Un film e una lezione: Italian Movie Night

An introvert’s challenge

I am not one to socialize openly or frequently, nonetheless, I do love talking to people, that sporadically exchange of energy with random individuals is quite magical to me; I equally enjoy – and often prefer – to curl up in a comfy corner with a cup of tea and a good book. No, I would not say I am anti-social, just selectively shy and socially awkward. I read more than I watch tv, I am more into nature, spirituality, and scientific research than I am into politics, movies or celebrities. I am an advocate for self-love and recovery from eating disorders; I am a poet and storyteller at heart, a writer by day and a teacher by night, none of which make me good at small talk. Every now and then, however, I challenge myself to step out of the comfort zone of my own company and engage in social gatherings. The tricky part is getting out there and actually being social, once I overcome that anxiety-inducing sfida, I tend to enjoy myself, and more so, what I learn from the people I meet.

This past Wednesday evening I was finally able to attend to one of the social events held by the Italian Club at the University where I currently teach. I say finally because on past semesters as a student, I was always too busy with essays, presentations, classes, and deadlines; I never quite found the time to go. Having spent most of my Wednesday “adulting,” i.e., doing laundry, paying bills -oh, the comfort of online payments,- and organizing some written content that I am working on, I decided to indulge in my Italian-affinity that evening. I changed into some jeans and a white t-shirt and made my way down to the University on my little red Kia. I managed to make it just on time, right

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Dr. Serra talking about the evening’s event.

before the introduction to the movie. The beauty of these events, at least to me, is the different tonalities of Italian that I get to experience. Some are native speakers, others, like me, are developing their Italian. The leader of the club or perhaps the bravest one is


Dr. Serra, one of my firsts professors to teach me Italian, and someone I have looked up to since I was 22 when I first started my love affair with this beautiful language and the culture it racchiude. Dr. Serra guides the speakers, cues conversations and opinions before and after each event; on that evening she introduced the Ph.D. student that was in charge of the introduction to the film.

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Dr. (to be) Pezzullo during the introduction to the film.

With lively mannerisms, the Neapolitan student spoke about the film, how it represented Naples during the 1970s, and how the film focuses on family matters through the eyes of the main character. I had the pleasure to take a few classes with her, I admire her intellectual view on different subjects, and her passion and dedication in her studies.

La Kryptonite nella Borsa – Spoiler Alert!

Peppino and his cousin the Neapolitan Superman.


The film starts with the piccolo Peppino and his occhiali for his strong myopia, which right away sets him apart from the ‘norm’ of the family. He is the youngest of the Sasone family, and as such, he is scrutinized as a young child of almost 10 with many issues and weird habits. His closest relative, another ‘outsider’ of the family who believes himself to be Superman, dies early in the film and becomes

Gennaro asking if Rosaria had kryptonite in her purse. This scene alludes to the title.

Peppino’s guide and voice of conscience. The film continues through the eyes of Peppino as he is passed on from family member to family member when his mother Rosaria falls into a deep depression after finding out that her husband is cheating on her. Peppino experiences different facets of life through his relationship with his young aunt and uncles, a close family friend, and his parents. From a hippie-ish body-embracing, drug-experimenting environment with his young aunt Titina and uncle Salvatore, to seeking love and a husband with Assunta, the family friend. Dealing with baby chicks, death, and his parents, Peppino lives and learns a lot. Strict social standards on how women should and should not behave and the liberal ideas of the western world making its way into a traditional Italian household, the film by Ivan Cotroneo released in 2011, presents complex themes in a fun, innocent, and open way.


Blah, blah, blah, wasn’t there a lesson?

After the film, Dr. Serra initiated the conversation amongst those present. Many, shy like me I assume, kept quiet; very few chimed in with their take on the film.

We discussed the different scenery featured in the film, piazze, montagne, isole, tramonti, beautiful components of a city that encloses a unique Italianità. We also discussed a few of the themes presented in the movie. The death of cousin Gennaro the Neapolitan Superman, for example, is first thought to be an accident. Further into the film, however, Cotroneo shows his audience that perhaps Gennaro’s death wasn’t an accident but an escape from being misunderstood and ‘different.’ By subtly hinting towards his sexual preferences in one of the last scenes, the film leads the audience to consider suicide for the first time; homosexuality was not a welcomed difference during the 1970s. As the story develops, it intricately weaves themes such as self-identity, bullying, depression, adultery, and the resistance by old generations to the inevitable changes that new eras bring and that new generations embrace.

By the end of the movie, Peppino reaches a certain level of maturity – the audience along with him, –  and a profound conclusion on how to go about life. It’s up to you if your life is to be easy or difficult if you don’t care what people think, even if they think you are weird and don’t belong, you will be better off. This simple, yet insightful realization comes to him through his depicted Superman cousin, the family member he related to the most. Peppino’s epiphany is a beautiful message for the audience, or so I thought. After the brief discussion, sleepy club members made their way out of the building, en route to their homes. As I walked to my car, I kept thinking about the film, the short Italian exchange I was able to make, and all the themes that we discussed before leaving. The title of the movie, however, was something that didn’t seem to fit with the movie and was left out of the discussion. La Kryptonite nella borsa, which roughly translates to The Kryptonite in the bag. Yes, the film showed a Superman, and it can be argued that he was a superhero for Peppino, but there was no Kryptonite in a bag or in a corner, or near Superman, per se; yet, he still dies.

I couldn’t stop thinking about it. What was the “Kryptonite nella borsa” that killed poor Superman cousin Gennaro?

I doubt there is a particular answer to such a question; perhaps only the writers and Ivan Cotroneo know what the answer is. After going over and over the question, I realized that a part of me already knew the answer: secrecy. It was secrecy that killed cousin Gennaro. The secret he kept from his family, his sexuality, his self-doubt as he starts to discover himself, feeling out of place, all of it eventually takes a toll on him; and, well, his character dies within the first 15 minutes of the film.

Secrecy is what kept my eating disorder alive for so many years, over a decade – quando sono cresciuta?! – and it nearly did take my life. What hides behind la borsa consumes your very essence, it becomes an obsession, and soon develops a life of its own. Your kryptonite will swirl you along dark paths of depression, anxiety, self-hatred and a whirlpool of negativity. By keeping that secret in the bag, an eating disorder, sexual harassment, an affair, gambling or substance abuse, an ‘oops’ pregnancy, whatever the secret, it becomes stronger in hidden quarters. And regardless of how many times and in different ways you accommodate that kryptonite, as long as it is kept safely away in secrecy, it will continue to grow and get stronger rosicchiando at your inner peace, shattering you from the inside out. That is why reaching out is so important, the first step towards ending secrecy is the most difficult one, having a good support system is one of the factors that make the difference in someone facing their struggle.

Unveiling the kryptonite is how one takes control back, the exposure allows you to create a space for healing, for self-acceptance, and self-love. It is so important to speak up, take the kryptonite out of la borsa and expose it to the light of love, understanding, compassion, and forgiveness. It’s a long process that starts from within; it is challenging, confusing, and frustrating at times, but the journey is worth it.

Essere liberi è molto dolce – Mary Prince 


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missejjessim View All →

An incurable passion for writing; a poet and storyteller​ at heart. I am a writer on the road.

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