Stefano Lisci & Co: Bar Mario

Take a look at the photo from last week in Bolzano. Marina in her Bar Mario advertising the premiere of the film Bar Mario at the Rome Independent Film Festival later this month. Congratulations! To Marina Fronza, her husband Roberto and her son Paolo – the three heroes of the film and to director Stefano Lisci, who got the idea to make a film about this very special place in the universe and made it with the help of other ex-Zelig students, first of all the brilliant cinematographer Beniamino Casagrande and Livia Romano, editors Maria Radicchi and Marco Vitale, sound engineer Ambrose Mbuya. And many others are thanked at the long credit list. Who also were contributors to the crowdfunding campaign that was set up to realise a film, that I had heard Stefano talk about again and again, when coffee was served by lovely Marina, who countless times has taken the mickey out of me. The music is made by Martino Pellegrini, who is not from Zelig – it’s in the great Fellini-film-music tradition.

For those who don’t know: The Bar Mario is next door to the Zelig

film school and for students, staff and teachers this is the place you go in the breaks to have a coffee, or where you drink a beer at the end of the day. And where you will meet the captain Marina, the cook Roberto and Paolo – who live there behind the door on which ”privato” is written.

The film enters to the ”privato”, to the world of the three, in a chaptered, visually impressive story that takes us viewers on board a ship that has crossed mountains to be here, among mountains. The father of Marina, Mario, was a sailor and she has taken over his job to conduct the ship of life in good and harsh weather. She, and the film, does so in a warm, sweet and compassionate way. And with the fun and atmosphere that reigns in the Bar.

But the film also accompanies some of the clients to their homes like wonderful Roland, who is a passionate collector of ancient buttons (!) and lives in a van. In one of many comic scenes he enters the Bar, asks for his morning coffee and a croissant. Marina comes with a paper tablecloth that is illustrated with drawings of KamaSutra positions, tough one for the eyes in the morning, Roland is laughing his … off and gets in an even higher mood, when he discovers that the croissant is stiff, pure plastic symbol. Hmmm, I have been met with same kind of surprises…

The main quality of the film, however, is to see how Marina, ”wife, captain, mother”, as the film’s voice-off narrator puts it, ”never abandons the ship”. Her constant caring about the grown-up son Paolo is not an easy job as he needs to be told, how to behave when he goes into town, ”don’t upset anyone”, he wants help to be dressed and so on so forth. Paolo does not like open doors, so we see him closing shop doors, when he is in central Bolzano. And we see and hear him talking on the phone specifying, what kind of dishes he loves. Paolo is such a sweet grown-up boy, who has always greeted me with a smile, when I was on my way back to the hotel and he back from town to his mum and dad.

The cook, the father, also needs the attention of Marina as he is having an illness. Nevertheless, behind the sometimes grumpy, probably pain suffering look, you see a man who helps the ship to sail. He is the cook, he smiles when the whole family, wonderful scene, gets their pedicure treatments, and equally well arranged and composed is a scene, where he is watering the plants from the roof top of the Bar with the consequence that Marina follows her clients out protected by an umbrella! Hilarious!

Yes, this is a film that has many layers and crazy ideas, a family, professional non-home-movie film told in a documentary surrealistic tone – if you can put it like that. Well, I just did. Enjoy that emotional ship journey. And the premiere in Rome very soon. I was in the bar when Stefano came in proudly telling Marina that he had bought the train tickets to Rome. With a fine reduction!

Italy, 63 mins.



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Tue Steen Müller
Tue Steen Müller

Müller, Tue Steen
Documentary Consultant and Critic, DENMARK

Worked with documentary films for more than 20 years at the Danish Film Board, as press officer, festival representative and film consultant/commissioner. Co-founder of Balticum Film and TV Festival, Filmkontakt Nord, Documentary of the EU and EDN (European Documentary Network).
Awards: 2004 the Danish Roos Prize for his contribution to the Danish and European documentary culture. 2006 an award for promoting Portuguese documentaries. 2014 he received the EDN Award “for an outstanding contribution to the development of the European documentary culture”. 2016 The Cross of the Knight of the Order for Merits to Lithuania. 2019 a Big Stamp at the 15th edition of ZagrebDox. 2021 receipt of the highest state decoration, Order of the Three Stars, Fourth Class, for the significant contribution to the development and promotion of Latvian documentary cinema outside Latvia. In 2022 he received an honorary award at DocsBarcelona’s 25th edition having served as organizer and programmer since the start of the festival.
From 1996 until 2005 he was the first director of EDN (European Documentary Network). From 2006 a freelance consultant and teacher in workshops like Ex Oriente, DocsBarcelona, Archidoc, Documentary Campus, Storydoc, Baltic Sea Forum, Black Sea DocStories, Caucadoc, CinéDOC Tbilisi, Docudays Kiev, Dealing With the Past Sarajevo FF as well as programme consultant for the festivals Magnificent7 in Belgrade, DOCSBarcelona, Verzio Budapest, Message2Man in St. Petersburg and DOKLeipzig. Teaches at the Zelig Documentary School in Bolzano Italy.

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