Toronto Jewish Film Festival 2021: Our Review of ‘A Starry Sky Above the Roman Ghetto’

Toronto Jewish Film Festival 2021: Our Review of ‘A Starry Sky Above the Roman Ghetto’

A Starry Sky Above the Roman Ghetto tells the story of Sofia (Bianca Panconi), a young Italian woman who discovers a wartime photo of a Jewish child within an old suitcase. Hidden with the photo is an undelivered letter addressed to the mysterious ‘Sarah Cohen’. This appears to have been written by her parents. Sofia and her friends are impassioned by the child’s story. So they set out to discover what happened to young Sarah. And they attempt to deliver the letter which never reached her.

While the finale feels a little convenient to the narrative, Starry Sky is incredibly effective. Featuring solid performances and a well-written script, there’s a poignancy to the film that draws the viewer in. Although this is a fictional narrative, it carries the weight of history on its shoulders. Writer/director Guilio Base understands that within the heart of the Jewish tradition is the desire to pass on their experiences, and Starry Sky speaks to the power of telling our stories. In this way, Starry Sky highlights not only the collective trauma of the Holocaust but also the importance of every soul damaged by it.

The film opens a door to the past. It also speaks to a pathway for the future. In Starry Sky, acknowledgment of history is merely the first step. Sofia partners with other youth from the Jewish community. Here, their traditions challenge her but she is also open to celebrating their differences as well. (For example, one shouldn’t underestimate the power of karaoke in this film.) By bridging cultures together, Sofia (and Starry Sky) recognizes that there is a path forward to honour the Jewish traditions yet also, in the process, allows to tear down the barriers the divide us.

This post was written by
Born at a very early age, Steve is a Toronto-based writer and podcaster who loves to listen to what matters to our culture on screen. When he first saw Indiana Jones steal the cross of Coronado, he knew his world would never be the same and, since then, he’s found more and more excuses to digest what’s in front of him onscreen. Also, having worked as a youth and community minister for almost 20 years, he learned that stories help everyone engage the world around them. He’s a proud hubby, father (x2) and believes that Citizen Kane, Batman Forever (yes, the Kilmer one), and The Social Network belong in the same conversation. You can hear his ramblings on ScreenFish Radio wherever podcasts are gettable or at his website, ScreenFish.net.
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