Chosen as the opening film for this year’s festival, The Champion (Il Campione) is the story a young, millionaire footballer. Christian Ferro is a star striker for AS Roma, but causes trouble for the team when he falls back into questionable behaviour with his old mates from ‘the hood’. The club’s manager decides that Ferro must study with a tutor, and pass a weekly exam to be allowed to play. It is his growing relationship with his tutor that forms the backbone of this story.
The wonderful Stefano Accorsi gives a moving performance as Valerio, the ex-teacher employed to keep Christian in line. We sense he is a broken man, and this adds another thread to the narrative, as we, and Christian, gradually find out the sadness from his past. Young actor Andrea Carpenzano is outstanding as Christian. The chemistry between Accorsi and Carpenzano lifts this standard tale of broken tutor and broken student teaching each other life lessons, into a realm of its own.
Leonardo D’Agostini directs and co-writes the screenplay, giving just the right amount of football action, without turning it into a sports film. AS Roma generously allowed D’Agostini to use their facilities for filming, which Michele Paradisi’s cinematography makes the most of.
This work resonates on multiple levels: Who do we trust? What is success? What is family? It is also a rallying-cry for innovation and imagination in teaching. This is both a work for the sophisticated film-goer, and for a family cinema outing. It is simply a beautiful, beautiful film.
The Champion plays as part of the Lavazza Italian Film Festival, which runs until October 23rd at Palace Nova Eastend and Prospect.
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