There’s something more going on here than what appears on the surface. At first watch, it seems to be a documentary of a college trip to Italy, with all the Real World-friendly, talking-to-the-camera aesthetics of young adults enjoying a new culture (and eventually growing tired of their travel group), but with none of the drunken nights or screaming fits reality TV has convinced us occur every two seconds a camera is pointing at someone in their early twenties. This documentary is framed with strange narration, however, one that suggests that the director of the documentary, James Kicklighter, is some Hollywood wonderboy. The narration seems so out of place, I began to wonder if I had missed something over the last few years; had this director really been as successful as stated or hinted at? If not, why was it included in this documentary?
In the end, however, this isn’t a documentary (or maybe it is, some sort of documentary-friendly narrative film). It was written by Mark Ezra Stokes, and it was inspired by some travel journals by Preston Johnson and Scott Singleton. So what the Hell is going on here? Di Passaggio so perfectly captures the insanity of group travel abroad that it felt like it was all real, with the narration the only fanciful aspects of it. As if the documentary footage IS real, and was crafted in editing to fit the less real narrative. But what if that’s NOT the case? What if all of this was pre-written, acted and filmed on location in Italy?
So I’m torn. As real footage shoe-horned into a strange narrative involving the director, it feels less effective to me. If, however, this was entirely pre-written and done on-location, with only the narration added after for extra dramatic effect, than the actors in the film are incredible, and the entire experience wonderfully authentic. Despite my confusion over what, or rather how, it is, I can say that this captures all the imperfections of group travel in a foreign country, boiled down to the authentically naive reactions by some of the cast to the differing cultures and even their obviously innocent perceptions of the world (that usually don’t get crushed for at least another 5 years).
I did read up more on the director, and the narrative employed feels less strange now, more authentic, which dances us back into documentary world… but I was definitely more interested in the immersion of the trip. Eh, watch for yourself. I tend to over-think and over-complicate things…
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