Gabriele Pizzurro and Samuele Segreto in "Fireworks"

2023 Rewind: Sicilian Boys Set off 'Fireworks' in Upcoming Queer Drama

Frank J. Avella READ TIME: 9 MIN.

This piece is part of EDGE's 2023 Rewind series. We're reaching into our archives and sharing some of our favorite stories from the past year.

The Italian drama "Fireworks" was screened this week at the Open Roads" New Italian Films 2023 Festival at Lincoln Center in New York. The film is set for a general release in December.

New Yorkers got a preview of the upcoming gay drama "Fireworks," which recounts the tragic event that led to the Italian Pride movement. EDGE spoke to its two leads, Gabriele Pizzurro and Samuele Segreto, and director Giuseppe Fiorello.

On October 31, 1980, in the small Sicilian town of Giarre, 25-year-old Giorgio and 15-year-old Antonio, who had been missing for two weeks, were found dead from gunshot wounds, hand in hand. Both boys were bullied relentlessly because they dared to be in love... with each other. The town went quiet, and the case was dismissed as a murder/suicide. A note, assumed to be faked, was left at the probable crime scene that read: "We are leaving this world because we can no longer bear these injustices, these abuses". To the authorities, it was painfully obvious that it was murder; however, no one was, or has ever has been, charged.

This horrific crime shook the country, and one month later, Arcigay was established, the gay rights movement in Italy, protecting queer people from discrimination.

Giuseppe Fiorello

From this tragic story, actor-turned-director Giuseppe Fiorello has fashioned a powerful, disturbing, and authentic film, "Fireworks" ("Stranizza d'amuri"), which follows the development of the romance between the now-fictionalized teenagers, Gianni (Samuele Segreto) and Nino (Gabriele Pizzurro). Reset in 1982, when Italy won the World Cup, the narrative painstakingly depicts the repressive Sicilian milieu in which the characters were forced to hide their love, and their respective misguided families, who contributed to the hate.

Segreto and Pizzurro deliver raw and natural turns. A ballet dancer, Segreto was born and raised in Sicily. He has a few minor TV and film credits, but "Fireworks" is his first major role. For Pizzurro, who lives in Rome and got his start at a very young age in theater, this marks film debut.

This remarkable cinematic achievement is Fiorello's directorial debut (he shares screenplay credit with Andrea Cedrola and Carlo Salsa). As an actor, he's worked with some of the best Italian directors, including Giuseppe Tornatore ("Baaria") and Emanuele Crialese ("Terraferma"), and had a small role in Anthony Minghella's "The Talented Mr. Ripley."

"Fireworks" was showcased at Open Road: New Italian Cinema, at Lincoln Center, the only major NYC Festival that showcases films from Italy. The film will be released this December via Cinephobic Releasing.

Fiorello and his two young leads, Segreto and Pizzurro, spoke with EDGE while in NYC, attending the prestigious Festival. In addition, director Giuseppe Fiorello talks about his film.

Gabriele Pizzurro and Samuele Segreto in "Fireworks"

Speaking with Actors Gabriele Pizzurro and Samuele Segreto

EDGE: Tell me a bit about your acting background.

Gabriele Pizzurro: I was introduced to theatre when I was four years old, and I knew I wanted to be an actor when I had the opportunity, at 5 or 6 – I don't recall – to act in "Mary Poppins, The Musical," which toured Italy. It made me realize I wanted to be an actor and that I loved to be on the stage. Cinema came much later in my life.

Samuele Segreto: I never studied acting. I've learned to do it indirectly, doing movies. My first passion was ballet. Now I have a new love, acting. And, of course, I want to study acting and improve.

EDGE: Samuele, you are from Sicily...

Samuele Segreto: Yes, I'm from Monreale, a little town next to Palermo. I grew up in Sicily, and I know how Sicily can be. The Sicily you see in the film in the '80s is still similar to the Sicily of the present. So, I was familiar with that reality, and about what can happen there, like the violence that can occur when boys want to show they can be strong ... so living in the area and knowing the culture has been extremely helpful with playing Gianni.

EDGE: Gabriele, you grew up in Rome, where people are more accepting. Samu, you are from Sicily where people still think a certain way. You're both a few generations removed from the characters you portray. Can you speak a bit about the homophobia in Italia per your generation, and what you learned about the past generation, and where you think we are now?

Samuele Segreto: For sure, the mentality in Sicily is still somewhat closed, but it's better than in the '80s, when the movie takes place. There is still some homophobia and some ignorance about some aspects of [gay people]. I don't think it's just a Sicilian thing. In Sicily, Italy, the world, there's still too much hate instead of love, which is a very stupid thing. What I love the most about the movie is that it brought so many people of different ages to the cinema, and the new generation understanding the themes and being so emotional. This is the power and magic of cinema.

Gabriele Pizzurro: I don't want to condemn Sicilians or call them closed-minded, the problem is too universal. It's in all of Italy. Even in Rome there is homophobia. Of course, with my generation, things have changed for the better. But in Rome I live in a little neighborhood, and I can see how the young people think, and they're divided into two groups. The first one is closed-minded and follow what their parents think, without having their own thoughts. The other group, and I am among these, are young people who have their own thoughts and see things like homosexuality as normal.

by Frank J. Avella

Frank J. Avella is a proud EDGE and Awards Daily contributor. He serves as the GALECA Industry Liaison and is a Member of the New York Film Critics Online. His award-winning short film, FIG JAM, has shown in Festivals worldwide ( Frank's screenplays have won numerous awards in 17 countries. Recently produced plays include LURED & VATICAL FALLS, both O'Neill semifinalists. He is currently working on a highly personal project, FROCI, about the queer Italian/Italian-American experience. He is a proud member of the Dramatists Guild.

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