Review: Tomorrow At Dawn (2019)

Ca’Foscari Short Film Festival
International Competition 2020

Courtesy of Ca’ Foscari Short Film Festival

Inspired by true events that happened to her grandmother, Giulia Di Battista’s WWII set drama Tomorrow At Dawn depicts the seductive power of superstition in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds alongside the stubbornness that sometimes comes hand in hand with masculinity.

Thanks to a crippled leg, Amerigo (Carmello Marcello Ciorciaro) is the only man of fighting age in his small village that has not gone off to war. At home his young daughter is gravely ill, and a much needed doctor has not visited the village in several days. His wife Ida (Maria Stella Cassano) is insistent that they go to the doctor themselves despite the long and difficult trek it would entail. Amerigo would rather visit the village witch doctor.  The next morning Amerigo makes a decision which will soon force him to decide whether he will listen to the wishes of his fellow villagers or his wife.

Ostensibly Tomorrow At Dawn is an examination of a community still in the thralls of superstition, believing that the work of a witch doctor will be able to cure all ills.  Here Battista depicts a world in which modernity equates with war: the world outside of the village consisting of bombs bursting in the air. It is perhaps understandable that with modern life seemingly being only good for death and destruction, that a place would embrace its traditional values, no matter how out-dated they may seem. 

But it’s also an exploration of masculinity, the desire to prove oneself even at the expense of others. Amerigo – a subtle performance from Ciorciaro – occupies a strange position in the village. On the one hand there is a sense of relief that he is one young man not been sent off to die. Yet, due to his physical frailty that has left him behind, there is a sense that he has ‘failed’.

Even when faced with a dying daughter, his wife’s no-nonsense attitude as to what they should do (displayed with a striking performance from Cassano) is interpreted as an affront to his masculinity rather than a need to do the right thing. It is only when the situation comes to a head – and one of the villagers asks him to ‘act like a man’ – that he discovers what acting like a man should truly be about.

Battista directs with confidence, making good use of intimate spaces that speak of insularity and the need for a wider perspective. Coupled with the aforementioned performances, Tomorrow At Dawn, screening in the international competition at the 10th Ca’ Foscari Short Film Festival, is a consistently interesting drama about the need to let go of the past to ensure the future.

Country: Italy
Original Title: Domani all’alba
Language: Italian
Year: 2019
Run time: 16 mins
Director: Giulia Di Battista
Cast: Carmello Marcello Ciorciaro, Maria Stella Cassano
DOP: Mirko Ciabatti
Editor: Emma Viali
Producer: Elisabetta Bruscolini
Film School: Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia