by Paolo Rosi
“It’s a documentary about people from Naples converted to Islam, especially from poor neighbourhoods like Rione Sanità and Porta San Gennaro, usually known for crime facts and Camorra” tells to 31mag Ernesto Pagano, freelance journalist and filmmaker who along with Lorenzo Cioffi produced NapolIslam, tonight at the IDFA for its international premiere.
“The idea came to me when I met Ciro who, chatting very much alike Massimo Troisi, told me to have converted because one day he was looking for a book about Maradona and found instead the Qur’an”, says Ernesto smiling.
“The comic side of the conversion inspired us the most. And Ciro was the gatekeeper to an entirely unknown world, made of (non)young and people of the same neighbourhoods that also converted to Islam”.
So NapolIslam is a story of informal integration which narrates Naples as the crossroads of peoples it has always been.
“Someone called it a porous city, indeed. And I think tolerance is in the very DNA of Naples”, continues the director, “For example, there’s a lady devoted to Padre Pio who lives in front of the largest mosque in Naples: people call her ‘Mary the Muslim’ because she feeds the prayers during Ramadan.”
Summing up, the documentary tells also of a borderland, along with the stories of those who populate a “place where everything overlaps.” Perhaps this is exactly the difference between Naples and the crossroads of people and goods that is Amsterdam. But, more generally, this could also be a big difference between Italy, where integration policies are rather confused, and the Netherlands, where almost 1 000 000 Muslims live but just the 1% is native Dutch; and where the extreme right, now ahead in polls, continues to publicly state that “Islam and terrorism” are the same thing.
“I think that Italy is much more tolerant than many other European countries. Problem is that no one talks about it, as we remain trapped into the rhetorics of the ‘us and them’, built by the mainstream medias”, says Pagano, “There are many problems, though. But integration, in Italy, is still something between human beings, something that has not yet been delegated to politics.”
How is it to present a movie about “islamization” in Northern Europe, in the time of Holland at war with ISIS and of Brussels armoured city? “For the Brussels screening, the local press already contacted me. In Amsterdam nobody has showed yet, and I was told to look for journalists by myself. On the contrary, just this morning, I had to decline four tv-interviews, back in Italy”, smiles Ernesto.
This because, after the Paris attacks, the distributor UCI Cinemas decided to postpone the distribution of the documentary in Italy, given the “complex and sensitive issues” addressed in the film.
Waiting for “more serene times” is the most reasonable choice? “In NapolIslam you can see converts who are first and foremost human beings, instead of being depicted as stereotypes. So, it seems to me the most appropriate time to talk about it.”