TorinoFilmLab - Training, development, Funding


Fonzi's Law

Gaëlle Denis



Who really committed that atrocious crime, five years ago, when the Inspector from Bari was burned in his own car? This film is 24 hours in a small, isolated, corrupt town, beginning with the rumor that Nando, the local crime ring boss, has been released from jail after being framed for the murder of the Inspector. Will he return and seek revenge?

The first thing that happens is that Fonzi, Nando’s estranged younger brother, walks into town after an absence of ten years. It is a suffocatingly hot and dusty Summer. Skuppe, Nando’s cousin, a dodgy junkyard dealer has unscrupulously established himself as the local boss. Pisso and Giordano, reckless young car thieves, want to have their own stolen car business and now hope for Nando’s help.

Miraculously, Pisso falls in love with beautiful, frustrated Livia, the Mayor’s daughter. Chicco, son of the Sorceress, Nando’s mistress, is secretly enquiring into the trafficking of toxic waste for which the town’s Mayor may be responsible. The Mayor, seeking re-election, decides to go ahead as planned with the small town feast that evening.

And then Nando comes home. Blood will flow in the settling of accounts.


Despite having all the ingredients of an explosive cocktail of crime and violence, the basis of a strong film noir, I feel the adaptation of this book has the potential for revisiting the genre. It contains more than murder, revenge, shooting and sex.

I want to concentrate on those delicate moments of humanity, slowly exposing how the characters internalize emotions, repress anger and fall in love. My ambition is to enlighten the soul and style of the story, allowing the audience to project their own fear, alienation and hope. My vision is to write a beautiful and poetic film, like Once Upon a Time in Anatolia, portraying the special atmosphere of these lost souls in an unforgiving landscape. A dark and visual piece but hopeful nonetheless.

The book was challenging to adapt as it contains the stories of many complex characters, interweaving them and juxtaposing past and present events. The screenplay adaptation centres on a simple plot, where strong themes of love, revenge, corruption and downfall are developed beside the on-going conflict between the old and the new generation. I was immediately attracted by how the young generation fights against social class predestination and prejudices. Where we expect them to embrace corruption, violence and laziness, they show hard work, courage, honesty, love and hope. Therefore, I am focusing on developing those characters: Pisso, a reckless and disillusioned young man, changes unexpectedly from being a depraved and angry car thief into someone who wants to commit to love and a brighter future; Chicco, the city engineer’s assistant, is the inflexible and intelligent son of a red-haired prostitute, determined to discover the truth behind the trafficking of toxic waste.

I visualize a modern Western set in the suffocating heat of Summer. One can almost smell the dust, the ugliness, and the dirt and feel the dry skin of the town’s inhabitants during the Summer drought, in a land roasted by the sun, with the acid of buried toxic waste seeping up through parched earth. It is a place that smells like death, where no one is innocent. The project could be shot anywhere that the land is dry and infertile, like southern Italy in Puglia or the South of France, in Marseille or Camargue.

When you live in the shadow of violence, can love ever fully blossom? What chance has love in a place like this?
Gaëlle Denis

Scriptwriter, Film Director

production notes

directed by
Gaëlle Denis