In 2012, Italy had the highest rates of child poverty in Europe. For decades, the south has been overlooked by the wealthier north and Sicily is the country’s poorest region. This neglect has resulted in a power vacuum which allowed the mafia to take over and corruption to run rampant. Crime and illegal work are a way of life, for many. The island also marks the first landing for many refugees seeking sanctuary in the Bel Paese. It can be both a home and a prison.

Michele Pennetta’s new documentary, Il Mio Corpo, follows Oscar and Stanley. Oscar is forced to help his father collect scrap metal from illicit dumps. He dreams of escaping this drudgery for a better life. Stanley is a Nigerian refugee. Living with his friend and fellow asylum seeker, he earns a meagre living working as a farmhand, whilst helping the priest in a local church.  Both dream of starting a new life and gaining some sort of independence.

Il Mio Corpo is a studied portrait of life in Sicily, where employment is scarce and poverty is rife. Whilst both stories are separate entities, they paint a picture of a region of Italy which is wracked with problems. The contrived nature of the ending is the only misstep in what is a film which manages to find an unusual and inspired way to tell a story. Il Mio Corpo observes the ills on modern Italy through the eyes of two young men.

Il Mio Corpo screens at IDFA.