The story of an activist from Verona who devoted his life and political journey to his communist ideals and decided to challenge the might of NATO. This is Tomaso Aramini and Rafqfuad Yarahmadi’s political documentary The Lost Shoes.
The Lost Shoes documents the political journey of Italian revolutionary Armando Lanza; a former logistical mastermind of a militant left-wing organisation and guerrilla outfit known as The Red Brigades. Based in Italy for almost 30 years, the group was responsible for numerous violent episodes, acts, and incidents, including the injuring, abduction, and murder of a number of prominent politicians and military personnel.
What turns an idealistic, empathetic, and compassionate young person into a violent, revolutionary terrorist? That is one of the questions posed here by co-directors Aramini and Yarahmadi. Using Lanza’s own book of memoirs, also called The Lost Shoes, as a starting point, our directorial team takes a look back throughout the life of one of Italy’s radical leftists. Using up-to-date interviews with Lanza himself and the figures who influenced him and played a major part in his life, The Lost Shoes tries to pinpoint exactly when Lanza became the antithesis of what he stood for while also trying to understand the historical discourse that existed. Creating a generation of communists who attempted many different strategies to transform Italy and the world into thinking about things in the same manner that those on the far left already did.
Using photographs, stock footage, news footage, and newspaper cuttings of all of the major events that occurred during Lanza’s journey, along with visits to Lanza’s past haunts, the documentary begins with him discovering his love of the church, first by becoming an altar boy aged 6 and then being sent to the Catholic Provolo Institute in Verona by his parents. While there, Lanza discovers he had a cousin who was a missionary in Africa and it became his dream to one day follow in his footsteps. From Provolo, Lanza joined up with the Comboniani Missionaries and it was here that he discovered his thirst for politics when the Missionary mentors become involved in the overthrowing of a pre-Vatican council that was very hierarchical and strict. This mini uprising led to a positive sense of change where the common man was liberated, educated, and enabled with the ability to fight for their rights.
Lanza as a subject is a very amiable and charismatic character. Not only is he the focal point of the documentary as an interviewee, but he also acts as the interviewer to some of his colleagues and friends. The editing by Tomaso Aramini manages to frame Lanza in a sympathetic light – he is not seen as a crazy idealist or loony leftie, but as a calm, collected, and extremely knowledgeable politician. Someone who is always trying to work towards a better life for the poorest people living in the shadows of their more affluent neighbours.
Credit to the directors for this considerate portrayal, although they don’t let him totally off the hook. When it comes to the main story of Lanza describing his experience working with the terrorist group, The Red Brigades, the music becomes more dramatic, the camera works slower and the lighting much less flattering. At this stage in his life, Lanza is seen less like a statesman and more like a bigoted youth, whose hatred of NATO and fascism becomes more powerful than rational thought. We then see the terrorist incident play out in a dazzling rotoscope animated sequence, that brings to mind the best of Ralph Bakshi. As a coda, the punishment Lanza receives after the event is both eye-opening and wince-inducing.
What becomes apparent during The Lost Shoes is, regardless of the awful thing Lanza was involved in, the love for his family, friends, and those who are downtrodden and less fortunate remains unabated. Despite the documentary becoming a little long-winded, with some of the interviews in both single and talking heads style dragging somewhat, we end up with a satisfying film concerned with how the fate of everyone’s political balance might affect their futures. We don’t get many answers here, but we do get a few juicy insights.