BANGLA offers an insight into multicultural Rome with a standard but quaint rom-com about first love.
Director and writer Phaim Bhuiyan plays the protagonist, 22-year-old Phaim whose parents moved from Bangladesh to Italy before he was born.
He introduces the audience to his home, Rome’s multicultural Torpignattara neighbourhood, where he spends his time playing with his band and working as a museum steward.
As a Muslim he abstains from alcohol, pork and sex before marriage; the first two are no big deal but Phaim is struggling with the last one and sees sex everywhere.
When he meets the punk rocker Asia (Carlotta Antonelli), Phaim not only has to navigate his first relationship but also the cultural differences between them.
Bangla is a recognisable story about being a child of immigrants and Phaim’s feelings of not quite belonging to either his family’s culture or the culture of the country he was born into will be familiar to many.
For a debut film, Bhuiyan as a director is skilled at portraying a side of Rome far away from the tourist snaps.
His cinematography is full of life and colour complemented by the music, both Italian and Bangladeshi, performed as part of the story.
However, his skills as an actor are not as proficient and his strangely deadpan performance has the effect of undermining some of the comedy and making his interactions with other characters feel oddly forced.
Antonelli as Asia is lumped with a panic pixie dream girl character; she wears cool clothes and likes horror movies, but any glimpse of a personality underneath is entirely down to Antonelli’s acting.
Bangla works best when Bhuiyan is clearly depicting his own lived experience of life in multicultural Italy.
Directed by: Phaim Bhuiyan
Starring: Phaim Bhuiyan, Carlotta Antonelli, Simone Liberati
Review by Lucy Rutherford
Showing as part of the Lavazza Italian Film Festival running October 3 to October 23