This film is part of Free

Chance to Live

Italian children, left homeless after the war, get a chance to rebuild their lives in a miniature republic where they make their own laws. But adjusting to the new life is not easy...

Documentary 1949 19 mins


This moving film tells the story of Carlo, the shoeshine boy from Naples, who comes to live in the Boys' Republic of Civitavecchia after being orphaned in the war. Founded by Irish priest Mgr. Patrick Carroll-Abbing, the community is run by the boys themselves, who make their own laws and have daily assemblies. Presented as a mini-neorealist film, we follow Carlo’s progress as he attempts to integrate into the community, until a moment of anger puts his future in jeopardy.

Mgr. Patrick Carroll-Abbing founded the self-governing, non-sectarian Boys' Republic of Civitavecchia in the late 1940s. His wartime experiences in Rome made him aware of the vast humanitarian problem of children left orphaned by the war. He was particularly concerned by the older boys who would shine shoes for a living but also resort to crime (as portrayed in Vittorio de Sica’s neorealist classic 'Shoeshine' ). The ‘Shoeshine Hotel’ refuge Carroll-Abbing founded in Rome was the prototype for the much more ambitious community shown in this film. The project was a success and is still in existence today: now known as The Boys' & Girls' Towns of Italy, it is run by young people from over 20 different countries.