Cinema: 'Il Buma' a forgotten Italian film

The history of Italian cinema is full of little films which often are misunderstood, forgotten, poorly distributed while some of them never entered the home video circuit, and never received criticism from our local guru – nor Fofi, nor Sanguineti, nor Giusti – no one has ever thought to reassess, restoring shape, current and present existence of the memorial.

“The Buma”, the first work of Giovanni Massa from Palermo, dated 2002, is one of them.

Produced by the same mass for CLCT once headed by Tornatore, with the assistance of MiBAC – recognized as “Film of national cultural interest” – and toured in the summer of 2001 between Palermo, Alexandria and Cairo, Buma was shown in some festivals (Salerno, Valdarno, Jewish Eye) timidly coming out in cinemas in August 2002 and, after a few steps on Sky in 2003, has vanished into thin air, sharing the fate of many ex-Articles 28 and 8 products by the Ministry and distributed (?) by Istituto Luce. An undeserved fate for many.

The plot, in fact, insists on the dynamic Italian community in Alexandria, Egypt – a very cosmopolitan city – as told through the complex story of a family arrived during the construction of the Suez canal and scattered in the aftermath of outbreak of the Six Day War in 1967.

The action kicks off back in 1989 by the death of Matilda in Alexandria (Adriana Asti), the last pillar of the family, affecting his nephew Andrew, who decides to return to Palermo to look at the house where he grew up and where he finds his cousin Bruno, a reclusive manager who lives in Germany. More than a journey through space, this becomes a journey through time: the house, though now bare, is the guardian of ancient memories and the audience begins to move, not without difficulty, between 1989, 1967 (the year the war with Israel has affected the foreign communities, and especially the Jewish one) and 1980, which are killed in a mysterious car accident two of the protagonists of our history: the jew businessman Ben (Jacquet Boudet) and his Italian wife Anna.

Their lives were firmly intertwined with that of Matilda, sister of Ben, married to an ambitious and inclusive English that he wanted to make films in Egypt, and especially that of Max, the brother of Ben, the soul crowd of family, a kind of dandy who floats in the neighborhood, visited occasionally by an elusive nocturnal bird that calls, in fact, Buma (owl in Arabic).

The comings and goings over time leads us to explore the characters in this bizarre family, where everyone passes without too many problems from Arabic into Italian, and then to the French or English, torn by disputes inherited, completely indifferent to the fate all ‘ Egypt and distrustful of the Egyptians (as Ahmed Bey, a businessman friend of Ben, although he actually has Turkish origins …).

If Max, mad real or simulated, appears to be what eventually lived best of all, we find that Ben’s essay in 1967 was persuaded by him (or rather, from one of his visions of Buma) to remain, against the opinion of all.

To watch, for a series of fortuitous circumstances, “Il Buma”, as it happened to me, is to sniff for a while ‘the air of an Egypt dusty, far away, but full of humor Mediterranean, especially in a city, such as Alexandria, where, in addition to Giuseppe Ungaretti, were born several filmmakers like Riccardo Freda and Togo Mizrahi, fellow citizens, therefore, Youssef Chahine, which began on the set from other Italians like Gianni Vernuccio of Egypt (Cairo as Goffredo Alessandrini) and Alvise orphans. Names and figures cited in part explicitly, in one of the few sequences devoted to the spaced-English husband of Matilda. History with a capital S, however, is always out the door, discovered through a defeat on Nasser’s famous speech of 1967, indeed confined in a closet, along with radios hidden by Matilde.


By Leonardo De Franceschi


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