“Arberia”, a 2019 film dedicated to the centuries-old Albanian-descended Arbëresh community in southern Italy will be shown on Netflix from December 23.
The first-ever Albanian-themed film to be shown on Netflix from December 23 this year, Arbëria focuses on the traditions and culture of the Arbëresh, a community of Albanian descent who have lived for centuries in some villages in Calabria and Basilicata.
Francesca Olivieri, herself of Calabrian origin, is the director and screenwriter of the film, produced in 2019, but now showing on the US movie platform.
Olivieri told Prishtina Insight that the story of the main character was inspired by her own family. “Aida’s story is partially inspired by the personal experiences of my aunt and my grandmother, born in Santa Caterina Albanese, in Calabria, in the south of Italy,” she said.
“I wanted to dip into these biographical elements and orient myself … The subject is obviously personal, I am myself a young woman who has emigrated, so I hope this story of human generosity can be of interest to a public that is culturally scattered,” she added.
Olivieri also recalled that she felt very touched when she saw a performance of a “vallja”, the traditional Albanian dance, in Italy.
“I remember the first time I saw a Vallja, the traditional dance of the Arberesh people. I was shocked because I felt this moment was magical and had a cinematographic potential in itself,” she said.
“Then the fact of hearing my grandmother speaking this [Albanian] language many times was obviously my main source of inspiration. She was my special muse all along the movie, and she taught me the traditions and what is most valuable in the Arbëreshe culture,” she added.
The director is glad that the film will now be spread all around the film-viewing world by Netflix.
“Netflix is an important …platform. The fact that they will put effort into showing the story of a linguistic minority in Italy is a relevant fact,” she said.
“Netflix has an editorial point that is strong … on youth themes, also concerning the roots of conflicts and the shame of being a member of a traditional people,” Olivieri said.
The film tells the story of Aida Greco, a young Arbëresh girl who is grappling with her social and cultural identity. She has long since left her roots in Calabria to become a fashion designer in a big city, but returns home following a death.
In the family, she is welcomed back with a mixture of affection and distrust. Closest to her is a young niece who is engaged but also endowed with an independent spirit that pushes her not to submit to impositions, wherever they come from. Aida sees herself in her.
Caterina Misasi, a Roman actress of Calabrian origin known for TV appearances in Un Medico in Famiglia, Centovetrine, and Vivere, was chosen to play the role of Aida.
The film also stars Brixhilda Shqalsi, an Albanian-origin actress, Carmelo Giordano, Anna Stratigò, Mario Scerbo, Alessandro Castriota Scanderbeg, Fabio Pappacena and Antonio Andrisani.
In 2019, the film was presented in Cosenza, Italy, and shown in cinemas all over the Calabrian region, where it was well received by the audience.
The film was since shown at many festivals in Europe.
The first time was in Tirana at the Dea Festival, where it won the public’s jury award. Then it was showed in France, Wales, Norway and Germany and at different Italian movie festivals.
The public has been very interested in this story, because few people know anything about the history of Albanians and their ancestors.
In Italy, there was pleasant astonishment, because although the Italians know the Albanian people and the recent story of the country, they didn’t know that their ancestors came to Italy during the fifteenth century.
Arbëria is the name of a set of geographical areas in southern Italy to where people from Albania and Greece fled between the 15th and 18th centuries, escaping the Ottoman conquest of their homelands.
“Arbëria” was produced by Open Fields, in collaboration with Lucana Film Commission and Calabria Film Commission, with the support of Mibac and Siae as part of the Sillumina” initiative and Bcc Mediocrati and Echoes.