Archive of films Palio / Palio

United Kingdom / Italy
2015, 90 min

Section: Documentary Films - Competition
Year: 2015

The oldest and most famous palio – a rough-and-tumble bareback horserace – takes place twice yearly in the heart of Siena. The race not only requires riding skills but also a healthy dose of behind-the-scenes wheeling and dealing. Who will come out on top – legendary jockey Gigi Bruschelli or his gifted former trainee Giovanni Atzeni? The answer lies in this gripping docudrama, in which emotion, movement, and gesture are pared down to their most crystalline form.


The oldest and most famous palio – a rough-and-tumble bareback horserace – takes place twice yearly (July and August) in the heart of Tuscany. Lots are drawn for ten stallions from ten of Siena’s districts. The jockeys – uncritically praised in success and mercilessly castigated in failure – contemplate which team’s colors they will wear this time. Passionate fans crowd the pavement, windows, bays, and balconies of the Piazza del Campo. The traditional race, in which equestrian skill and strategy play a major role – as do backroom wheeling and dealing – can now begin... The main characters of this rigorously crafted docudrama are palio legend Gigi Bruschelli, a master of intrigue, who needs just two more wins to break the all-time record, and his former trainee Giovanni Atzeni, a young star on the rise. The thrilling spectacle, whose camera and dynamic editing could vie with the technical mastery of a silver screen epic, captures the suspense, emotion, movement, and gesture in their most crystalline form.

Martin Horyna

About the director

Cosima Spender, the daughter of British artists, was born and raised in Italy, then moved to England when she was 14 years old. She graduated in anthropology and art history from the University of London, then earned a degree from London’s National Film and Television School in 2001. She has directed three documentaries for the BBC: The Importance of Being Elegant (2004), Dolce Vita Africana (2008), and Without Gorky (2011), the latter screening at Sheffield Doc/Fest, Britain’s largest documentary festival, among others. Spender has also directed commercial work for the music industry. She lives in London with her two children and her husband, editor Valerio Bonelli, who cooperated on the documentary Palio.


Altitude Film Sales Ltd.
34 Foubert's Place, W1F 7PX, London
United Kingdom
Tel: +44 207 478 7615

About the film

Color, DCP
European premiere

Section: Documentary Films - Competition
Director: Cosima Spender
Dir. of Photography: Stuart Bentley
Music: Alex Heffes
Editor: Valerio Bonelli
Producer: James Gay-Rees, John Hunt
Production: On The Corner Films, Palio Pictures
Sales: Altitude Film Sales Ltd.


Cosima Spender

Film Director

Vicki Brown

Sales Agent

Valerio Bonelli

Film Editor


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