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Ennio Morricone, The Other Italian

When the legendary 87-year-old film composer finally won his first Oscar, he chose to speak in his native language. It was a subtly powerful message back home in Italy.

Morricone with his Oscar
Morricone with his Oscar
Massimo Gramellini


TURIN — On stage at the Oscars, Ennio Morricone spoke in Italian. If memory serves correctly, no one else had ever done that. It's quite likely that he knows how to speak English, or at least enough to get through the ritual thank-yous of the occasion. What's more, he was reading from a piece of paper he'd superstitiously folded and kept all evening in his tuxedo pocket. And so, even if his knowledge of the language of Shakespeare and Tarantino was limited, he would have had no trouble getting someone else to help jot down a few lines.

Instead, he chose to use Italian. He did so with self-knowledge and without any sort of ostentatious pride, but also with no sign of that inferiority complex typical of many provincial Italians, who jump at the chance to use any word with a whiff of foreign exoticism, or of certain politicians who fill their mouths with phrases such as "stepchild adoption," botching the pronunciation and not knowing the meaning.

It was striking to hear our language in the temple of the Hollywood gods, from Charlize Theron to Steven Spielberg, and to see them all rise to their feet to honor the Maestro. And it was even more striking to hear the meaning of Morricone's words, spoken slowly and yet sharply, completely devoid of rhetoric even in the final tribute to his wife of nearly six decades.

On the world's most international stage, you had the feeling you were discovering that Other Italian, the one who knows how to combine seriousness and levity, normality and talent, flair and dignity. You don't hear much about him because he doesn't stand out, but there is at least one in every Italian family. And his presence gives meaning to all the others.

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What's Climate Migration? A Straight Line From Libyan Floods To Lampedusa Chaos

Libya's catastrophic flood last week coincided with massive arrivals of migrants on the Italian island of Lampedusa. What look at first like two distinct stories are part of the same mounting crisis that the world is simply not prepared to face: climate migration.

Aerial photo shows people standing on the broken highway between Derna City and Sousse City in east Libya

An aerial photo shows the highway destroyed by floods between Derna and Sousse in eastern Libya.

Ibrahim Hadia Al-Majbri/Xinhua via ZUMA
Valeria Berghinz

Updated September 18, 2023 at 1:45 p.m.


They are difficult numbers for the brain to comprehend: 4,000 dead, 10,000 more missing. This is the current estimate of the toll — with most victims having drowned and washed away almost immediately — after two dams burst last week during a massive storm in eastern Libya.

As the search continues for victims in and around the city of Derna, across the Mediterranean Sea, a different number tells another troubling story: in the span of just two days, 7,000 migrants have arrived on the island of Lampedusa.

Midway between Sicily and the North African coast, the tiny Italian island has long been a destination for those hailing from all points south and east to arrive on European soil. Still, the staggering number of arrivals this week of people ready to risk their lives on the perilous journey across the Mediterranean should again set off alarms that reach far beyond the island.

Yet these two numbers — one of the thousands of dead, the other of thousands of survivors — are in some way really one story.

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