“This Is My Home, Too”: Migration, Spectrality, and Hospitality in Roberta Torre’s Sud Side Stori

  • Maurizio Calbi
Part of the Reproducing Shakespeare: New Studies in Adaptation and Appropriation book series (RESH)


Premièred at the Mostra Internazionale d’arte cinematografica in Venice and subsequently shown at a number of international film festivals around the world (London, Toronto, New York, Istanbul, and New Delhi), Roberta Torre’s Sud Side Stori (2000) is one of the most distinctive experimental Italian films of recent years.1 Combining neorealist cinematographic techniques with the artificial style of the musical (and echoing Jerome Robbins and Robert Wise’s 1961 West Side Story in its title),2 it offers a highly idiosyncratic partial retelling of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet.3 Unashamedly exhibiting its status as postmodern pastiche (Jameson 16-18), and repeatedly, if implicitly, pointing to the politically transformative potential of this aesthetic style, Torre’s film replaces “fair Verona” (“Prologue” 2) with an oxymoronic version of the Sicilian city of Palermo. It presents a cityscape that is at once gritty and oneiric, replete with realistic details and excessively stagy, thus bringing to the extreme the contradictory articulation of urban space in both Robbins’s and Wise’s film and Baz Luhrmann’s William Shakespeare’s Romeo+Juliet (1996) (Modenessi 65). Shakespeare’s “star-crossed lovers” (“Prologue” 6) become Toni Giulietto (Roberto Rondelli), a local rock singer who is a pale imitation of the Italian King of Rock’n’roll Little Tony, himself a pale imitation of Elvis Presley, and Romea Wacoubo (Forstina Erhabor), a beautiful Nigerian prostitute who falls in love with him when she sees him standing on his balcony playing the guitar. Not unlike the relationship between Tony and Maria in West Side Story, the interracial passion between Toni and Romea exacerbates preexisting ethnic conflicts.


West Side Ethnic Conflict Picture Frame Artificial Style Nigerian Woman 
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© Maurizio Calbi 2013

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  • Maurizio Calbi

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