Director: Philip Walsh
Cast: Alain de Cadenet, Francesco da Mosto, Silvana Paladino
Running Time: 73 mins
There have been several high-profile attempts to bring the thrill of motorsport to the big screen, GRAND PRIX (1966), LE MANS (1971), SENNA (2010) and RUSH (2013) to name but a few, but few successfully get to the heart of the sport. One film attempting to do just that is A SICILIAN DREAM, a theatrical documentary about the Targa Florio.
A SICILIAN DREAM is a documentary drama film about the rise and fall of the longest-running road race in the world. Dreamt up by Vincenzo Florio, the younger son of a leading Sicilian family, the Targa Florio was an open road car race held in the mountains of Sicily near Palermo. It ran between 1906 and 1977 and was considered one of the most challenging and dangerous endurance races of its time. The race was eventually stopped in 1977 due to safety concerns but inspired an era of motorsport that is still going today.
A SICILIAN DREAM brings together the key elements that made the Targa Florio the event that it was – the man, the race and the island. Presented by racing driver Alain de Cadenet and revered Italian historian Francesco da Mosto, the 73 minute feature explores the legend and intrigue of the event in an attempt to uncover what compelled the drivers to seek the glory of winning this death-defying race. The film sees Francesco and Alain drive the circuit in a series of vintage cars, as they take us through the stories that make up the history of the race.
The film is spilt into two parts. The first half covers the history of the race and its founder Vincenzo Florio. We are introduced to Silvana Paladino, the closest living relative of Vincenzo, who tells us about Vincenzo and his motivations behind the race. The second half of the film concentrates on the danger of the course as Alain de Cadenet revisits the location of the crash that almost killed him forty years ago. In an emotional scene, he meets for the first time the son of the Sicilian farmer who pulled him from the burning wreckage.
What makes A SICILIAN DREAM different to other motorsport documentaries is the way in which it is filmed. The feature is very theatrical in its style with dream-like reconstructions and dramatic recreations of the race. There are some stunning visuals of the mountains and villages of the striking Sicilian countryside, as well as some arty close-up shots of the cars. Even the storyline is a little theatrical in style with the two men embarking on an inner journey, as well as his physical one. For Alain, the journey is about putting the horrors of his crash behind him, for Francesco it is about reconnecting with his Sicilian roots.
There are plenty of juicy anecdotes to keep the motorsport fans entertained, including a funny story about Enzo Ferrari, a baroness and a lift, as well as cameo appearances from such racing legends as Jochen Mass.
While A SICILIAN DREAM is certainly an interesting feature, it is very much a niche film. An early scene of Alain and Francesco poring over the dashboard of a vintage automobile suggests it’s been compiled with a specialist audience in mind. Today, the Rally Targa Florio is a show-case event for lovers of classic and vintage cars and the feature has essentially been made for them. The way the film is cut also suggests it was made for television, rather than the big screen or DVD.