‘Zero’ review: Delightfully-grounded take on the superhero origin story

The series tackles serious issues of immigrants and gentrification of neighbourhoods in an entertaining and engaging manner, aided by a talented cast

What a charming superhero origin story this is! While Zero is about a shy teenager, Omar (Giuseppe Dave Seke), who discovers he can become invisible, it is also a story of growing up, first love, friends, family, ambition, greed and home.

Omar/Zero lives in a poor neighbourhood in Milan drawing Manga and delivering pizza for Sandokan’s (Frank Crudele) pizzeria — nothing to do with Kabir Bedi. Omar lives with his father and sister Awa (Virginia Diop) who has a problem with her eyesight. His mother has vanished mysteriously and left Omar with a dread of paintings.

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On one of his pizza-delivering rounds, he meets Anna (Beatrice Grannò). Over a pizza the two bond even though they are from the opposite ends of the economic spectrum. Anna is studying architecture and is waiting for the results of an application to study architecture in Paris. Omar is saving up to move to Paris to pursue his dream of becoming a cartoonist.

Zero

  • Episodes: 8
  • Run time: 27 minutes
  • Creator: Antonio Dikele Distefano
  • Starring: Giuseppe Dave Seke, Haroun Fall, Beatrice Grannò, Dylan Magon, Daniela Scattolin, Frank Crudele, Madior Fall, Virginia Diop, Alex Van Damme, Roberta Mattei, Thierry Toscan, Miguel Gobbo Diaz
  • Language: Italian
  • Storyline: A teenager discovers he has the power of invisibility and uses it to save his neighbourhood

Life in Omar’s neighbourhood is tough with rich construction companies hoping to evict them with rising rents, arson and vandalism. Shariff (Haroun Fall) wants to save the neighbourhood and when he finds out about Omar’s gift, he (Shariff) asks him to join his friends, songstress Sara (Daniela Scattolin), tough Momo (Dylan Magon), and athletic Inno (Madior Fall), to save their homes.

The deeper the five dig into the conspiracy, the more they realise that Rico (Miguel Gobbo Diaz), who is doing all the arson and violence, is just the muscle. Even as Omar and his friends are trying to raise the money for generators, and find out the truth about their living conditions, Omar learns of love and also some of the truth behind his mother’s disappearance. A sinister woman, known as the Virgin (Roberta Mattei) might have some of the answers.

At just about 25 minutes, the eight episodes move smoothly to a lovely, lush, electronic beat. Using both Italian and English music, the soundscape is to die for. The eighth episode feels a little rushed, obviously setting up for the second season. The series tackles serious issues of immigrants and gentrification of neighbourhoods without regard for the original inhabitants in an entertaining and engaging manner aided by a super talented, mainly black Italian cast. That it is shot in Milan is an added bonus. The exploitative Them could take a lesson from Zero on how to make a point without using the sledgehammer of misery.

It is not by accident that Omar’s superpower is invisibility. In the fashion capital of the world, Milan, immigrants and their problems are invisible. Developed by rapper and author Antonio Dikele Distefano and based on one of his books, Zero gives a delightfully grounded take on the superhero origin story.

Zero is currently streaming on Netflix

 

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