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Sacro GRA

by Kaori Shoji

“Sacro GRA” takes the all-roads-lead-to-Rome adage one step further by telling us that one of those roads is actually sacred — the 65-odd-km GRA (Grande Raccordo Anulare). It’s Italy’s most expensive highway, circling Rome in one big loop. Documentarian Gianfranco Rosi took his camera to the GRA (seen by many as too costly, congested and depressing) to dig up the lives and stories lurking around it. I have a sneaking suspicion that Tokyoites will sigh with envy; the GRA wins over Tokyo’s Kanpachi-dori, hands down.

“Sacro GRA” was the first documentary film to win the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival and is emblematic of the powerful nonfiction films being released recently. The people gracing Rosi’s camera include an arguing father and daughter in a high rise; a pair of aging prostitutes in a mobile home; an eel fisherman who feels global capitalism encroaching on his livelihood; and an ambulance driver who deals with traffic-related catastrophes on the GRA, and who cares for his aging mother at home.

These people live on the outermost fringes of Rome’s troubled economy, but Rosi chips away at the surface to reveal the core of the hidden poetry in their lives.