As someone who once spent six months living in Italy but only one day in Naples, I was curious to see what Italian American Director John Turturro’s new Hybrid Documentary PASSIONE was all about.  I was not expecting to be transported into a Kaleidoscope of imagery and song that make this emotionally raw and explosive film an absolute must-see. From traditional Italian ballads and classics to contemporary rock and love songs, PASSIONE doesn’t tell the story of Neapolitan music as much as show the audience that in Naples, the music tells the story and is, as Turturro states in the film, “Emotional Transportation.”  Transported I was.

I travelled to the streets of Napoli, where women, men and children sing and dance against graffiti covered walls, creating a modern bright urban stage. One particular scene that I loved was called, “How your mama made you” (watch it here). This scene along with performances by contemporary singers such as M’Barka Ben Taleb and Lina Sastri are interwoven with old footage of Neapolitan masters like Sergio Bruni and Renata Carasonni. Each and every song tells a story, and these stories are filled with inspiration stemming from Neapolitan rich history, poverty and injustice, modern culture and most of all, love. Ecstatic lyrics almost jump right out of the screen and pierce your soul as themes of love, hate, and desire are expressed. Hearing “you are a mountain of flames…the life of mine depends on you,” you cannot help but understand the title, PASSIONE.



One of the most moving parts of the film was when an Italian girl spoke right into the camera saying, “Living is difficult. Even if it’s beautiful” This is why a place like Naples is so rich: there is so much struggle and beauty intertwined, and this collision takes the audience on an emotional roller coaster through time as well as through the hearts of the Neapolitan people. And just when you see the tears in the eyes of a beautiful singer pouring her heart out in song you remember John Turturro’s voice describing the very common Neapolitan message of, “I love you so much but if I can’t find you, I’ll be with your sister.” Suddenly you realize why this place called Naples is in fact a unique oasis of raw expression and hope. Despite all of the struggle, the pain and all the injustice, these people don’t only know how to love; they know how to laugh.



This film will be playing at the New People Cinema in San Francisco starting on September 30th for two weeks. If you have not visited this theater, I highly suggest it, as this is an experience in itself.  The film is also playing for two weeks at Film Forum in New York. Whether you are a music lover, a film aficionado or you just want to go on a wildly entertaining ride for 91 minutes, I would highly recommend visiting Naples through PASSIONE because as they say in the film, “there are places you go to and it’s enough. And then there’s Napoli.”

– Svetlana Saitsky

On location photographs by Svetlana Saitsky for Socially Superlative, film still courtesy of the San Francisco Film Society.