Democracy and soap

“La democrazia e il sapone” could be defined a “sentimental-documentary”, an other times melodrama, except that all that Franco tells is “real” and not “realistic”.

Born in Rome in 1931, Franco has been indoctrinated, since he was a little boy, to the values of the regime and the cult of the Duce. After his mother’s death of tuberculosis and his father’s call to arms, he and his five brothers left the Borgo Pio area, where they were born, and moved to an aunt’s house in the suburbs of Primavalle.

Franco, the eldest of the brothers, soon learnt how to do his best, working hard to survive; his first job, at the age of ten, was that of the “soap maker” that is to say the one who cleans the soap molds made in the “black market”, to earn just the flakes you can remove. Franco became then a greengrocer, a so-called “sciuscià”, that is to say a shoeshine boy during the Liberation period, a map seller to the Americans and many others jobs to ensure at least survival for him and his brothers.

Our protagonist, while being interviewed for a long time in his house, often talks about his perception of time.

Time is something relative for a child under the bombing and also struggling with feeding oneself everyday: “it’s difficult to remember if it were the 39s, 40s or 41s, these were days where… well, you really can’t know…”

The only thing that Franco remembers is the awareness, matured at such an early age, of the nonsense of war. One day, while he was serving fruits as a greengrocer, he heard a woman that said “we won the war, but my son is dead”. So this little boy wonders “What war did this woman win?”

Scenes of a poetic playback flow in parallel in the documentary: a child, who could be the little Franco, walks through the streets and places he mentions, he experiences moments of lightheartedness and terror, with the magnificence of the wounded and immense city of Rome.

The child is a symbol, he’s the future, he is the passing of the baton that Franco wants to leave to those who live today in a problematic democracy, of course, but still a democracy, and they aren’t aware of it.

At the end of the story, while Franco is playing football with a rag ball, be now a teenager, he sees De Gasperi passing exactly near the street today called De Gasperi street, looking upwards with his hands behind his back.

De Gasperi, the head of the government, the first Prime Minister of the newborn Italian Republic… he just walks alone, without guards or ovations, neither a court of hierarchs, so the little boy has like an epiphany inside: “If he walks alone he is like me. This is what democracy must be!”

The original music of the documentary is by Marco De Marchi.

Through this simple, human, tragic and sometimes ironic story, the documentary intends to convey the idea that democracy must be “learnt”, practiced and defend to respect those who had so painfully conquered it.

  • Laura De Marchi
  • Carolina Ielardi
  • Laura De Marchi
  • Franco De Marchi
    Key Cast
  • Samuele De Marchi
    Key Cast
  • Project Title (Original Language):
    La democrazia e il sapone
  • Project Type:
  • Genres:
    Poetic, Historical
  • Runtime:
    24 minutes 41 seconds
  • Completion Date:
    June 12, 2021
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Director - Laura De Marchi, Carolina Ielardi