After shaking of the yoke of dictatorship and censorship, the post-War period in Italy was a fertile time for film-making. From the neo-realism of Rossellini and Visconti, through the classics of Fellini and Antonioni, to the spaghetti westerns of Leone and the giallo of Argento, it was a hotbed of creativity. As we approached the end of the 20th century, this had faded somewhat. Today, in contrast, the situation is pretty dire. Easily the best Italian film for years, The Ciambra is hopefully an indication that things are moving in the right direction at last.

Pio (Pio Amato) is not your typical 14-year old boy. Living in a small Romani community in Gioia Tauro, southern Italy, he smokes, drinks and generally gets into mischief. He idolises his older brother Cosimo (Damiano Amato), following him around attempting to learn ‘the trade’. Pio is popular, both within his community and with the African immigrants who live nearby, particularly Ayiva (Koudous Seihon). When his father and brother are arrested, he is determined to step-up and become a man, but finds he must choose between family and friends.

The Ciambra is an electrifying coming-of-age story set against a backdrop of crime, poverty and immigration. Filmed using largely non-professional actors and in a neo-realist documentary style, Tim Curtin’s camera is constantly on the move; tracking the fearless and charismatic Pio. This gives Jonas Carpignano drama a constant sense of motion and infuses it with a livewire energy. Whilst being almost Shakespearian at its core, The Ciambra is a heady and riveting thrill-ride into the underbelly of modern Italian life.

The Ciambra is in cinemas from 15 June.