This is Not Cricket : Feature length documentary project

In Rome, two friends are rebuilding their undefeated cricket team that broke up due to  pressure from social and religious issues…

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Italian Director Jacopo de Bertoldi graduated in philosophy from Ca’ Foscari university and attended Ermanno Olmi’s ‘Ipotesi Cinema’ film school, where he directed two short movies. He lived in the USA working on several independent movie productions as production manager, and worked for four years at New Line Cinema as production associate. He wrote and produced documentaries about contemporary artists for Rai Sat Art and directed a documentay about Gino De Dominicis. He wrote for Rai Fiction a TV series “Stazione Termini” and is currently rewriting a project slated for production. He’s also a collaborator of Radio3 Rai and Radio Svizzera Italiana as documentary author. In 2013 his audio-documentary on cricket and immigration won the silver medal at the URTI International Radio Grand Prix competing with about 150 projects coming from all around the world.

Jacopo de Bertoldi

I came across cricket a few years ago when I happened to read a newspaper article about the Italian National Junior cricket team. They had won the European cup with the paradox that none of the players had Italian citizenship. Some of them were born in Italy while others had immigrated here with their families. I asked myself what would be going through the minds of those boys and decided to go and meet them.

cricket1I encountered many of these young men to understand that this game, an inheritance of the British colonization, is ironically the umbilical cord that keeps them linked to their country of origin. It is a forum for nostalgia, their native cultural values and a place to work through challenges of all sorts, both related to the sport and more personal issues. These boys study in Italy, speak Italian and have Italian friends.  However due to Italy’s immigration law, which is based on the “ius sanguinis,” they cannot easily became Italian citizens. Tahar Ben Jelloun has named them “la génération involontaire,”– the involuntary generation who is taking the hit of globalization.” These young men arrived in Italy, not by personal choice, yet they have had to adapt to a new culture, a new world.   They live day by day, as they cannot predict their future in this new land.  And yet they have cricket.  This is why the game, from an historical and symbolic point of view, represents an important meeting point between different cultures. If the recent growing migration waves are a response to the process of globalization, the game of cricket gives us an important snapshot of the process.

Within the numerous teams that compose the Italian cricket galaxy, the Piazza Vittorio Cricket Club peaked my interest in particular.  Along with an unexpectedly dramatic story, I found a compelling mix of personalities within the team. It’s a real multi-ethnic club composed of young men from India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and one lone Italian. This particular team became a reality through the work of two young men and a woman, Edoardo Gallo, Federico Mento and his Argentinian wife, Mercedes Garcia. The three share a passion for politics. They are all radicals of the left; so radical in fact that they designed the uniforms of the team with the colours of anarchy, black and red. They not only gave these young immigrants the possibility of materializing their dream to play their beloved sport of cricket in a foreign land, but also have schooled them on the nuances of western culture, giving them the instruments to get oriented in a country very different from their home lands.

During the spring of 2012, I followed the team to Corfù where the Greek Cricket Federation had organized an international tournament. I spent 24 hours a day with them shooting many hours of material. I entered their most intimate life from time spent in their hotel bedrooms as well as on the fields. I recorded their enthusiasm for the games and their great disappointment when they lost most of the matches, but most of all I have been able to capture their adolescent energy, their dreams and their flaws. This audio-visual material is very precious because it’s a testimony of Federico and Mercedes work and a great account of what the Piazza Vittorio Cricket Club was and meant for the boys. Right after this experience the team broke up. The origin of the fatal dispersion was due to cultural and religious disagreements; precisely what Federico, Mercedes were working against.  I found this event explanatory of the complexity of immigration challenge and it’s one of the main reasons why today I’d like to go again into this story. What happened to the boys of the old Piazza Vittorio?

The young men have now turned eighteen.  Some of them play on pick up teams or in the street while others have stopped playing. The experience of the Piazza Vittorio Cricket Club today is just a memory, but has been an important cultural training. The end of this cultural experiment, all the boys refused to integrate with the Italian culture and society. Almost all the boys went back to their original communities, Bengali with Bengali, Sri Lankan with Sri Lankan etc. I would like to investigate the experience of everyone involved and try to understand why this project failed. I would involve “Casa famiglia,” an institution that houses immigrants under age arriving in Italy without parents, which will certainly be one of the places where Fernando and Shince will go looking for players for the new team. I would like to revisit the lives of the young men who once played in the Piazza Vittorio Cricket Club, trying to capture once again their spirit, and the will to survive in a county like Italy, which is for many reasons very inhospitable to immigrants. Landing in Italy can present many challenges, especially due to the fact that the regulations on immigration are based on an old law voted in by the “Lega Nord”/ Northern League the most racist political party Italy has ever seen after the age of Mussolini.  The many different forces that came together within the Piazza Vittorio Cricket Club both on and off the field highlights present a microcosm of the challenges experienced by immigrants in an often less than hospitable world of globalization and change.