“From sulphur to coal” Italian emigrants stories told by Luca Vullo


Among Italian Cultural Institute events, a big space is dedicated to documentaries. And this is a real luck. Every time, each movie’s showing represents a fundamental discovery, for the public, a close meeting with another world, sometime far, sometime as next to our lives to deeply touch and move our feelings.

This is exactly what happened on 10th July evening, in the superb location of Italian Cultural Institute, when “From sulphur to coal” has been showed in front of a full hall.

Luca Vullo’s documentary tells the story of Italian emigrants who left Italy after the Second World War, with the goal to go and work in Belgium’s mines, supported and fostered by Italian and Belgian governments.
They left a poor, destroyed country, offering cheap manpower to a foreign country and accepting working conditions that Belgium people did not want to accept anymore.
“From sulphur to coal” tries to piece together the rawplugs of this story, which changed forever the destiny of many Italian families.
Vullo, the author, works thorough interviews and let the direct protagonists tell about themselves and their emigration story. And this choice is surely one of the most relevant strengths of the tale.

Vullo’s work is a documentary focused on last century’s Italian history, but this movie tells us – at the same time, even if between lines – another recent, never-ended story, which has never really stopped since last century. This is a movie about Italian emigrants leaving towards Belgium, but it contains and shows an authorial sensibility which does not ignore the many existing connections among Italian emigration described through this documentary and current emigration from Italy to richer countries.
So we discover that – beyond some important macro-differences, like an enormous war just ended and a surely more severe need condition among people – men and women who then left towards Belgium lived and experienced the same problems faced by young people who nowadays decide to go away, looking abroad for a job or for better life conditions.
Many basilar problems are the same: integration, language knowledge, the feeling to be stranger in the place you are as in the country you left; sometime a strong homesickness.

Vullo’s documentary can touch all these aspects, with reliability and lightness. It is interesting, emotional and sometime really funny.
It is doubly moving, because it moves telling our grandparents story, but it also touches us because that story, in many cases, is also ours. So, the screen works as a mirror and keeps connected two worlds: through this documentary our past and our future look each other, discovering a common history, which is able to link two, maybe three, different generations among Italian emigrants of anytime.

These are the strengths of this nice, moving documentary. It is able to speak to different generation, telling a common story, sometimes funny, sometimes painful, but always told with closeness and a great lucidity.