PalioCosima Spender, 91 min, UK, Italy.
Twice a year the Italian city of Siena turns into battleground of strategy, intrigue and simmering machismo for the oldest horse race in the world: the Palio. The Sienese work all year for this race, which never lasts more than ninety seconds. The captains of the city's 17 competing districts nurture their alliances and plots, the jockeys make secret, last minute, deals amongst themselves and tens of thousands of spectators wait anxiously for ecstasy or despair.
In the eye of the storm stand the jockeys. Passionately loved or violently loathed by the districts (contrade) they represent, they make secret and lucrative deals amongst themselves, which may or may not be in the interest of those they ride for. These ceaseless attempts to control fate are an essential feature of the Palio. This is not a race – it is a strategic battleground.
Legendary rider Gigi Bruschelli has won 13 Palios in 16 years. Born in Siena, the Palio is in his blood. He has mastered the system – training younger jockeys, forging alliances with the district captains and influencing which horses are chosen to race. Two races away from beating the world record, Bruschelli will do anything to win. But one jockey stands in his way, his former apprentice, a handsome young Sardinian, Giovanni Atzeni. Giovanni is quietly preparing to challenge his old mentor. Giovanni needs to win to prove his worth or the district captains will find someone new and his career may be over. This is his advantage; the fearless confidence of youth and his existential need for victory. He is determined to challenge Bruschelli’s status as ‘King of the Square’.
Director Cosima Spender captures the passion, intrigue and intensity of the Palio, entering a world very few have been given access to and uncovering a story better than any scripted feature. A behind the scenes look at the most exhilarating and dramatic race in the world, PALIO is the thrilling story of a young outsider desperate for success in a dangerous but lucrative race, and the legendary insider who has dominated the Palio, and consequently the Sienese, for over a decade. Their passionate and dramatic battle is an epic and cinematic tale of Italian life in microcosm.