In UK cinemas now following a successful festival run, Victoria Fiore’s Nascondino (or Hide & Seek to give it its English title) is a heart-breaking, naturalistic study of 10-year-old Entoni as he grows up in the Spanish quarter of Naples, an area where organised crime is endemic.
In the midst of new legislation that allows children to be taken from families linked to organised crime, Hide and Seek follows the mischievous Entoni through four years of his life, spent mainly in the small apartment he shares with his younger brother, mother and her boyfriend, and on the narrow streets of Naples where he raises merry hell with the local residents.
Fiore opens her documentary with the strangely poignant image of neighbourhood children gathering dead Christmas trees to be burned on an enormous fire. The image is repeated later in the film, while fire itself forms the film’s dramatic lynchpin, directing Entoni down a path on which that he seems tragically bound. Hide and Seek is indeed a tragedy in its documenting of a boy whose fate seems all but etched in stone, chiselled by the social, economic and political forces that have conspired against him and his community.
We first meet Entoni as he struts down the street with his friend, both alike in cheekiness, as they argue over what to do with a phone that has fortuitously come into their possession. Fighting over who gets to mess around with it, they agree the best course of action is to call one of the owner’s contacts and extort him for the princely sum of €5 for the phone’s safe return. Unsurprisingly, the owner’s friend removes the phone from their possession, warns them of their proximity to a hiding and the boys beat a hasty retreat without their €5.
In this one moment, the boys’ stars are written in front of us. The gallant cockiness of these ragamuffins is their tragic flaw, a street hustle learned from an environment that is soon to turn against and harden them, like so many of last week’s Christmas trees burned on the pyre of reform. As Entoni grows and finds himself in deeper trouble, the state removes him to live in care but his frequent escapes home jeopardise what little chance he has for a future outside jail.
The inter-generational cycle of crime and incarceration is amply established with his grandmother, essentially the matriarch of the community whose husband spent his life in prison; a fate that similarly befell Entoni’s father. It’s no surprise to learn where Entoni ends up, nor is it that we see his younger brother beginning the same cycle. Fiore smartly avoids direct commentary of the broader political context that shape Entoni’s life circumstances. Instead, she offers a tragic vision of the consequences of criminalising communities.