THE LAST VICTORY may appear on the DVD cover to be a story film, but in truth it is a documentary - in other words the story within the film is true and untampered. That fact makes the film even more entertaining, especially to those who love Italy and the traditions about which the casual visitor knows too little.
In Siena there is an annual horserace called the 'Palio' in the city's center piazza (Piazza del Campo). The event dates back to medieval times and represents the theme of solidarity of the seventeen various neighborhoods (contrada) of Siena, each of which has a symbol and a coat of arms with accompanying flags and regalia. THE LAST VICTORY follows one of these contrada - Civetta - as its closely bonded families prepare for the Palio. They wear the colors, they set up long tables of food, and they raise money to compete in the race. A few days before the Palio each contrada wins a horse through what seems like a lottery and that horse is praised by the populace, a jockey is chosen and the race begins.
The tender part of this ritual is supported by the fact that director John Appel has selected members of Civetta - Egidio Mecacci, Paolo Rossi, Alma Savini, Roberto Papei, Camilla Marzucchi and others - and follows their moods and excitement and preparation for the big event. The 92 year old Egidio is perhaps the most charismatic as he relates the sad history that that the Civetta has not won the race since 1979 and all hopes 'ride' on the beautiful horse that is assigned to them. The preparations are intense: the piazza is ringed with dirt over the stones to create a running track, the horse is groomed, and the members of the neighborhood gather and sing and eat in hopes they will win the Palio. The ending of the race is best left for the viewer to see, but in the course of just over a minute the race is complete and the impact the results have on the Civetta are telling.
Appel and his crew have captured the essence of an important Sienese tradition and this little quiet film shares insights into the Italian sense of camaraderie and familia that is all too rarely seen today. The film is touching and worth viewing - for education and for entertainment well presented as a documentary. Grady Harp, October 06