Elisa Amoruso: A Director For Our Times

With a passion for telling stories about women, and a talent for creating compelling dramas, she has created unique works that resonate with audiences worldwide.

Born in 1981 in Rome, Elisa Amoruso studied Performing Arts at the city’s La Sapienza University and went on to further her studies in screenwriting at Rome’s famed Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia.


She began her filmmaking career with short narratives and documentaries that were met with much success and prestigious awards including the David Donatello and Nastro d’Argento from the Italian Journalists Association. 


Watching her films and reading the credits, which include many women in key roles like cinematography and editing, it’s clear that Amoruso is a filmmaker who supports other women, trailblazing creative paths for them, too.


That support has landed on both sides of the camera. In 2016, she made a poignant documentary that was released in Italy on International Women’s Day. “Strane Straniere” (Strange Foreigners), presented at the 2016 edition of Rome’s film festival, tells the story of five women forced to leave their countries for various reasons in search of new beginnings in Rome. The common ground among them is their entrepreneurship. Amoruso explores the women’s processes of reinventing themselves in this majestic, but foreign land. 


She continues the theme of bringing together different cultures by interweaving the stories of her diverse characters. She is part of a new crop of Italian filmmakers enjoying the proliferation of streaming platforms. Over the last decade, some of Italy’s most talented 30-something filmmakers have teamed up with streaming companies like Netflix, Hulu and Amazon to tell stories of their generation to global audiences. Amazon has played a huge part in Amoruso’s worldwide reach, featuring three of her feature films on its platform.


Her 2019 feature-length documentary, “Chiara Ferragni: Unposted,” is a brilliant, comprehensive essay on the evolution of social media and the birth of the influencer. Whether you’re an active participant or still living analog, the documentary is a must-see to understand how digital media has come to dominate the trend-setting landscape. 


Chiara Ferragni was born in the northern Italian city of Cremona in 1987. She had a normal childhood, nurtured by loving parents and two sisters. Her mother, an executive in the fashion industry, was known for always having a camera in her hand, capturing special moments on video. In the documentary, Ferragni credits her bringing-up for the confidence she has as an adult. “Your true self-confidence comes from your childhood, I think. If you had a happy childhood, if your parents make you feel special, you will always feel special,” she said. 


Amoruso tells Ferragni’s story in a touching yet informative manner that shows the brilliance of this young entrepreneur who possesses an innate knowledge of how to connect with her peers and build a following that’s earned her wealth and fame. The downside is the emotional torment she’s experienced due to the barrage of hateful messages that come with the territory of being an internationally-known influencer. The film shows the human side of a person known mostly by her image. 


“Chiara Ferragni: Unposted” premiered in Rome in November of 2019, making it one of the last Red Carpet events before the pandemic, and it was magnificent. The event brought together Italians from the film and fashion worlds, dressed to the nine, to celebrate one of Italy’s early high-profile Amazon premieres. Since then, Amazon has embraced the work of young filmmakers with original films and series aimed at telling contemporary stories. The streaming platform recently released its Amazon Original,  “The Ferragnez: The Series,” a docuseries on Ferragni, which follows her life with rapper-husband Fedez and two children. 


Amoruso’s second narrative feature film, “Time Is Up,” stars Gen-Z favorites, Bella Thorne and Benjamin Mascolo, who were dating in real life when the movie was shot. A story of young love, the film follows Vivien (Thorne) as she tries to make sense of her parents’ crumbling marriage and her distracted boyfriend while preparing for a final exam in physics that is key to her college placement. When she meets Roy (Mascolo), who is on the swim team with her boyfriend, the two strike up a friendship. He is also dealing with the challenges of deciding his future plans, which often clash with his father’s expectations. When the story moves to Rome, we are faced with stunning drone shots of the city, including aerial views of the Pantheon, Vatican City, Castel Sant’Angelo, and the Temple of Hercules Victor. After strolls through Villa Borghese and Piazza di Spagna, Vivien and Roy’s relationship turns romantic but is halted by a sudden accident. 

Amoruso tells this story of love, hopes, and tribulations with sweeping cinematography, dream-like sequences, and a hip, mesmerizing soundtrack that includes songs by young artists such as Billie Elish and Kučka.


A continuation of Vivien and Roy’s romance, Amoruso’s 2022 “Game of Love” takes the couple to Sicily, the land of Roy’s origins. After the death of his grandmother, Roy has to settle the estate, which includes an old farmhouse that he inherited. Upon arriving, Vivien meets a young woman, Anna, who crashes her motorcycle outside the family home where the couple is staying. When Vivien offers to help Anna, the two strike up a friendship and end up spending a lot of time together over the next few days. There is an awkwardness between Anna and Roy. Vivien picks up on it after she notices the two have matching tattoos. She presses Roy for answers but he denies knowing her. So, she goes directly to Anna who reveals the history between them. When Vivien realizes that Roy has been lying to her, she is furious. He is on the brink of losing her. He does some serious soul-searching and finds the answers that he’d been looking for all along.


Amoruso’s latest directorial effort is three episodes in the acclaimed Disney+ series, “The Good Mothers.” Based on a true story about three women caught in the abusive clutches of ‘Ndranghewith a female prosecutor.

In an article penned for the website, televisual.com, Amoruso wrote, “The show is entirely based on Alex Perry’s book ‘The Good Mothers’. Reading it, I was really moved by the true stories of these women: they were living a very oppressed life in Calabria under patriarchal rules.” 


Before being offered the project, she was aware of the plight of one woman, Lea Garofalo, but didn’t know of the others or the female prosecutor that would help them break free of the mafia chains. Once she read the book, she felt drawn to the women and wanted to do her part in telling their stories. “These women had never been able to decide for themselves what to do with their lives, they couldn’t choose their husbands, and they became mothers when they were fifteen and seventeen years old, respectively. They didn’t have a perspective of what a different life might be. They had been living in a little town in a very narrow-minded society, ruled by criminals,” she stated. 


All of Amoruso’s projects are currently available on their corresponding streaming platforms. Click in the titles for direct links. 

-Written by Jeannine Guilyard for the August 2023 issue of Fra Noi. Click here to subscribe.

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