which Alain Ughetto lends himself, facing the camera, is not only surprising and amusing. It is part of a family tradition to which it pays a tribute that is all the more moving as it is celebrated with a few bits of string and cardboard.

Customary of this D system, the filmmaker had already staged his work as an animator and his own life, in the singular Jasmine(2013), a clandestine idyll lived with an Iranian woman in revolutionary Tehran at the end of the 1970s. love stifled by the Iranian revolution.

Lighter, playful and lifted than this first attempt, Forbidden to dogs and Italians, jury prize at the last Annecy Animation Film Festival, found a unique and tender way of transmitting the memory of these families who, like his own, were forced into exile to survive. Yesterday like today.


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