Directed by: Zak Jarvis Starring: Luke Goddard, Scott Rutherford, Sam Mancuso, Kerry Danielle-Blacklock and Christian Bloch Short Film Review by: Annie Vincent
During the German occupation of Italy in the 1940s, many families harboured allied fugitives, risking their lives and liberties under the brutal Nazi regime. This network of Italian families came to be known as the Contadini. Across Frontiers tells the story of two British soldiers, Harry and Ernie, who flee from the prisoner train taking them from Italy into Germany. In a bid to become free men once more, the pair leap from the train and make it on foot across rural Italy, but not before the Nazi commander has seen them escape – they are now hunted men. Stumbling across Salvatore and his daughter Alessandra, members of the Contadini, in their farmhouse, they are given the chance to be free.
Zak Jarvis has created a poignant short film and surfaced the courageous story of the Contadini; a lesser-known group of heroes who emerged during World War II. There is some real artistry in his use of long camera work, capturing the tranquillity, but also vastness of the Italian landscape, and his pairing of this with low, orchestral tones which at times bring foreboding and at others bring a sense of hope for the pair’s escape. The performances given by Luke Goddard and Scott Rutherford, as the ever plucky and hopeful fugitives, hell bent on becoming free men, are good, with Goddard’s excitable eyes on seeing Alessandra amusing. But the best performance comes from Sam Mancuso as Salvatore, who quickly warms himself to the audience as the charming and generous Italian, who feels he’s only doing what he hopes someone would do for his son, rarely contemplating the danger he places himself in.
It is here that a little more work could have been done with the script. This was a really risky situation for all involved: for the fugitives, never knowing if they’d be given over to the Nazis; for the Contadini, never quite sure if they were being watched or not, and the script doesn’t quite capture this when it should. At the end of the film, Harry says he felt bad that he didn’t quite trust Salvatore, but this didn’t come across clearly and Salvatore was so warm, so welcoming, that he didn’t seem to be too concerned either, though he noted that the Germans were crawling over the countryside. As an audience, it is still easy to understand the danger and the sacrifice Salvatore made, but some revisions to the meeting between the four characters would have strengthened this.
Overall, Across Frontiers is an interesting and thought-provoking additional to short war genre.