22 February 2005 | ItalianGerry
Adventures of a 19th Century Italian boy in search of mamma.
"From the Apennines to the Andes" was based on a story of Edmondo De Amicis included in his sentimental children's book "Cuore" (Heart) that was widely read in Italy and used to teach lessons on moral rectitude, filial love, social and patriotic responsibility.
This film follows the general outline of the story, while making some changes along the way. The hero of the film is 11 year old Marco Valesini (age 13 in De Amicis' story.) He leaves his home in Genoa to try to reach Argentina where his mother has been living for a time as a servant to make money to send home to the family. Marco reaches Argentina as a stowaway on a ship. Having arrived in Buenos Aires, he enlists the help of several people to direct or transport him to a remote mountain location where his mother now resides.
On board the boat that plies the Paraná River, he befriends the captain and, like a true Genoese, makes a nice pesto for him and the boat-hands using what he has learned from his mamma to prepare the famed pasta sauce of his city.
Eventually he finds mamma, who at first doesn't recognize him, but he remains with her during the time she is ill, and they share a couple of happy encounters before beginning their return voyage home to Italy, together again, to rejoin papa.
The movie was directed by Folco Quilici, whose real fame in the Italian cinema rests with his innumerable exotic documentaries such as "The Last Paradise" and his boy-befriends-shark movie "Tiko and the Shark." He has used much of this movie as an excuse to show us the scenery of Argentina, from the gauchos on the pampas to the peoples of the Andes, all in Cinepanoramic-Technicolor. The picturesque qualities of the narrative sometimes obscure the picaresque adventures of our hero. You can hardly blame him since the elements of the story are rather slim to begin with. Marco Paoletti plays Marco Valesini and isn't required to act very much except to look cute-little-boyish and happy, plaintive, or tearful as required. He was seen in a few other Italian films, played a true picaresque role in the Spanish film "Lazarillo" and performed in Aldo Fabrizi's "Il maestro" along with another Italian boy actor his age, Edoardo Nevola.
Like the story of De Amicis, the film was really made with the young person in mind and must have done well at matinée audiences for Italian youngsters, and perhaps Spanish-speaking ones since this Italian-Argentine co-production was shown primarily in those two versions. It was never released in America. A 1943 version directed by Flavio Calzavara had starred Cesarino Barbetti as young Marco. There was also a 1916 silent version and a 1990 TV mini-series based on the ever-popular story. There is also a Japanese animated version from 2000 called "Marco."