Written & Directed by: #AngelikiCoconi
Documentary Film Review by: #ChrisBuick
Documentaries don’t need to be about sports stars, rock stars or even movie stars to be interesting. Interesting, everyday people with equally fascinating and relevant stories are everywhere, you just have to know where to look. And if you happen to be walking down Florence’s Via de’ Ginori, take a step inside a blink-and-you'll-miss-it single-space cobbler’s shop and you might just find one such person.
Documentary film Dal Calzolaio (At the Cobbler’s) from Greek filmmaker Angeliki Coconi leads us straight through the front door and into the world of one Gianni Di Sario. Gianni, while perhaps a little larger built than most, is otherwise as normal seeming as any other person at first glance, quietly working away on shoes while pop music plays from his old radio overhead. His shop is strewn with all sorts of indeterminable odds and ends covered in dust, scrap materials and cigarette ash, while a decades-old contraption sits in the corner struggling to even start.
Throughout the opening throes of Coconi’s film, it’s likely one might begin to wonder why the award-winning writer/director has brought us here. For almost fifteen minutes, we simply watch as Gianni works away silently, having inaudible conversations with the clientele and delivery persons while repeatedly trying to spark his ancient shoe-repairing machine into life. Patience and attention spans begin to wear thinner and thinner until Coconi asks Gianni, currently repairing a sole on a shoe, a simple question;
“How many times have you done this?”
What emerges from that casual inquiry begins as a casual chat about the various methods for resoling a shoe, before transforming over the next hour into an increasingly captivating story of legacy, tradition, hard-work, tragedy and change, a compelling and intimate tale that is not just Gianni’s, but also that of his father, how this store came to be and ultimately how Gianni himself chose responsibility and obligation over his own dreams to be where he is now. And Coconi’s subject is a more than adequate storyteller. Gianni does not have an ostentatious bone in his body, completely indifferent to the camera sitting inches from his face and always shooting straight while regaling us with his unique story that finds ourselves often asking;
“And then what happened?”
And much to Coconi’s credit, as Gianni tells his story, between the close quarters setting and the spot-on intimate nature in which Coconi captures it all, we begin to settle into this world, the store now appearing as sort of delicate ecosystem that we have become a part of. Everything suddenly seems more at place and positively seeping in history, and as the camera fixes on Gianni’s ever-busy hands while he talks, there is actually something quite therapeutic about it all.
But while Gianni’s story continues to perpetually hold our interest, the intermittent dalliances with his clientele are less captivating, often nothing more than long periods of silence as the camera rolls over unwitting faces. These sequences not only make up a fair chunk of the film’s runtime, which could have been streamlined into a tight sixty minutes, but also harshly puts the brakes on the films momentum and aggravatingly distracts us from where we want to be, which is listening to Gianni.
While it might not have the drama and excitement of a hard-hitting expose or revelatory biopic, Dal Calzolaio (At the Cobbler’s) is a very well put together and absorbing documentary complete with a unique perspective from its core subject that many will be fascinated by.
Watch the trailer here: