Il Ladro Di Bambini (aka The Stolen Children) (1992)
After their mother is sent to prison for pimping her 11 year old daughter (Valentina Scalici) as a prostitute, a young "carabiniere" policeman (Enrico Lo Verso) is entrusted with taking the girl and her younger brother (Giuseppe Ieracitano) from Rome to an institution in Sicily. Winner of the David Di Donatello (the Italian Oscar) for best film and director as well as the Grand Jury prize at the Cannes film festival, this is a wonderful film that can stand next to De Sica's SHOE SHINE and BICYCLE THIEVES as compelling Italian cinema focusing on compromised childhood. Gianni Amelio's blunt yet tender film may be heartbreaking but never sentimental though perhaps the glimmer of hope he offers us, only to be dashed by the film's final moments, seems almost cruel in retrospect. The two child actors, Scalici and Ieracitano, give fine naturalistic performances that are free of the phony histrionics so prevalent in the legion of Hollywood child actors and Lo Verso's easy going performance wins you over immediately. The "stolen" of the title refers not only to the three day trek but to their stolen childhood innocence which they will never get back. In an unfair world, nobody wins and even an act of human kindness can have destructive effects.