Warriors of Sanita

By Luca Nappa | Drama
2 street kids discover a mutant with superpowers.

Francesco and Vincenzo are two little boys and best friends who play together on the streets of Naples, in a neighborhood called Sanita, one of the most troubled areas in the city. Together they explore haunted buildings, skip school and investigate local mysteries, one of which is a mutant with superpowers, a man with a deep wound on his face. They try to bring him home, keeping him safe and to themselves.

But when the two boys get caught up in the small-time world of neighborhood gangs and bullies, they pull their strange new friend into the conflict and discover that they may actually be right about the mysterious man they’ve adopted as their own.

Written and directed by Luca Nappa, this magical realist short grafts two unlikely genres onto one another, with fascinating, emotionally compelling results. There’s a strong strand of children’s fantasy, particularly inspired by 80s classics like “E.T.,” in how the storytelling puts its kid protagonists’ emotions, imaginations and concerns at the center of the story, with the magical aspect amplifying the impact of their actions and ingenuity.

But the fantastical elements are overlaid over a base of Italian neorealism, which offers a steady, sustained, almost unflinching observation of the social milieu of Naples, where the story takes place. Documenting the daily life of the people and places often forgotten by history and politics, these conditions give new life and shape to the children’s fantasy genre, offering fresh perspectives on both cinematic storytelling traditions and sociopolitical realities.

The heritage of neorealism is especially notable in the film’s visuals, which have an almost documentary-like acuity and clarity of detail. The gritty yet luminous cinematography and camera movement capture the Sanita area, putting viewers in close quarters with the ramshackle yet enduring homes, streets, noise, and buildings where the two boys grow up within.

The two actors playing the boys — nonprofessional performers Francesco Capaldo and Vincenzo Quaranta — have a spiky yet loyal bond and portray both the energy and innocence of youth mixed with a certain toughness and street smarts, and it’s a pleasure to watch them spar and strategize together as they attempt to pull their “mutant” into their orbit.

The mutant, of course, is mysterious and magical to them, and that is partly because they don’t immediately grasp his social situation. It is a unique view through which to situate the idea of a migrant, a figure that exists on the margins of an already marginal world and who seems inscrutable and enigmatic in both their silence and their need to stay hidden.

Actor Saeid Haselpour has the job of playing both the mysterious mutant’s social reality and his status as a figure of imagination and strange fascination to the two boys (and the difficult task of performing without any dialogue.) Yet the fascination he exerts make him a valuable pawn in the emerging battles in the streets of Sanita, and threaten to reveal him to the world at large.

“Warriors of Sanita” is very much a children’s fantasy story, where the huge, overwhelming aspects of the world or life are integrated into understanding with unique, resonant and creative ways. As the two boys slowly make sense of their mutant and his place in the world, what emerges is a powerful parable about how the world works — and how it often treats those marginalized and forgotten in the shadows and cracks of society.

You Might Also Like:

Feeling Through (Oscars)

By Doug Roland | Drama
A homeless teen meets a deaf-blind man who changes his life forever...

Call Connect

By Josiah Allen and Indianna Bell | Drama
A young helpline operator takes her first call and gets more than she expected.

The Things You Think I’m Thinking

By Sherren Lee | Drama
A burn-survivor goes on his first date after his accident.


By Christophe M. Saber | Comedy
A father slaps a disobedient child. Then a bystander threatens to report him for abuse.

The Landing

By Josh Tanner | Features
A man uncovers the horrifying truth of what landed on his childhood farm.

Sometimes, I Think About Dying (Sundance)

By Stefanie Abel Horowitz | Drama
A woman thinks about dying. But a co-worker asks her out.

The Goodnight Show

By Charlie Schwan | Features
A virgin tries to get laid before an unstoppable asteroid ends the world.

Naysayer ft. Steven Yeun

By David M. Helman | Celebrities
A father is cut off from his son, then takes matters into his own hands...

Joseph’s Reel

By Michael Lavers | Features
An elderly man is given the opportunity to relive one day of his life.

Lost and Found (Oscars)

By Andrew Goldsmith and Bradley Slabe | Animation
A clumsy crochet dinosaur must unravel itself to save the love of its life.


By Joe Gillette | Features
2 strangers at a wedding reception make an unexpected connection.

Exit Strategy

By Travis Bible | Features
A man in a time-loop must work with his brother to prevent a catastrophic fire.

Garfield (Sundance)

By Georgi Bank-Davies | Official Selection
A young woman wakes up in a strange place, with a strange guy.


By Noel Loozen | Comedy
A young man works in a food truck, across from a brothel with a girl who needs his help.

Long Branch

By Dane Clark and Linsey Stewart | Features
A young woman finds a one-night stand. But he lives 2 hours away via public transit.

Your favorite short films you haven't seen yet.

Inspiring and insightful. Entertaining and enlightening.
That's what you can expect here: no fluff. Just a steady
stream of the best films delivered to your inbox.