Don’t mess with Sicilian women. That’s perhaps a reductive summary of the cinematic debut of Italian theatre director Emma Dante, which revolves entirely around a stand-off between two cars in a narrow lane in the jerry-built outskirts of Palermo.

Two women, Rosa (Emma Dante) and Clara (Alba Rohrwacher), bicker as they drive through Palermo backstreets; we soon realise they are lovers on the verge of a break-up. A proletarian family return from a fractious day at the beach, driven by Samira, the resented mother-in-law of a sweaty, crass, bolshy family patriarch. Finally, the two cars grind to a halt facing each other, with neither driver prepared to reverse. It’s a stand-off that begins in the realm of the possible but soon drifts into more dreamlike, allegorical territory.

In Italy, the expression ‘Far West’ is used to mean a place or situation where no rules apply, and A Street In Palermo depicts a Sicilian Far West which is also a Far West of the soul: a place forsaken by god and man, where obstinacy is the only virtue left.

Lee Marshall
Screen International

Winner, Best Actress, Venice Film Festival