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A new trailer for the documentary Palio highlights the intensity and phenomenon of the world’s oldest horse race.
Taking place twice a year in Siena, Italy — with each race never lasting more than 90 seconds — the Palio features horses from each of the city’s 17 competing districts. The jockeys, who are loved or hated by the districts they represent based on the outcome of the race, make secret, lucrative deals ahead of the event.
Director Cosima Spender received rare behind-the-scenes access to the race and everything that leads up to it. Her film, which won best editing in a documentary at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival, follows veteran rider Gigi Bruschelli, who has won 13 races in 16 years, mastering the system. He’s two races away from beating the world record, but his former apprentice, jockey Giovanni Atzeni, is preparing to challenge him.
The trailer introduces the battle between Bruschelli and Atzeni, teasing, “only one can be king,” and features epic music and thrilling scenes from races. The preview also shows the crowds and intense interest in the race among people in Siena. The film also explores the strategy, intrigue and secret deals made to secure a win.
Palio‘s production company, Archimedia, also announced Thursday that U.K.-based Picturehouse Entertainment will release the film in the U.S. on Nov. 6, with the doc arriving on iTunes that month.
“After an award-winning run at Tribeca Film Festival, we are thrilled to bring this story to a wider audience in the U.S.,” said Picturehouse director of distribution Marc Allenby in a statement. “We’ve seen this film connect with viewers of all ages, and with the U.S. captivated by the recent exploits of the racehorse American Pharoah, the timing seems perfect.”
The film is produced by Senna and Amy producer James Gay-Rees, alongside John Hunt.
“The Palio is one of the greatest stories never told,” said Hunt in a statement. “We seized a historic opportunity to look behind closed doors and capture that story in intimate and dramatic detail. I have been fascinated by the Palio for 25 years, and I am certain it will resonate similarly with U.S. audiences this November.”
Spender added: “We’re proud that this film does more than just illustrate the scope of this epic event. Palio captures the human story behind the race — the hopes, dreams, drama and corruption that make it unique and a picture of modern Italy in microcosm. Having grown up near Siena, I could connect with the key characters to get inside access — and the drama that played out was something no screenwriter would dare imagine.”
The Hollywood Reporter‘s Tribeca review said of Palio, it “plays like a classic sports drama, thanks to its memorable central characters,” adding, “a Hollywood screenwriter couldn’t have come up with anything better.”
The New York Times, meanwhile, called the film “Rocky on horseback.”
The next Palio race takes place this Sunday, Aug. 16, in Siena.
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