Sea Dreaming Girls (Funne-the local dialect word for women) is the sixth documentary feature by producer/director Katia Bernardi.
For this work she revisits the same valley that was the subject of her 2011 work, Men of Light. In the northern Italian alpine village of Daone, the local Rodedendra Club, for senior women, decides to celebrate its anniversary. Almost none of the women have ever been to the sea-side. Most of them have never seen the ocean. So what better way to celebrate than to organize a trip? But a trip requires money, and so the fundraising begins.
Much of this documentary is recreated, in a way which makes it seem almost like an improvised fiction. This feeling is strengthened by the fairy-tale narrative, delivered in voice-over.
These are women we can all relate to: strong, hard-working, devoted to family and full of delightful, often self-deprecating, humour. Bernardi does not patronize her subjects, nor make them into something more than they are. As a good documentary maker, she lets the subjects tell their own stories, in their own way.
At its heart, this work is about dreams: dreams in both senses of the word. The dream-like quality of the work under-scores the women’s journey to fulfill their humble dream of a trip to the sea-side. It is also a portrait of small-town life in contemporary Italy.
Funne is a work that just oozes charm. But not a cloying one. Fairy-tale this may be, but the heroines live mostly in small apartments, still work hard in businesses or for families, and are not glamour girls. And thus the basis of its appeal. These women are relatable, likable and hilarious.
If you’ve never seen, or aren’t attracted to, documentary features, then this is a great way to open up that cinematic world for yourself. At just over an hour, it’s a very easy, yet satisfying experience.
Katia Bernardi is a documentary-maker to watch. I can’t wait to see what she does next.
Sea Dreaming Girls screens as part of the APIA Young at Heart Film Festival at Palace Nova Eastend and Prospect.
Check out session times here.