Michele Manzolini and Federico Ferrone
Il Varco
Part of
Il Varco

Il Varco

Michele Manzolini and Federico Ferrone

70 min.
Italian and Russian
Subtitles: Catalan, Spanish and English

In June 1941, as part of Operation Barbarossa, the German army invades the Soviet Union and Italy sends its first soldiers to the Ukrainian front.


Michele Manzolini and Federico Ferrone
Simonluca Leitempergher
Film Editor
Maria Fantastica Valmori

In 1941, an Italian soldier is leaving for the Soviet front. The Fascist army is allied with the Nazi war machine. Victory seems close. The convoy moves forward, men are singing and hopeful. The soldier’s mind goes back to the melancholic fairy tales his Russian mother told him. Unlike his younger companions, he has already been to war, in Africa, and he fears it. The train crosses Europe, reaching the interminable expanses of the Ukrainian plains. As winter arrives, enthusiasm wanes under the first mortar shells, the cold and the snow. The most heartfelt desire is no longer victory, but rather a warm bed, food, and to go back home. The immense wind ravaged steppe seems to be inhabited by ghosts.

Il Varco is a work of fiction made with both official and amateur archive material. It is the subjective account of a soldier involved in the Italian campaign in Russia during WWII. The film, as well as the footage it is made from, is populated by presences. As the war becomes more desperate, ghosts wander the Ukrainian steppe in ever increasing numbers. Memories haunt the protagonist’s mind, taking him back to the horrors of Italy’s colonial war. And finally fragments of a war yet to come, one being fought in Ukraine today, in the very same places. Present and past run on parallel tracks, which get closer and eventually merge. As if the wounds of over 70 years had never healed.

About the direction
Michele Manzolini

Michele Manzolini


Michele Manzolini (1980) and Federico Ferrone (1981) have been creating documentary films together s...

Federico Ferrone

Federico Ferrone


Michele Manzolini (1980) and Federico Ferrone (1981) have been creating documentary films together s...

Awards and festivals

What the Doc! Award · DocsBarcelona
Spain, 2020
Mostra de Cinema di Venezia
Italy, 2019
Festival du film Italien de Annecy
France, 2019
Jihlava Documentary International Film Festival
Czech Republic, 2019
Michele Manzolini and Federico Ferrone
Il Varco
Watch the trailer
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Interspersed throughout the film, among other things, are precious moments of suspense, where the voice of the narrator stops and the images and the score alone invite the viewer to reflect and, perhaps, to dream.

— Davide Abbatescianni, Cineuropa
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