Bellas Mariposas

dir. Salvatore Mereu, Italy  2012, 100'

The film's director, Salvatore Mereu knows the world that he talks about well. He was born on the Sardinian island of Dorgali, and dedicated his two previous films "Ballo a tre passi," "Sonetaula" and "Tajabone" to his home island. His latest work, "Bellas Mariposa" which can be explained as the "Beautiful Butterflies," was based on the book by Sergio Atzeniego who died in 1995. Similarly to the works of this Sardinian writer, in the movie we notice the language which combines Italian with the spoken language of Sardinia. However, the film contradicts stereotypical assumptions about the island: we will not see extremely luxurious mansions of the Italian moguls here, nor charming hills where shepherds graze their sheep. We are on a grim subdivision of apartment buildings, which is somewhat similar to the one from "Gomorrah" by Matteo Garrone, or to the familiar Polish apartment complexes.


Numerous family is squeezed in a small apartment. The lines to the bathroom never end, unemployed parents cannot look at each other, and each of the kids, even if only because of age or gender differences, focus on their own problems. Twelve-year-old Caterina (Sara Podda) becomes our guide through this land where the boys want to be football players, and the girls want to become singers. She invites us into her world - we meet her gold fish and her friend Luna; we travel by public transit and we go to sleep in her narrow bed. She looks straight at the camera and proudly talks about the fact that she is still a virgin (not like Samantha - the neighborhood slut). We also jump into the sea, where - as she says - she forgets about her father, home and future (or rather as suggested by the director - the lack of it). Her sensitivity brings a magical dimension to the Sardinian difficult reality, and it is capable of turning ordinary people into beautiful butterflies.