When I spent two weeks this past summer on the estate, Ulivello, coincidentally featured in “The Peasant and the Priest,” I left with the same impression. The sun shines bright, except when interrupted by dramatic thunderstorms. The oil and wine both flow freely and are of exquisite quality. However, as is so often the case, Tuscany has a complicated and trying story under the veneer of la dolce vita.
Esther Podemski, who taught drawing here at Sarah Lawrence in the past, tells a piece of that story in her documentary “The Peasant and the Priest,” screening this Thursday at 5:30pm in Titsworth Lecture Hall. She examines two stories. One, of the last cultivator of the olive groves of Ulivello, deals with how agriculture and tradition are simultaneously being rapidly transformed, leaving skilled and careful farmers in a lurch. The other follows a priest who reaches out to prostitutes with homes in nations abroad, brought to Florence on the tides of globalization.
Podemski intertwines these two modern stories, as well as past and present, through the Ambrogio Lorenzetti medieval fresco, Allegory of Good and Bad Government. The fresco, located in Siena, Italy, portrays how society benefits or is harmed by the actions of a government to ensure the continued livelihood of its people. Although created centuries ago, the ideas it conveys are highly relevant today, as the stories of this peasant and priest demonstrate. Following the screening of the film, there will be a Q&A with the director.
Article image self-taken; feature image Google Images