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Saturday, January 14, 2017

Sara Serraiocco: Shooting Star Shining Bright

She’s just in her mid-20’s but actress Sara Serraiocco has quickly become one of Italy’s leading ladies.

Born in the region of Abruzzo in 1990, Serraiocco got her start performing as a dancer. At the age of 20, she set her sights on acting, and moved to Rome to study her craft at the legendary Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia. Just three years later, she made her feature film debut in Salvo, Fabio Grassadonia’s and Antonio Piazza’s dark tale of a hit man who falls for his rival’s blind sister. The film is complex with little dialogue, but strong, powerful silences. The role of Rita proved that Serraiocco was born to be a performer. Her subtle but powerful expressions and mannerisms heightened the suspense of the film when the scenes were carried solely and silently by the young actress. Salvo is a story of hope for the hopeless, a last shot at love, if only in the final breath of life. Salvo Mancuso, played by Saleh Bakri, is a hit man, a hired assassin. After killing his rival mafioso, Salvo kidnaps the mafioso’s blind sister. 

Unable to bring himself to kill her, he develops an affection towards her and becomes her protector. In the process, although he never says it, his expressions and actions reveal regrets he may have for the life he has chosen. Rita regains her sight and senses what he is feeling. In return, she decides to stand by him in his most difficult moment. There is no happy ending in this film. It’s a realistic portrait of the life of a hit man working with the Sicilian Mafia. Serraiocco’s award-winning performance in Salvo was all she needed to get her career rolling, earning her the titles “Best Newcomer” and “Best Actress.”

The following year, she took on another award-winning lead role. This time, in Lamberto Sanfelice's debut feature film Cloro, which made its North American premiere at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival. Shortly thereafter, it was shown at the Berlin Film Festival before coming to New York City's annual showcase of contemporary Italian cinema, Open Roads: New Italian Cinema. 

Cloro was wildly successful on the film festival circuit in the United States, and there’s no doubt that Serraiocco contributed to the success of the film. The story follows Jenny, played by Serraiocco, as she dreams of being a synchronized swimmer. After her mother passes away, she is forced to put her dream on hold to take care of her family. One problem leads to another. Time passes and she tries to hold on. But that time slowly distances her from the dream, and the inevitable day arrives when she realizes the life she once knew is a thing of the past. Again, Serraiocco communicates the inner, silent pain of her character through gazes and expressions, although she also acts out her suffering and frustration in intense, dramatic scenes. The love story in “Cloro” could have played out more time in film. Jenny and Ivan’s relationship is complicated but underneath the tension, they really care about each other. Nevertheless, Cloro is a moving, heart-wrenching tale of one girl’s plight and how she struggles with being a teenager one day and a caregiver the next.

Last year, Serraiocco was named one of the 2016 European Shooting Stars. She received the honor at the 66th Berlin International Film Festival. Her much-anticipated 2017 release is in the first production of a cinematic partnership between Italy and Cuba. Directed by Giovanni Veronesi, Non è un paese per giovani (No Country for the Young) features a diverse cast that includes Filippo Scicchitano, Giovanni Anzaldo, Sara Serraiocco, Sergio Rubini and Nino Brassica and will be in Italian theaters beginning March 23. The subject matter deals with Italy’s ongoing issue of its young people fleeing to find work abroad. In this case, the story follows two young men in their mid-20’s who move to Cuba to start a business. There, they meet Nora, played by Serraiocco. She is an Italian girl who runs the home where they will live. Her look is unique and puzzling. She has a shaved head with an obvious exposed scar. What ensues is a dramatic story of three young Italians painfully searching for their places in the world and doing it as foreigners outside their own country.

Watch Negramaro's music video for the title song for Non è un pause per giovani..

Sara Serraiocco’s films are available in the United States. Salvo is available through Netflix and  Cloro is available through Hulu.

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