The Italian Cultural Society January film of the month is Hands over the City (1963). Director Francesco Rosi reveals how underhanded his native city of Naples operates. When Bella Vista Construction uses a pile driver to demolish one building, the vibrations collapse an old apartment building next door killing two. Naples City Council orders an investigation. Bella Vista is cleared of charges. City Councilman Da Vita (Carlo Fermariello) suspects bribery by Building Commissioner Edoardo Nottola (Rod Steiger), so De Vita goes to the media. Deeper corruption involving city planners granting Nottola no bid contracts to develop sites for enormous profit is alleged. Frustration mounts as office after municipal office claims that another agency has the information. Nottola counters by going to the Mayor (Vincenzo Metafora), but those displaced by the tragedy lead a movement to vote him out of office. Nottola asks his contacts in Rome to intervene with no success. Nottola uses uniquely Neapolitan backroom methods to forge a new political alliance. Hands over the City won the 1963 Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival. In Italian English subtitles.
Francesco Rosi knows the plight of long suffering Neapolitans. Born there on November 15, 1922, he went on to study law at the University of Naples. Following his long apprenticeship in theatre and radio, Rosi entered the film industry assisting Luchino Visconti on the set of La Terra Trema (1948). A decade later, he debuted as director with La Sfida (1958). Rosi’s next three hit movies I Magliari (1959), Salvatore Giuliano (1961) and Le Mani Sulla Città (1963) earned him international recognition and prestigious awards. The inaugural 2004 issue of CinemaCittà journal was devoted exclusively to Francesco Rosi.