Francesco [2017 Lorena Alvarado film] Review

Screen Shot 2018-12-17 at 8.09.50 PM
Genre: Sports Documentary
Year Released: 2017

Distributor: Fabrica

Origin: Venezuela/Italy
Running Time: 7 minutes
Rating/Recommended Audience: PG

Related Films/Series: N/A
For Fans Of: Beatrice, Murderball, The Crash Reel, My Way to Olympia, The Rebound, Soul Surfer, Unbeaten

-This film is on Lorena Alvarado’s website.
Fun Facts:

-Francesco Bettella is from Padova, Italy. He’s a multiple time medalist in swimming by winning two silver medals at the 2016 Paralympics in Rio de Janiero, two gold medals in Mexico City, and he’s a six-time gold medalist in the Campionati Italiani (Italian Championship for swimming).

-Director Bonus: Lorena Alvarado has two documentaries about Italian athletes with physical disabilities. There’s Francesco and Beatrice which I’ve also reviewed. Also, both works were commissioned through Fabrica.

Venezuelan director Lorena Alvarado should be no stranger to being featured on Iridium Eye. For those more aware of my reviewing portfolio should know that I’ve covered her other documentaries Beatrice and Comadres. Both of them were great watches and the former was a gateway to her filmography while also causing me to open my eyes to athletes in sports I never thought about. That documentary dealt with wheelchair fencing which I had never heard of until watching that inspirational film, but this other doc deals with another sport I never thought would be possible as it covers another Italian Paralympic alumnus.

Instead of a fencer, this doc covers a day in the life of a swimmer who’s decorated with medals despite his condition.

Francesco is about Francesco Bettella. He’s been swimming since he was three, not because he wanted to, but it was for therapy. Francesco has a condition where his arms and legs are disproportionate to the rest of his body and are atrophied due to muscle conditions. He has issues with putting his shoes and uses his nose to press the touchscreen on his smartphone just when he does his everyday things. Swimming competitively isn’t his day job though. He’s a mechanic of all things as he tinkers with various machines whenever he’s not in the pool.

This was another winner from Alvarado with this documentary. Much like Beatrice, I wasn’t familiar with swimming as something to be available in the Paralympics, so my eyes were opened once more again when it came to this issue. The cinematography was super crisp and clean with most of the modern footage. There’s also home video footage interspersed especially in the intro sort of like how that editing worked in Comadres although for a different reason. It was an inspiring watch again and the production values were great. Francesco’s story also gave a sense of optimism even with the scenes where he’s posing in his wheelchair, driving with a modified steering wheel, or riding a custom bike for his physical condition. This documentary was certainly amazing in those fields with the production, editing, and storytelling.

Francesco does fall short in some ways though. I did have some issue reading some of the subtitles since some scenes were too light for me to make out and the coloration didn’t always mesh. I also wished this would’ve been longer. They could have longer footage of some of his swim meets in addition to him doing his everyday activity. In addition to the swimming for therapy, I would’ve liked to have seen more explanation with competitive swimming or becoming more independent despite his condition.

This documentary about this swimmer was another outstanding watch. The camera work was spot-on with the mixes of footage, savvy editing, and the usage of slow-mo on certain scenes. Francesco Bettella’s story is very inspiring and you just want to root for him to succeed in everything he does. I do wish some of the other aspects like the subtitle coloring or the length would’ve matched the rest of the film. Francesco certainly made some winning laps in this film and I strongly recommend it like Lorena Alvarado’s works.

Adjustable Point System:
Add 1 point if you like inspirational documentaries.
Subtract 1-2 points if you like longer films.

-Amazing story from Francesco Bettella
-Phenomenal visual presentation
-Original subject matter

-Too short of a run time
-Subtitling coloration issues
-Some more competitive swimming footage would’ve been great

Final Score: 9/10 points

Content Warning: Francesco is safe for most audiences to watch. Some of the imagery could scare younger viewers when they see the swimmer’s atrophied limbs, but there’s nothing that’s really offensive there.

-Curtis Monroe

All photos property of their respective owners and used under US “Fair Use” laws. Francesco is property of Lorena Alvarado and Fabrica. The screenshot is from Lorena Alvarado’s site and is property of Lorena Alvarado and Fabrica.


  1. I too felt Francesco was as equally fleshed out as Beatrice! I’ve always been a huge sucker for underwater cinematography so this added on to Alvarado’s amazing directing skills just makes this short so beautiful and crisp. The visual beauty of it defines the meaning and impact of being a paralympic swimming champ in a way. Alvarado and her cinematography is just…mwah!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Awesome! I’m really happy you checked out Francesco, too.

      I know, right? Lorena Alvarado has amazing cinematography and directing skills. This was another eye-opening documentary since I never knew there was paralympic swimming either. Looks like you’re a fan of her work now and I certainly don’t blame you. Haha! I have reviewed two additional works from her with Comadres which is about her grandmother and her most recent one Me In the Mirror which is her first US co-production and first (majority) English language work.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Right? I didn’t know about paralympic swimming either. Gosh, I’m very uneducated in this topic aren’t I haha?

        I’ve seen you reference Comadres a few times in both reviews so that’s definitely one down to watch! I didn’t know about Me in the Mirror though. That might be interesting to spectate considering it’s a more different take (US co-production).


      • Sure thing. Don’t feel bad. This was all new information to me and I consider myself to still be learning in multiple fields. From a sports perspective, I’ve been getting into Caribbean cricket recently and I checked out Fire In Babylon which I also reviewed. That’s a great watch. Besides that, I wonder what other parasports there are.

        That’s right and it’s another good one. Comadres takes place directly in Alvarado’s hometown of Caracas, Venezuela. Me In the Mirror came out last year if I’m not mistaken and it certainly was different with the interviewees and especially with the subject matter.

        Liked by 1 person

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