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Friday, January 31, 2014

Rocco Papaleo: Basilicata Coast to Coast

Born in the southern Italian region of Basilicata, Rocco Papaleo has been working in cinema, television, theatre and cabaret for three decades. He's a familiar face to Italians and a naturally funny person whose jokester ways have made for many funny skits on variety shows and television series while his keen acting skills have made him one of Italy's most beloved character actors.

Papaleo grew up in Lauria, a small city located in the province of Potenza in Basilicata. He moved to Rome when he was 18 years of age. Although acting seems second nature to him, it was not his chosen field. He originally majored in mathematics and planned on becoming a teacher. He had a change of heart after he saw how much a friend who was studying acting enjoyed her craft. It was not long after that change of heart that Papaleo starting working in the industry. He spent the first part of his career on stage and on the small screen and then moved to feature films in the '90s.

Basilicata Coast to Coast
Papaleo has been a star and popular figure in Italy since the beginning of his career, but the success of his 2010 film, "Basilicata Coast to Coast," extended his appeal to international shores. The film documents the journey of four down-on-their-luck musicians and a journalist as they make their way on foot to a music festival on the other side of the region. The film is Papaleo's love letter to the Italian region in which he was raised, and if you know anything about Basilicata, you will appreciate the references that are made in this film, which include Basilicata's hero freedom fighter Carmine Crocco, its wine, Aglianico del Vulture, its patron saints, its traditions and its beautiful rolling countryside. "Basilicata Coast to Coast" made its North American premiere in 2010 at the film festival, Open Roads: New Italian Cinema. The Film Society of Lincoln Center hosts the annual festival, which showcases the most innovative films in contemporary Italian cinema. I talked with Papaleo and asked him where he found the inspiration to make a film about a group of people walking across an entire region. "I like walking and I think it's very interesting for a man to walk to find a relationship with the earth and I think it's the most authentic contact to have with the earth. Each of the characters in the movie had his or her own problem, so I felt that walking was a good way for them to re-examine their lives and search for answers."

nata una star?"
In 2012, he teamed up with fellow comic, Luciana Littizzetto for the hilarious story about parents who discover their son is secretly appearing in pornographic movies. "È nata una star?" was co-written and directed by filmmaker Lucio Pellegrini and also stars Pietro Castellitto, the son of Sergio Castellitto and his wife, novelist Margaret Mazzantini. The role showcases Papaleo's genius comic timing, and some of his scenes will have you crying with laughter. His chemistry with Littizzetto is undeniable and the two beloved Italian comedians are a match made in heaven for this wildly funny scenario.

"Un boss in salotto"
The following year was also a prolific year for Papaleo. He once again stepped behind the camera to write and direct the comedy, "Una piccola impresa meridionale." The film stars Barbora Bobulova who goes through great lengths to protect her politically incorrect family from the curiosity and gossip of the town. In the end, it's a story that demonstrates the strength of unity. He also co-starred in the 2014 New Year's Day release, "Un boss in salotto" in which he plays the role of Ciro Cimmaruta, a long lost brother with ties to the mafia who shows up at his sisters doorstep, immediately joining the family. Again, Papaleo manages to deliver a most hilarious performance, but also shows us the sentimental side of this petty criminal, especially as he gets to know his adorable niece and nephew.

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