25 years ago, Jane Campion became the first female director to win the Palme d’Or for The Piano, her astonishing, glorious masterpiece about a mute woman’s rebellion in a newly colonised, Victorian-era New Zealand. Played remarkably by a silent Holly Hunter, Ada McGrath arrives in remote country to marry frontiersman Alistair Stewart (Sam Neill) after being sold by her father.
Ada hasn’t spoken since she was seven and communicates only through sign language and her much- loved piano. She clashes with Stewart instantly after he refuses to transport the piano back to the ranch and sells it to a local forester (Harvey Keitel) who trades it for land.
Soundtracked by Michael Nyman’s evocative and hauntingly minimalist score (with all pieces actually performed by Hunter,) it won Best Actor Oscars for Holly Hunter and Anna Paquin in career-defining roles and Best Screenplay for Campion’s characteristically distinctive, feminist script. Lush green forests contrast with dark rooms and oppressive indoor spaces and the wilderness takes centre stage against an urgent and expressive Greek-style tragedy. It’s a story about trauma and colonialism, hostility and isolation that resonates just as strongly today.
The Piano is rereleased in cinemas across the country on Friday in a beautiful new digital restoration so if you’ve only ever seen it on telly, or your experience of Jane Campion centres on Elizabeth Moss’s troubled detective in Top of the Lake, now’s your chance to share the melodrama magic and gothic repression together on the big screen.
In 2015, Jonas Carpignano made headlines with another story about immigration - Mediterranea, a powerful documentary style film about fruit pickers from Burkina Faso struggling to reach and then survive in southern Italy – a place he revisits in his new film A Ciambra, out on Friday. It’s a region accustomed to travellers, colonised by the ancient Greeks then the Romans, Saracens, and Byzantines before modern times began. It’s one of the most impoverished parts of the country - wild and mountainous with a spine of rugged peaks that runs right through it, flushed with Olive groves and spiky Prickly Pears. The story centres on Pio Amato, a teenager living in a small Romani community, who wants nothing more than to grow up. He follows his older brother, Cosimo, as they try to provide for the family by stealing cars and selling parts. When Cosimo is arrested, Pio takes it upon himself to fill his brother’s shoes but soon finds himself in dangerous situations and forced to make life-changing decisions.