Exploring the hopes and fears of Italy’s youth with 'Futura'

05 Jul 2022 BY Charlotte Micklewright in Film Features

5 mins

Film can offer young audiences a world of inspiration, but it is also young people who can inspire how we view the world. Much like 7UP's philosophy that invites young people to ‘think fresh' when tackling challenging situations, the new Italian documentary Futura highlights the value of allowing young people to voice their hopes and fears about the future, while capturing a unique snapshot of the challenges of being a young person on the cusp of adulthood in the early 2020s.

Futura is a collaborative documentary, in which filmmakers Pietro Marcello, Francesco Munzi and Alice Rohrwacher travel the length of Italy to interview young Italians. Their conversations are led by a bold question that is open to interpretation: what does the future hold for you? Groups of young people, aged between 15 to 20, contemplate their answers as they press pause on a typical day: chilling by a lake, doing an apprenticeship course, training at a boxing club, or doing doughnuts in souped-up three-wheeler vehicles. The film is like a road trip, exploring the landscape of thoughts of a generation getting ready to face the world. The results reveal startling confessions of hope, scepticism, and insight.

Central to the documentary is how young people perceive access to education and opportunities. The film gives voice to teenagers from a significantly broad range of backgrounds, many of whom link their prospects to education, calling out the disparity in privilege. When asked what education is for, one member of a youth theatre club expresses his desire not to appear ignorant, as university is not an affordable option for him. While the Italian class system is perhaps not as defined as the British one, old traditional values mean some young people still feel obstructed and discriminated against. The eloquence with which they discuss social inequality is reminiscent of He Named Me Malala, with an astonishing level of self-awareness that may inspire both educators and young audiences, from any country, to reflect on the right to education.

So how are these soon-to-be-adults going about planning for a future? Whether dreaming big or thinking practically, many of the young people that the filmmakers encounter in Futura have a bleak outlook when it comes to their job prospects in Italy and the state of the local economy, especially since the Covid-19 pandemic. In Italy the choice of which specialised high school or college to attend, if any, is made at the age of 13 or 14: far too young, argues one young apprentice, to have a real awareness of the career path that will set you on. But the documentary also uncovers tenacity and resolve to be the change they want to see. The documentary therefore lends itself to a debate about the intersect between personal ambitions and collective anxiety, and how the state of the world impacts young people's perceptions of the labour market.

Despite its concern with contemporary challenges, the documentary has a nostalgic and timeless look. It is shot on grainy 16mm film, and while there's much chatter about social media amongst the teens, there are mysteriously no smartphones in sight. In the narration, the filmmakers paint a picture of the young people inhabiting an imaginary land of futures still being dreamed up. As well as striking shots of rural and urban landscapes, the film includes archival footage of post-war Italy, offering a perspective on how far the country has come. A similar style can be found in the British documentaries From Scotland with Love and Lost Connections, which also reflect on the state of society and generational changes. These kaleidoscope portraits offer opportunities for young audiences to view their current situations as part of a cycle of life.

Futura is a moving and thoughtful documentary with relevant discussion points on topics including growing up, democracy, rights, and culture. In their quest to delve into the preoccupied and determined minds of young people, the directors hold up a mirror not only to modern Italy, but also to a global society that may benefit from acknowledging the mental health issues, career aspirations and philosophical views of younger generations.

Futura is released in cinemas from Friday 8 July.

Charlotte Micklewright news author image

Charlotte Micklewright, Curation Officer

Charlotte has an MSc in Film, Exhibition and Curation from the University of Edinburgh. She has previously worked for various film festivals across Europe and for the educational online platform Mygrants.

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