Zimba, fiftyish, hot-blooded, and strong, stitches together a living for his aging mother, wife, and two children by selling vegetables in the market, collecting scrap for the junkyard, and playing tambourine in his band. When times are really bad, he takes on small jobs for the local Mafia boss smuggling goods across the Strait of Otranto from Albania. Meanwhile, his brother Donato has dropped out of the band and fallen in with addicts and other shady characters. The action and the music rise to a simultaneous climax as Zimba rehearses for the "big" concert and a chance for a recording contract, lovers meet, and Donato double-crosses the local crime lords.
This second feature film of director Edoardo Winspeare is an intense, cinema verité portrayal of ordinary people trapped by perpetual unemployment, poverty, and an oppressive, corrupting gangster subculture. But Living Blood rises above its genre through the transcendent role that pizzica, the regional music of this part of southern Italy, plays in the life of its characters. Its mournful vocals are like the blues: an escape from pain and a way to give voice to the heart's laments. Everyone sings and dances pizzica: the old to recall youth and loss; those in the middle of life's journey to ease pain and express love; the young to court and kindle romance. Its obsessive, sensual rhythm, like African drumming and the music of the Sufis, transports its participants to the border between this life and the next.
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