Cosima Spender: Palio

På tirsdag sender DR2 DOKUMANIA Spenders film fra 2015. har tidligere bragt en anmeldelse fra visningen på festivalen CPH:DOX i København af Sara Thelle og en præsentation af filmen fra festivalen Magnificent7 i Beograd af Sveana and Zoran Popovic. Så vi har været optaget af den film, og i anledning af Dokumanias visning tager vi dem frem igen og anbefaler filmen meget:

SARA THELLE (12-11-2015)

Don’t miss out on the last screening of Cosima Spender’s Palio at CPH:DOX on Sunday November 15th. It is a feast for the eyes!

Il Palio is the world’s oldest horserace. It takes place at the famous Piazza del Campo in the heart of Sienna twice a year opposing the 17 rivalling districts of Sienna. However, the race is only a small part of the game. Behind it lays months of negotiations, strategy, bribery and treachery and days of ceremonies, rituals and parades. It’s about power and money, a form of legalised corruption and a game whose complexity of open and hidden rules have been forged over centuries. Described as absurd and dysfunctional by locals who yet participate in it with passion.

Anglo-Italian director Spender (who grew up close to Siena) focuses on the perspective of the jockeys. Not bound to a certain district or horse, they are the front pieces in the game. They are the gladiators and the Piazza the Coliseum. As much as the horses are adored, the jockeys are viewed upon with mistrust. Seen as mercenaries, traitors or even prostitutes, the celebration of the winner is only temporarily, the looser risks to get beaten up. It’s brutal; the only race in the world where the horse can win without the rider.

Two rivals: the old master Gigi who is about to break the record of most won races and the upcoming young outsider Giovanni. Two schools of thought: “either you go for strategies… or you go for the good horse”. They race with their lives at stake, riding bareback in medieval costumes and sneakers! And you just hold your breath… The race only lasts for about 90 seconds, but it seems like forever.

Slow motions, close-ups, big music (quite a bit of Ennio Morricone, of course!), even the interviews are shot with either a nervous tension or in a divine golden light with a magnificent Tuscan landscape in the background. Sounds like it’s too much? Not at all, nothing less could have done it! Done with the right mixture of humour and seriousness and with a clear respect for the subject and the characters, it’s an intelligent description of a fascinating social and cultural drama and its actors.

“Rocky on horseback” says The New York Times. Check out the trailer and I won’t have to say no more:

Palio won the award for best editing at this years Tribeca Film Festival. Does it have Danish distribution? I hope so, this is made for the big screen and so much better than half the action films out there.

Palio (UK/Italy, 2015, 91 min.): (Official website) Five big pen heads from me.


For centuries, one of the most beautiful old city-republics in Italy, Siena, two times a year becomes divided with conflicts, when all residents, from the youngest to the elderly live for Palio – one of the oldest horse races in the world. It is a specific time machine that magically revives Renaissance costumes, flags, coats of arms and trumpets, ceases everything with its primordial force and completely enchants both observers and participants. This is a real battle for prestige turned into a symbolic competition of horses and riders held in a surprising place – in the very center of Siena, on the largest city square. Old ritual lives its intense life even today with never reduced passions without scruples – turbulent Mediterranean mentality and dark tradition of political intrigues of the past times haunt freely, like a ghost, all the citizens, and no one is spared, not even the players or horses.

The director of the film, Cosima Spender, who grew up in Siena, develops this visually attractive, lavish spectacle, showing us Palio from the perspective of four generations of the best, most important race winners; from those who made the most brilliant recent history to the newest and youngest one who is preparing for a relentless battle to realize his biggest dream. The author of “Palio” conceived and developed a real exciting, cinematic film, with extraordinary photography, carefully interwoven dramaturgical flows, which achieves its dramatic climax in the events that really take your breath away! Exceptionally credited with the most attractive moments in the film, especially during the racing scenes, is the brilliant editor Valerio Bonelli, awarded for his superb work at the prestigious Tribeca Film Festival in New York.

“Palio” is a great and memorable cinematic feast!

Director’s Word: I grew up with the Palio so I was uniquely placed to gain the trust of everyone involved in the film and our narrator character was able to open doors which are normally closed to outsiders. Yet as a foreigner (I work out of London and my parentage is Anglo-American), I shared the jockeys’ ambiguous relationship with Siena, and that is what I wanted to capture in this film.


En gang om året sættes den italienske by Siena på den anden ende af verdens hårdeste hestvæddeløb, Palio. Alle kneb gælder, når byens 17 bydele kæmper lidenskabeligt om æren i at vinde væddeløbet, der varer 90 sekunder! På trods af den korte løbstid optager intriger, lyssky alliancer og lukrative aftaler Sienas indbyggere hele året. Jockeyen Gigi Bruschelli har vundet 13 Palios i de sidste 16 år. To løb fra en verdensrekord går han i gang med at sikre sig, at ingen – og særligt ikke den unge, smukke og talentfulde sardiner, Giovanni Atzeni – skal komme mellem ham og rekorden. (Dokumania)

Great Britain, 2015, 92 mins. Se med tirsdag 21. februar 20:45 på DR2 og efterfølgende på DR TV.

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Allan Berg Nielsen
Allan Berg Nielsen

Allan Berg Nielsen started the first documentary cinema in Randers, Denmark way back in the 1970’es. He did so at the museum, where he was employed. He got the (16mm) films from the collection of the National Film Board of Denmark (Statens Filmcentral). He organised a film festival in his home city, became a member of the Board of Directors of the Film Board, started to write about films in diverse magazines, were a juror at several festivals and wrote television critiques in the local newspaper. From 1998-2003 Allan Berg was documentary film consultant (commissioning editor) at The Danish Film Institute, a continuation of the Film Board. Since then free lance consultant in documentary matters.

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