Documenting the passions aroused by a famous race

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The Last Victory

OPENS JUNE 18, CERT 12A, 88 MINS

Each June, in the small, well-heeled town of Siena outside Florence, thousands gather in the vast, sloping square to witness the infamous palio, a horse race which over the years has attracted the ire of animal rights activists, been the scene of vicious fist fights and become mired in shady dealing. It also inflames the passions of the 11 Siena districts who compete in the race. John Appel’s documentary is set in the tiny Civetta district in the weeks prior to the race. Civetta has not won the palio since 1979, and this sorely affects the pride of its residents. But this year they have their best chance in living memory to make amends…

The Last Victory grippingly depicts the strangely cloistered lives of the Civetta residents and their peculiarly intense attachment to their neighbourhood, as well as their huge emotional investment in the race. As the day approaches, there’s no joy in their faces, be it the 92-year-old Edigio or a young female student?only the sickly dread of failure. And, by the end, you’re just as nervous as they are.