Seid, Miguel, and Ludovico are preparing to perform in a play by William Shakespeare. In the meantime, they have to face the challenges that life puts before them. This is Lorenzo Pomari and Paolo Vandoni’s documentary Un Palco Per La Vita.
‘Un Palco per la vita’ translates to A Stage For Life and is a story of theatre and development. It is a 57-minute Swiss documentary filmed in Italian that focuses on three completely different individuals, Seid, Miguel, and Ludovico. Each of our protagonists is at a different stage in their lives and careers, with all three still looking to find their place in the world. We have young Ludovico Franscini, who is your typical adolescent boy that enjoys all types of activities, particularly the dance and drama aspects of stage work that he enthusiastically takes part in. Seid Ali is an early 20-something asylum seeker who volunteers at the charity Tavolino Magico – a food bank that collects edible foodstuffs and distributes them to people in need throughout Switzerland. Miguel Cienfuegos, who had escaped from Pinochet’s Chile in 1973, became a clown and has been working as a professional actor for over 45 years. He also runs his own theatre company and school at the Paravento Theatre.
It just so happens that their places in the world are all in the theatre and, whereas Miguel and Ludovico naturally took to drama, the far more interesting story is that of Seid who sort of fell accidentally into the art world. He was working in a kitchen where a drama group was performing and, as he was serving food, he saw some of their work and sought out the directors to speak to. The group had recently been awarded funding for projects to foster cultural integration, enabling them to hire foreign actors and as Seid was an asylum seeker the directors asked him to take part.
Filmed in a cinema verite style, Un Palco Per La Vita is characterised by its extremely realistic approach. Yes, it is a documentary, but it’s not all talking heads, graphics, and exposition. Directors Pomari and Vandoni take a back seat and just allow their camera to focus on individuals simply being themselves. Conversations overlap, people walk through the frame and in front of others, blocking and distracting the viewer, in a good way. The camera just floats and cuts from one person to another, acting as a silent observer, watching, listening, learning. Nothing in the film, apart from the brief interviews, remains static for long. The music by Fabio Martino is used sparingly but is quite jaunty and lifts the moments in which it appears, while the editing by Etienne Del Biaggio is quick and sharp meaning the 57 minutes fly by.
The documentary helps to emphasise the point that if you don’t have much money, art, in all of its forms, is the one thing that helps you to expand your horizons and see beyond your limitations. The easiest way to keep a society down and to stop social mobility is to limit access to arts. If you want children to have the chance of a better life than you did, an education that allows access to arts is very important.
What Un Palco Per La Vita also makes abundantly clear is that drama, particularly the universality of Shakespeare, is a great way to help people integrate. From our three subjects we learn how, through drama, they Integrated into a foreign country, a different society, and even into adulthood.
Un Palco Per La Vita is a lovely documentary that makes a couple of cutting and important political points.