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Review: Autumn Beat Explores The Influence Of Music On The Youth




Any second-generation born from an ethnic diaspora and in this case, a black one, living in a Western or European country with a history of colonisation can feel the familiarity of Autumn Beats. The story is beautifully told in warm undertones poetically sharing an experience of being black in Italy.


Directed by Antonio Dikele Distefano, the film is a non-linear tale that follows two young Afro-Italian brothers in their early twenties; Tito and Paco.


The brothers chase their dream of becoming successful rappers as they struggle to understand what is required to thrive in the industry while staying authentic to themselves. As brothers, they clash and differ in terms of temperament but one thing is for certain; they care deeply for each other.


Submerged in the sounds of Biggie, Nas, and 2Pac, the film looks at the musical landscape of a multicultural Italy with a heavy focus on its youth culture. In one of the earlier scenes of the movie, there’s a look of wonderment on a young Paco’s face when he first listens to a cassette tape in a records store and rushes to share it with his younger brother and friend.


The influence of the 90s and early 2000s reaches not just what these impressionable kids listens to but also what they wear as they copy trend-setters in street fashion and hairstyles. An example of this is Paco who impersonates Wu-Tang Clan's Ol' dirty bastard with glee.


It's interesting how Dikele demonstrates the effect of American culture on Italian youth. You can even argue that this influence can also be found in other communities, like the European and British societies.


This is something that hasn't directly been looked at enough or truly appreciated in European cinema or literature. In Autumn Beat, the millennial generation have a clear absence of role models in mainstream media and carries a sense of shame with their motherland.


As a result, to escape the hostile environment of life, these second-generation kids would rather gaze at the African American rappers who have pioneered a sound that is utterly theirs. I understand the appeal that Paco, Tito and children similar to them have in leaning towards a genre of music that encapsulates them entirely.


In other words, they find themselves and are accepted in a way. However a criticism of Dikele is that there are only subtle glimpses into what it means to be black in Italy or a traditionally white country, racism isn't really acknowledged, rather the struggle comes from class if anything.


However, what Dikele does very well is translate the sense of loss and mourning that these kids go through when living in these countries. Paco, the rebellious one, divorces his adoptive mother Grace's love of Christianity in favour of music. This action can also be seen as a break from the ideals and beliefs that Grace carried with her when she immigrated.


The decision demonstrates the need for these young children to confirm acceptance, even though ironically, it's from a cultural black form of musical expression that Paco finds comfort and support when he needs to impress white Italian males to gain entry into this world.





Antonio Dikele describes the movie “ [...] as a breakout project. A story about a cross-section of second-generation youths that, far from elitist dramas of Italian cinema, seeks to find a new path where vitality, emotion and music converge to create a once-in-a-lifetime cinematic experience.”


The film's timeline is deconstructed through the three distinct acts. Starting in 2010, when Paco's career starts to pick off, transitioning to their youth in '99, to finally travel back to the present.




Antonio Dikele is heavily inspired artistically by Spike Lee’s He’s Got Game, Barry Jenkin’s Moonlight and Wong Kar Wai's work. He says; “ I’ve always been fascinated by the kinds of narratives that draw from reality. Particularly those family dramas, they somehow are able to rip your soul apart. And what strikes me the most about those stories are the isolated images.”


"Like slides, capable of freezing time. When I came up with Autumn Beat, I immediately imagined it in cinematic terms. Like one of those Asian films that I love so much for their ability to portray deterioration in a delicate and poetic way.”


Dikele has written four novels between 2014-2018 and has worked in the music industry as a creative director and consultant with many independent artists and major labels. He also previously worked on the Netflix original series Zero. This series made history as the first Italian tv show with a majority black cast putting marginalized voices at the foreground.


Autumn Beat is now out on Amazon Prime.

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