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The Last Victory
Time Out says
The recent documentary boom has brought us Big Films on Big Issues: tracts, polemics and lessons learnt of politics, war, family and globalisation (with varied interpretations of ‘truth’ hanging over them all). ‘The Last Victory’ is a different story. More anthropology than history or sociology, Appel’s unhurried, absorbing eavesdropping of an Italian neighbourhood offers no major message other than that there is such a thing as society, but the glue that binds it together is not necessarily transferable. Its focus is Siena, a city that every year is enlivened, split and unified by the Palio, a horse race that takes place around the town square. Through a mixture of lottery and bribery, a horse is allocated to each of Siena’s districts, whose inhabitants then expand considerable energy and emotion on trying to win the race. This has been their way since the fourteenth century.
Appel takes us inside this ritual, as we follow the preparations in Civetta, Siena’s smallest district, where the fatalistic inhabitants have not experienced victory for 24 years. Everyone pitches in: nonagenarian Egidio sings local anthems, reminisces about distant victories and baits German tourists; 21-year-old Paolo tends the horse and looks ahead with confidence to future glories. While this combination of pride, ostentation, tradition and melodramatic passion recalls the Italian phenomenon of Ultras – football supporters who occupy a position somewhere between cheerleaders, hooligans and pressure group – it is also peculiar to this particular custom in this particular city. The result is an appealing, human film that shows us something of what it takes to make a community – the tensions, dreams, memories and personalities – while never pretending to offer a universal guide to its construction.