Emanuele Crialese is one of the most inventive and poetic filmmakers working today. The messages in his films speak to the dreams and desires within the soul, and their breathtaking cinematography reveals his inspiration and pride of a land to which he is deeply connected.
Born in Rome in 1965, Emanuele Crialese’s Sicilian roots are the driving force to the plots of his movies. Crialese earned his degree at New York University’s prestigious film school, Tisch School of the Arts. He originally set out to take a short film course at the university but was granted a full scholarship after presenting a sample of his work. Much of Crialese’s career has been dedicated to exploring the plight of the immigrant, and the irony of this lies within the fact that while in New York City attending film school, he lived in a Lower East Side tenement, which was once occupied by immigrants during the immigration wave of the 20th century. One has to wonder if that experience has had any influence on his work today. Crialese made a number of short films during his years in New York, and then made his first feature in 1997. The film titled, Once We Were Strangers is about a Sicilian man living illegally in New York wandering from job to job when he falls in love with a local radio show host. The story follows the lives of a number of immigrants living in New York including those from India. The film is about the culture clashes and expectations of immigrants coming to America in search of a better life.
Upon his return to Italy, Crialese made the visually stunning masterpiece, Respiro. Staring Valeria Golino and Vincenzo Amato, the film was shot on the Sicilian island of Lampedusa and tells the story of a not so traditional mother and wife who struggles with meeting the demands of a politically correct society in a village where everyone knows your business. It is a story of freedom, self-expression and love that was shot in a place as close to paradise as one can get. The film has been a huge international success perhaps due to its beautiful landscapes and timeless story.