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On Your Radar: Palio
by Kathryn Loggins

Directed by Cosima Spender

This is no ordinary horse race. This is the Palio. Twice a summer the city of Siena, Italy hosts one of the most thrilling and dangerous sporting events that has been a part of its tradition since the 1600s.  The Palio is a grueling three-lap race between ten horses and their riders within the Piazza del Campo, which is the city’s central square. It is the most important 90 seconds of the lives of these men and their horses. The most thrilling part of the Palio is arguably not the race itself, but the significance it has for the city and its economy. The city of Siena is broken up into ten districts and each district puts forward a rider and a horse.  The selection process, which assigns each district their horse and rider, is ancient, but incorruptible. Once the selections are made, the bribery and backstabbing beings, which is the most important part of the Palio. Each district will do whatever it takes to secure a win, even if that means paying off the Pope himself. It’s a fascinating scene to observe and, although the immorality of it is hard to take in, there is a sense of deep-rooted tradition that is somehow admirable.

Palio is shot with a vibrancy that is captivating and directed with a poignancy that is utterly riveting. Director Cosima Spender manages to capture the humane spirit of this brutal race amidst corruption and turmoil. She focuses on telling the stories of the riders and horse owners that represent the real and enduring spirit of this ancient tradition. This film won the award for Best Documentary Film Editing with this Jury Comment: “This film viscerally transported us into an event and turned life into art."