A new short film from Alice Rohrwacher is getting a release through Disney+

The 37-minute Le Pupille joins a group of rebellious youngsters spending the holidays at their boarding school.


Charles Bramesco


When people think about Disney, the first things leaping to mind tend to be princesses, superheroes, or Jedi knights. But a corporate behemoth with such deep pockets can also afford to venture out beyond the safe realm of franchising to throw some money around where it goes a little further, and now they’re bringing a bit of their largesse to the lower-profile international market.

The Italian-made short film Le Pupille will be available through Disney+ starting 16 December, an unlikely if widely accessible home for the latest work from arthouse favorite Alice Rohrwacher. Photographed with a combination of 16mm and 35mm formats, the 37-minute homage to Zero for Conduct and other unruly-child classics may seem an odd fit for the Mouse’s streaming platform, but the seasonal angle will nonetheless place it alongside the rest of their Yuletide-themed content.

Le Pupille was conceived as part of a series of Christmastime shorts commissioned by Disney and produced through Alfonso Cuarón, a fan of Rohrwacher’s who figured that her experience working with children would make her an ideal fit for the kiddie-beloved studio. And while her project does indeed feature holiday merriment and apple-cheeked youngsters, it’s also an irreverent perspective on the emptiness of conventional Christian pieties.

The short — adapted from a letter penned by the celebrated writer Elsa Morante — joins a gaggle of students over a lonely Christmas they’ve all got no choice but to spend at their boarding school. As they stage their own little nativity play, they also introduce a bit of anarchy to the stuffy environment of grown-up authority, reminding us all of the childlike spirit that’s supposed to animate a holiday rooted in belief.

For parents trying to get their offspring hooked on cinema outside the English language, Rohrwacher’s newest is an early gift, proof that youth-friendly filmmaking can exist outside the bright, loud, excitable register of G-rated US exports. For some, it could be their first time seeing something shot on analog film — and isn’t creating memories to be cherished for the rest of a child’s life what Christmas is really about?

Published 29 Nov 2022

Tags: Alfonso Cuarón Alice Rohrwacher

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