Jonas Carpignano grew up between Rome and New York, surrounded by his father’s family of filmmakers. As a graduate student at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, Jonas began directing the short films that would later bring him widespread critical acclaim.
In 2010, Jonas visited the town of Rosarno to tell the story of the first race riot in Italy’s history. The resulting short film, A Chjàna, had its world premiere at the 68th Venice International Film Festival where it won the Controcampo Award for “Best Short Film.” It would go on to screen at over 35 international film festivals, including Lincoln Center, MoMA’s New Directors/New Films, and SXSW.
Four years later, Jonas made A Ciambra, which depicts a night in the life of a young Romani boy living in Southern Italy. The film premiered at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival where it won the Discovery Award, followed by the Grand Jury Prize for short filmmaking at the Miami International Film Festival.
After A Ciambra, Jonas moved onto feature filmmaking with Mediterranea, which tells the story of two refugees who make the dangerous journey from Africa to Italy in search of a better life. The film debuted at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival and was recognized by the National Board of Review as the year’s “Best Directorial Debut,” and made its way into the top five foreign language films of the year. The film was later nominated for three Independent Spirit Awards, including “Best First Feature,” and earned Jonas the distinction of “Breakthrough Director” at the 2016 Gotham Independent Film Awards. He was also named a Guggenheim fellow.
For his next project, Jonas developed A Ciambra into a feature film of the same name. Making its premiere at the 2017 Cannes Film Festival – and produced by legendary Academy Award-winner Martin Scorsese – the film tells a coming-of-age story that harkens back to Italy’s heritage of neo-realist cinema. The film would go on to win the Europa Cinema Label prize for “Best European Film,” represent Italy for “Best Foreign Film” at the 2018 Academy Awards, and be named the “Best Italian Film of 2017” by the National Union of Italian Film Critics (SNCCI).
Jonas rounded out his Calabrian trilogy with A Chiara at the 2021 Cannes Film Festival, which won Europa Cinemas Cannes Label prize for Best European film. The Europa Cinema Label jury remarked that the film “reflects a genre that has been extensively covered in cinema but this time from a new perspective” (via Variety). A Chiara was acquired by NEON for North American distribution.