Articolo 4/Article 4: A short documentary film from Italy

Articolo 4
Scriptwriter and co-director: Paolo Zaffaina
Reviewed by Pietro Ferrua, based on an interview with Paolo Zaffaina



One of my last contributions to this on-line journal was on film and politics.[1] I was paying homage to the memory of a great film director and, concurrently, to a great screenwriter, praising them for fooling the censorship at a very delicate moment of the political history of their country. I was taking a formalistic position as I think one should when dealing with any form of art, but I am ready to admit that no art is created in a vacuum, and that human aspects are bound to prevail in certain situations, and I am ready to admit that Article 4 is the exception that confirms the rule.

The title refers to an article of the Constitution of the post-WW II Italian Republic. Article 4 was voted and approved in 1946, and became effective on January 1, 1948. It deals with the right of every citizen (regardless of race, sex, gender or any other bias) to obtain a reasonably paid, decent job. Although the film is less than 17 minutes long, it deals with a wide range of issues: financial, economic, historical, political, psychological and others. It is a reflection on a situation that affects our daily lives, and which a succession of left and right wing governments have never been able to address adequately in the past 70 years of Italy’s so-called democracy.

The film starts at the exit of the train station of [Mestre] Porto Ovest – the site of the shooting is Venezia-Mestre and its suburbs. An alleged representative of the Pinelli Company holds a handwritten cardboard sign with “Del Zan,” the name of the newly hired employee. He introduces himself as Carlo and the conversation goes on for a few minutes in a very cordial manner. The traveller has no reason to suspect foul play, and seems satisfied with the explanations provided for two timid objections regarding a long detour. As a matter of fact, the interlocutors seem to enjoy each other’s company, and both seem to possess a sharp sense of humour.

Valerio Mazzuccato (as Carlo), who specializes in character’s roles, progressively and visibly, begins to change his mood. You can feel and see his growing despondency on screen. His demeanor changes until he turns brusquely onto a side street, stops the car, turns around, starts unzipping his pants, and almost runs.  The viewer concludes that Carlo needs to urinate, and Del Zan humorously comments: “when you got to go…” But Carlo’s absence, with his back still turned, immobile and rigid, tells us that something is puzzling, and the man from Belluno leaves the car to offer his help. Here we begin to see the socio-political implications about Article 4 of the Constitution. What if there are not enough vacancies?  Historically there have never been enough jobs for everyone, and there has never been a plan to address that problem. Del Zan understands, and generously promises that he will help Carlo, but that with a pregnant wife at home, he cannot give him back the job that might have been his had he arrived a few minutes earlier. Carlo insists that he does not want anyone else’s position but his own: the one that the Constitution promises to every citizen. Who is then responsible for this blatant injustice? No one, it seems, due to lack of resources. The film takes a shocking turn at this point, and powerfully manifests the fury, frustration hopelessness and desperation of lives denied the fundamental right to a decent job: Article 4. The concluding music in the film is composed and played by Alberto Guariento, who is also a co-director of the film.

The author of the script and co-director is Paolo Zaffaina, the main factotum without whom this masterpiece would not have been possible. It is rather unusual for a short documentary to boast the many film directors that helped in the production of this film. Their names are:  Matteo Manzi, Andrea Segre, Alina Marazzi, Franco Piavoli, and Gianfranco Pannone. Besides this uncommon solidarity among film professionals, another pleasant surprise is the quality of acting for a modestly budgeted endeavour. Of the two protagonists, Francesco Wolf holds a degree in Dramatic Art from the Teatro Stabile Del Veneto.

Wolf won numerous awards in his career for his performances in theater, film and TV. He was also awarded early trophies for this short while it was still in post-production. Valerio Mazzucato, the other protagonist, was also recognized for his superb rendering of a newly hired employee. Cinematography by Marco Zuin from the Venetian region is excellent. Zuin has been everywhere as a screenwriter, editor, still photographer, cinematographer, director, producer, but always returns home to Treviso (near his native Vicenza) where he founded the production company Videozuma. Alberto Guariento is not only the co-director but also the composer and player of the soundtrack. The film was shot during the last four months of 2012 and only released in 2014. There are various versions of it and because of this, there might be discrepancies in spelling of names, etc., within credits.

1 “Film and Politics: Focusing on Muriel ou le temps d’un retour,” Montréal Serai, July 1, 2014.

Pietro Ferrua lives in Portland (Oregon). He retired from teaching and dedicates his free time to research and writing. He has contributed in the past to Montréal Serai on various topics. He writes in Italian, French, Portuguese, and Spanish. English is his fifth language.