Fireworks (DVD Review)

  • Reviewed by: Dennis Seuling
  • Review Date: Feb 14, 2024
  • Format: DVD
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Fireworks (DVD Review)


Giuseppe Fiorello

Release Date(s)

2023 (January 16, 2024)


Fenix Entertainment/Ibla Film/Rai Cinema (Cinephobia Releasing)
  • Film/Program Grade: A
  • Video Grade: A
  • Audio Grade: A
  • Extras Grade: B

Fireworks (DVD)

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Fireworks (Stranizza d’amuri) takes place in a small rural village in Sicily in 1982, with the entire country entranced by the Italian national football team’s progress through the World Cup. Based on a true story, the film centers on the relationship between 17-year-old Gianni (Samuele Segreto) and recent high-school graduate Nino (Gabriele Pizzurro), young men of different backgrounds who meet after a minor traffic accident.

Gianni lives with his mother and her macho loudmouth boyfriend and works as a mechanic in his shop. He’s teased mercilessly by neighborhood men and has been numbed to their constant homophobic bullying. He doesn’t fare much better at home.

Nino lives happily with his loving family and works with his father in the fireworks business, traveling with him to neighboring villages to shoot off colorful pyrotechnic displays. His father, however, has become so weakened by illness that Nino has to carry on the business alone, needs a helper, and offers the job to Gianni, who welcomes the opportunity to escape from his stepfather.

As they spend more time together, the two boys develop a close friendship. Gianni’s helpful but the business can’t sustain a paid employee Nino’s dad asks his brother, the foreman of a construction company, to hire Gianni. He proves to be a hard worker.

The relationship between Gianni and Nino eventually deepens and becomes romantic. The townspeople notice that the two boys are practically inseparable and spread gossip that leads to family outrage. The film becomes a quietly agitating portrayal of pervasive hatred and fear as reactions to the budding romance progress from explosive anger to self-righteous cruelty.

Segreto and Pizzurro are exceptional as Gianni and Nino, respectively, two likable teenagers who aren’t afraid of hard work and simply want to enjoy their lives. Energetic and physically attractive, they embody their characters’ emotions, whether pure joy or deep sadness. The chemistry between them is outstanding, making their characters’ relationship entirely believable. Their dialogue has such a natural lilt that it never sounds scripted, and they exude an innocent charm that gives Gianni and Nino an endearing vulnerability. Their friendship emerges naturally from credible circumstances. There’s no contrivance in the plot.

Simona Malato and Fabrizia Sacchi play the boys’ mothers as women who have hopes for their sons while fully comprehending the perils they will face. We can feel their heartache as they find themselves helpless to protect their sons.

Director Giuseppe Fiorello takes the time to allow the relationship between Gianni and Nino to develop, making for a running time of 2 hours, 15 minutes. Yet nothing seems padded, and the episodic events converge with gradually mounting suspense in progressively climactic scenes. What will happen to these two kids who dare to love each other despite social taboos?

The director has captured Nino’s robust family life, centered around their passion for football, enjoying meals outdoors, and hunting rabbits. By contrast, Gianni’s life is bleak. He has accepted being taunted by the young toughs of the town as a fact of life, with little solace, and even disdain, at home. The fireworks metaphorically suggest the budding relationship between Gianni and Nino—an explosion of emotion and splendor.

Fireworks was captured by director of photography Ramiro Civita digitally and presented in the aspect ratio of 2.35:1. Little information is available on specific cameras and lenses used. Visual quality is sharp and well detailed. The photography nicely establishes the small Italian community, with sweeping views of open fields where Nino and his family hunt rabbits, a secluded pristine lagoon with turquoise water, hilly, narrow streets, and country roads. Much of the film is shot outdoors in bright sunshine, with one key scene filmed during a downpour. Tracking shots follow Nino on his moped, and a high-angle drone shot shows Gianni and Nino on their mopeds converging onto the road where they will have an accident. Close-ups are used frequently, mostly when Gianni and Nino show their silent hurt or joy. An underwater sequence shows the boys idyllically enjoying their private world.

There are two soundtrack options: Italian 5.1 and 2.0 Dolby Digital. Subtitle options are English and English SDH. Dialogue is clear throughout. At a heated family meeting, voices are raised and there are histrionics. Sound effects include moped engines, rocks being moved at a construction site, the boys splashing in a lagoon, body pummeling, and rifle shots when Nino and his uncle and younger brother hunt rabbits. Football games on TV are heard on the street and at Nino’s home. Background music nicely adds atmosphere to the scenes of Gianni and Nino together.

Bonus materials on the DVD release from Cinephobia Releasing include the following:

  • Director Giuseppe Fiorello Interview at NYC Premiere (11:24)
  • Lawrence Farber Interviews Actors Gabriele Pizzurro and Samuele Segreto (9:25)
  • Trailer (2:16)
  • Sublime Trailer (2:06)
  • Lie With Me Trailer (1:42)
  • The Latent Image Trailer (2:10)
  • Queen Tut Trailer (1:58)

Director Giuseppe Fiorello Interview – The director speaks in Italian. English subtitles appear at the bottom of the screen. Fireworks is based on events that occurred in a small Sicilian province in 1980. The event resulted in “an important outcome and momentum for civil rights,” and led to Italy’s first gay rights organization, Arcigay. Fiorello came across the story in a newspaper article and felt completely involved in it. The real-life characters were actually ages 25 and 15. Fiorello wanted to show the events through his own personal vision, noting “reality doesn’t always lend itself to fiction.” His goal was to portray the delicacy and experience of adolescence. Since exact details of the event are still not completely known, Fiorello wanted a poetic ending.

Gabriele Pizzurro and Samuele Segreto Interview – The actors speak in Italian, with English subtitles shown on screen. Neither of the young actors knew much about the actual events depicted in the movie, so they searched the Internet and consulted older relatives. Pizzurro says he has a simplicity and kind of shyness similar to his character, Nino. Segreto says his courage and love of his mother are similar to Gianni’s. They speak about a change made on the spur of the moment to accommodate a beautiful sunset. They both note that they didn’t deliver the dialogue exactly as written and feel the scenes flow “authentically and naturally” as a result. There was a familial atmosphere during the making of the film. The boys found the “offscreen dynamic” of the actors playing their parents was helpful to their performance and would “permeate the whole space and everyone around with energy and emotion.”

Fireworks is a fact-based tale of two young male lovers that points in a tragic direction but doesn’t condescend or resort to stereotypes about them. Rather than go the route of sexploitation, the film instead is laced with mutual longing. It’s the community and disappointing parental figures that are unhealthy and destructive, not the same-sex desire. This well crafted story of love crushed by intolerance captures the details that define the boys’ humanity, their innocence, and their right not to be attacked for who they are or whom they love. Director Giuseppe Fiorello deftly handles harsh scenes as well as moments of sweetness. There’s a lot here—revulsion, inspiration, joy, sorrow—contributing to a strong impact.

- Dennis Seuling