A "tir" is a tractor trailer, and Alberto Fasulo's "Tir" is a docu-style drama about an ex-teacher-turned-trucker who misses home but is reluctant to give up his now-higher salary. Docu helmer Fasulo, in his first fiction pic, captures the tedium of life in a trucker's cab, the powerlessness felt by drivers sent hither and thither by dispatchers, and the toll life on the road takes on those back home. Solid, intermittently engrossing yet rarely vital, "Tir" does perhaps too good a job of showing the boredom of the long haul. Rome's top prize will ensure fest bookings.

The award was likely given as much for the message as for the pic itself, which -- though well made and acted with impressive authenticity by Branko Zavrsan -- feels slight in comparison with the irony implied by a system where a trucker (an unquestionably essential job) has more security than a teacher. Branko (Zavrsan, "No Man's Land") and Maki (Marijan Sestak) share duties in their truck, criss-crossing Europe with various loads, struggling to keep sleepiness at bay.

Branko and wife Isa (Lucka Pockaj, only heard via telephone) were teachers back home, but his inability to find stable work led him into trucking, where he now earns three times what he would make in school. Through cell-phone conversations with Isa, viewers get wind of the tension engendered by their weeks if not months apart. Life is passing him by: Isa tells him of her activities and he hears his new grandson, yet he's in France moving potatoes, with no vested interest in his container's contents.

Time pressures are constant, with the dispatcher telling Branko and Maki to remove the regulation time card attached above the visor so they can fudge their legal breaks and get the loads onboard and shipped faster. Monotony is even more of a problem once Maki jumps ship for another 18-wheeler, and Isa tries to pressure Branko into taking a substitute teacher's position despite the instability and lower salary.

Fasulo (also the film's d.p.) never leaves the truck, shooting either inside or just outside, and expertly simulating a documentary. A scene in Italy, where Branko is stopped by angry fellow truckers on strike, hints at the country-by-country problems faced by these generally anonymous men, yet despite brief tensions, the sequence is quickly over, and with it the sense of friction that temporarily jolted the pic onto another level.

Zavrsan, who spent months training and then further months driving across Europe with the helmer in the truck's cab, makes audiences forget this is fiction. Whether he's behind the wheel, washing himself alongside his rig or cooking a quick meal on a makeshift stove, his identification with the role appears complete. Fasulo favors fixed shots (though not entirely), often choosing unusual angles within the cab, presumably to diversify the visuals. The results are appealingly spare and ably edited.

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