What Would Sophia Loren Do? …tribute to a Diva

TORONTO – In an age where “Influencers” aren’t always leaders, audiences may find it refreshing to revisit a bygone era where influence and leadership weren’t mutually exclusive pursuits. Sophia Loren, an iconic actress known for her talent, charisma and unshakable on-screen characters, continues to be philanthropic using her influence to assist in humanitarian causes – child welfare among them (through UNICEF and the World Food Programme). Loren has always carried herself with unwavering conviction, a quality that attracted audiences to her films and that she seamlessly transmitted onto each of her roles, be it a pizza maker, a mother, a wife or a millionairess. Whatever the part, she played it with strength and elegance. But it wasn’t always easy for the now 89-year-old actress, born into poverty in 1934 as a child of war. Under these conditions Sophia learned how to make silk out of a sow’s ear, and she did it under the spotlight – Italian style.

“What Would Sophia Do?” is a documentary narrated by Vincenza Careri, an Italian-American wife, mother and grandmother from Fort Lee New Jersey (whose family also came from Naples). Since she started watching Loren’s movies, Vincenza would often try to remedy any situation by asking, “What would Sophia Loren do?” The film treats the viewer to clips of Loren’s most notable work, and pivotal scenes, which paralleled in some manner what Vincenza was experiencing in her own life. “In Two Women she depicts a very strong woman who no matter what was happening, the bombings, the violence, she was going to protect her children”. But as Vincenza explains in the film, “parents can’t protect their kids every minute” – which was the case with two of her sons. One battled stage four Hodgkin’s disease, and the other abuse from a stranger.  Watching how Loren’s character dealt with her rape and the rape of her daughter in “Two Women” however, became a point of reference for Vincenza, an inspiration. “That’s courage that you don’t even have. You create that power right out of your gut”.

The idea for the documentary preceded the intention to have Loren interviewed for the film. But while Loren was being honoured at the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures, Regina took the opportunity to reach out to Sophia’s son Edoardo – to share how much his mother meant to hers. From there, Sophia agreed to meet her long- time fan Vincenza, who with her never-say-die attitude seems as much a sister to Loren than a distant fan. As the documentary concludes, we’re equally enamoured with both Vincenza and Sophia’s personal stories and their ability to turn adversity into opportunity. “No one gets everything they want in life. No one does. But we all get enough to feel that our lives are important”, proclaims Vincenza. Hearing such wisdom it’s no wonder her daughter was inspired to make the film. A film that’s not just about someone’s love of cinema, but how cinema and art can help us battle the hard times.

Watch “What Would Sophia Loren Do?” on Netflix 

Massimo Volpe is a filmmaker and freelance writer from Toronto: he writes reviews of Italian films/content on Netflix

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