Ruins of America, a film review on the crisis of the American myth

Outsiders, activists, hippies, outlaws, irregulars, homeless people: they are the protagonists of the documentary film series Ruins of America, in cinemas from Tuesday January 9th [QUI DATE E CITTà] and also streaming on Zalab Viewthe online platform created by ZaLab, one of the most important production and distribution companies in the field of real cinema.

Three films are scheduled: Stonebreakers Of Valerio Ciriaci, West of Babylonia Of Emanuele Mengotti And Last Stop Before Chocolate Mountain Of Susanna Della Sala. Three directors under 40 who have lived part of their lives in the United States and who have decided to talk about aspects that are normally not sufficiently explored.

3 documentaries to tell the story of America in crisis

The three films show «a broken America, struggling with the crisis of a myth that fascinates millions of people around the world, while at the same time there is an ongoing cultural conflict that involves its inhabitants and is the subject of debate even outside its borders”, declare the directors. The traveling exhibition was therefore created to create «a moment of discussion about a land in transformation, where from the ruins of an often idealized past we feel a powerful rising cry of liberationwhich tells us that that model is no longer such today. Dealing with the past it doesn’t mean freezing it, but facing it and reopen the discussion, to update it». The protagonists of the three films are in fact “people too often branded as ‘outsider‘, while we know them to be united by the choice not to feel oppressed by the rules and to claim their diversity and freedom within the society in which we live.”

In the same months in which the media will cover the race for the American presidential elections, the three directors will be in tours around Italy [INFO] to dialogue with the public together with journalists and experts.

The cities involved in the review

The cities involved in first stages of the tour will be a Rome (Troisi cinema)Venice (Rossini and Astra cinemas), Bassano del Grappa (Metropolis cinema), Genoa (Nickelodeon cinema) e Brescia (Eden cinema).

To Venice [INFO] the filmmakers will confront the journalist Federico Leoni (editor-in-chief at SkyTG24 and author of essays and podcasts dedicated to the United States*) e Nicolò Groja (speaker of Radio Ca’ Foscari) and then with Alessandro Del Re (artistic co-director of Lago Film Fest), while in Bassano [INFO] they will discuss it with Morena Faverin (artistic co-director of Lago Film Fest).

They will be present in Rome (INFO). Alessio Marchionna (journalist for the magazine Internazionale and author of the newsletter American) and other guests, in Brescia (cinema Eden – INFO) will moderate Matteo Asti (Teacher at the Catholic University of Brescia and the Accademia Santa Giulia of Brescia) and in Genoa [INFO] the screening will take place as part of the festival Cinemaversity.

«We are happy to be able to give this exhibition the opportunity to also be seen online via Zalab View. The three films, extremely lucid and personal, allow a large audience to get to know those United States that are normally not told about”, they add from ZaLab.

West of Babylonia

In Slab City, California, people live without running water and electricity. The roads are dirt and the population (the “Slabbers”) fluctuates between 400 people in summer and 4000 in winter. Slabbers are young and old, hippies and neo-Nazis, outlaws, artists. All united by the desire to be free and not have to respond to the rules of American society. Everything outside of Slab City is “Babylonia” to them. Slab City was born on the grounds of a military base active during the Second World War. In the early fifties people began to live there, while in the eighties there was a real boom in residents. The film is a kaleidoscope of characters and stories that live and inhabit this land on the edge of society, where the landscapes partly recall the settings of western films and partly an apocalyptic world similar to Mad Max. The Sonoran desert surrounds, with its astonishing beauty, the life of the many who, fleeing the world, have created for themselves another way of existing.

West of Babylonia it is the first installation of a trilogy dedicated to the Western United States.


Stonebreakers is a documentary film that tells what happened in the United States in 2020, when during the Black Lives Matter uprising following the murder of George Floyd and the presidential elections, a real battle around historical monuments began. This cultural conflict calls into question what has been the story of the history of America up to now, also concerning the statues of Christopher Columbus, the Confederates and the founding fathers. The film aims to be a testimony to the events of 2020 and at the same time a contribution to the ongoing debate on memory and history: what is the history of the United States? And again: do personalities like Christopher Columbus deserve to be remembered through statues? How to deal with your past?

The film participated in international festivals and obtained various awards: the Unmissable Distribution Award, the Jury Mention and the Mymovies Audience Award at the Festival dei Popoli, the Award for Best Editing and for Best Documentary Film Production at the History Film Fest, the Sound and Territories Award at the Mente Locale – Visioni sul Territorio Festival and the award for Best Documentary Film at Workers Unite! Film Festival.

Last Stop Before Chocolate Mountain

Last Stop Before Chocolate Mountain is filmed in Bombay Beach, a place in Southern California that is often cited when talking about climate change, due to its toxic lake. But today it is also a story of rebirth from the rubble: frequented as a holiday resort between the 1950s and the 1980s by artists such as Frank Sinatra, the Beach Boys and Bing Crosby who came here to live a social life and to practice water skiing , boating and fishing, Bombay Beach was then abandoned due to an environmental and health disaster. The salinity of Lake Salton (Salton Sea) and pollution have in fact increased to the point of destroying wildlife. Almost all the fish died, their smell and the health risk meant that tourists never returned and the inhabitants moved elsewhere. But some of them, too poor to move elsewhere or too attached to the place, remained, long held up as outsiders. Bombay Beach remained a ghost town until a few years ago, when some structures were reopened. Thanks to its past fame, the area has begun to attract many visitors again, especially since the eccentric inhabitants began hosting an annual arts festival called the Bombay Beach Biennial. Its vitality is today a strong attraction for artists, intellectuals, event organizers and hipsters. And if the number of residents is still limited (around 300), the price of land has increased.

Bombay Beach is a place that asks us several questions: what if, to escape the discomfort we feel in big cities and free ourselves once and for all, we started again from the ruins of what we have been, instead of resigning ourselves to decreeing the death of places we loved? Isn’t it time to rethink the way we are together, to truly become part of a community again? Bombay Beach is but one possible response to the crisis affecting the entire planet Earth.

Selected in several festivals, Last Stop Before Chocolate Mountain had its world premiere in 2022 within the Semaine de la Critique section of the Locarno Film Festival and subsequently won three awards at the Festival