Films & Schedules

  • From Mother to Daughter
    Di madre in figlia

  • Andrea Zambelli

80 minutes

Production Company:
Davide Ferrario
Written By:
Andrea Zambelli
Production Designer:
Davide Ferrario
Andrea Zambelli
Claudio Cormio
Vito Martinelli
Coro delle Mondine di Novi, Fiamma Fumana

TIFF Tags: Documentary 

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After the end of the Second World War, many poor, young Italian women earned their living working in the rice fields, spending hours every day planting and harvesting under the merciless sun in the northern plains of their country. Their story became so well-known that it attracted the attention of one of the great postwar Italian directors, Giuseppe De Santis. His film Bitter Rice was a classic of the period. It featured the stunning Silvana Mangano, whose semi-clad figure – the women worked in the bare minimum of clothes – projected an assertive, earthy sexuality.

This wonderfully spirited documentary does two things. First, through carefully selected archival footage, it takes us back to these times. Rare footage shows how these women lived – driving off in truck and tractor to the fields every morning, bathing in the streams at the end of each day, and working the fields. Times were tough, the labour was hard, but they managed to endure the daily grind by singing. These songs lifted their spirits – and made them work faster.

But, From Mother to Daughter is energetically a film about the present. The women are now in their seventies and eighties, and have clearly lost none of their spirit nor their humour. They have rekindled their sense of community by forming a singing group, a choir of sorts, that tours the country performing the songs of their youth, rekindling memories and keeping a tradition alive. The women give the film its heart; truly remarkable characters, they are boisterous, funny and endlessly engaging. Above all, they are natural storytellers, recounting what it was like to be a girl of fifteen, getting up at dawn, going off to the fields, working all day then returning to the communal living quarters in the evening. They experienced many emotions: a happy comradeship that was mixed with darker emotions and experiences. Some acted as messengers for the partisans during the war, and still harbour touching memories of those times.

And through it all, there are the glorious folk songs that speak of another era, a time of resistance and hope.

Piers Handling

Andrea Zambelli was born in Bergamo, Italy, and studied film at the University of Bologna. He has directed a number of short and feature-length documentaries, including Deheishe Refugees Camp (02), Identity (03), Mercancìa (06) and From Mother to Daughter (08).

Cadillac People's Choice Award