Saturday, February 27, 2016

Basilicata: Terra di Cinema - "The Young Messiah" in American Theaters March 11


Shot on location in the Sassi district of Matera and in Rome at Cinecittà studios, "The Young Messiah" will be released in American theaters on March 11. Adapted from Anne Rice's 2005 novel Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt, the film centers on the fictional story of a seven-year-old Jesus Christ, who returns to Nazareth from Egypt, and discovers the truth about his life. The film stars Adam Greaves-Neal, Sara Lazzaro, Sean Bean, David Bradley, Lee Boardman, Jonathan Bailey, and David Burke.

Watch the trailer..



Click here to watch a news report in Italian.

Click here to read about other biblical epics made in Basilicata.



Thursday, February 25, 2016

Interview: Antonietta De Lillo on her Nastro d'Argento win with Gianfranco Pannone for "Oggi Insieme Domani"

This morning, the winners of the Nastri d’Argento for Best Documentary were announced. Among the winners is Antonietta De Lillo, a director I’ve admired for years. I first saw her work at the 2005 edition of Open Roads: New Italian Cinema, an annual film series held at Lincoln Center, which showcases contemporary Italian films. There, she presented “Il resto di niente”, a beautiful story about courage and determination set in the 17th century, adapted from Enzo Striano’s novel. Her latest film, the documentary “Oggi, insieme domani” (OIDA or in English- Today Tomorrow Together) is a film which speaks to the complexities of love and relationships in this day and age, and the current social revolution happening in Italy- in particular with same-sex marriage.

I asked De Lillo a few questions about the making of this film and the current situation of modern love in her country. Our interview was done in Italian, so both versions are included.
What inspired you to create this project?
I worked for five years on developing this film with the production company Marechiarofilm. “Oggi insieme domani” also represents the prototype. I wanted to show the annals of our country, bringing together what many authors avoid, which is a "narrative" of the (political) party from whom Italy was afflicted for the last two decades and that made us lose sight of a shared sense of belonging. Love, which is the theme of this film, is the feeling that moves our relationships and so it seemed the right instrument to use in returning to a portrait of Italy today, to show our changes and our revolutions. 

Che ti ha inspirato a creare questo progetto?
L'idea del film partecipato, un genere di documentario che con marechiarofilm sto sviluppando da oltre cinque anni e di cui Oggi Insieme Domani Anche rappresenta il prototipo, mi è venuta pensando che mi avrebbe fatto piacere realizzare degli annali sul nostro paese, riunendo lo sguardo di più autori per evitare una "narrazione" di parte da cui l'Italia dell'ultimo ventennio è afflitta e che ci ha fatto perdere di vista un senso comune di appartenenza. L'amore, che costituisce il tema di questo secondo film partecipato, è il sentimento che muove le nostre relazioni e quindi mi è sembrato la chiave giusta per poterci restituire un ritratto dell'Italia oggi, dei nostri cambiamenti e delle nostre rivoluzioni. 

In your opinion, how has love and the institution of marriage in Italy changed since the referendum on divorce by Pier Paolo Pasolini?
We are facing a new great revolution of the family, of the nuclei, relationships and personal relationships, as in the time of the referendum on divorce when there was a massive response from civil society. Today, we are going beyond what modern society says- who we are supposed to be with. The Protagonists chosen by the makers of this film are people very different from each other and the beauty of the film is precisely this- that all these stories coexist in harmony and without any judgment. In real life, everyone is fighting for his own idea and to live his own life. “Today Tomorrow Together” expresses the ideas of all these people, creating and ideal situation in which there is room for all kinds of love. 

Nella tua opinione, come è cambiato l'istituzione del matrimonio dal referendum sul divorzio e dai Comizi d’amore di Pier Paolo Pasolini?
Siamo di fronte a una nuova grande rivoluzione della famiglia, dei nuclei, dei rapporti e delle relazioni personali, come ai tempi del referendum sul divorzio quando ci fu una reazione massiccia della società civile. Oggi siamo andati oltre, oggi la società moderna dice "Con chi voglio". I protagonisti scelti dai vari registi sono persone estremamente diverse tra di loro e la bellezza del film è proprio che al suo interno convivono tutte queste storie in armonia e senza nessun giudizio. Nella vita reale ognuno si batte per la propria idea, in Oggi Insieme Domani Anche trovano espressione le idee di tutti e si compone così una società per me ideale dove c'è posto per tutti i tipi di amore. 

From the interviews on the streets and the stories of other participants, was there anything that really surprised you?
What surprised me after listening to the stories of these people and these couples who have the ability not just to meet and to find love but to cultivate it without ever leaving each other, like Gloria and Olivia. The real breakthrough and the last, greatest revolution for me is the resistance. 

Dalle inchieste per le strade e storie raccontate dagli autori che hanno partecipato al progetto, c’era qualcosa che ti ha sorpreso?
Quello che mi ha sopreso forse era anche quello che cercavo, cioè le persone, le storie, le coppie che hanno la capacità non tanto di incontrare l'amore quanto di trasformarlo anche dopo che si lasciano, o di coltivarlo senza separarsi mai, come Gloria e Olivia. La vera rottura è durare nel tempo, la più grande rivoluzione per me è la resistenza. 

We’ll keep you updated on the international distribution for this film, In the meantime, watch watch a clip from the film.

Among other winners that we've covered here before are Pietro Marcello's "Bella e perduta", Roberto Minervini's "The Other Side", "La voce di Pasolini" by Matteo Cerami and Mario Sesti and Samantha Cristoforetti, personaggio dell’anno (Astrosamantha di Gianluca Cerasola). Click here for the complete list of winners.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Basilicata: Terra di Cinema - Interview with Filmmaker Andrea Filardi

Update: May 5, 2016
It's just been announced that "Tutti gli Uomini hanno un Prezzo" will be featured in the 2016 Cannes Film Festival in the section- Short Film Corner. See the festival's catalog for more information.

(Intervista anche in italiano)

At just 23-years-old, Andrea Filardi is getting international recognition for his poetic style of storytelling inspired by his southern Italian roots.

His short film, “Tutti gli uomini hanno un prezzo” (All Men Have a Price) was a project he and his classmates created during a filmmaking course in his region of Basilicata. Top-notch actors, dedicated instructors, an enthusiastic crew and the passion they share for talking about a grave issue facing their land, led to a momentous student film and a beautiful, poignant story about the connection to one’s origins shadowed by the desperation for survival. The film has received its share of well-deserved praise and just recently, was acknowledged in the U.S. by three online film festivals. 

Filardi was born and raised Lauria or as he proudly boasts- “the town of Rocco Papaleo”. He attended the University of Salerno where he earned his degree in literature. He is currently attending the Hochschule der Medien in Stuttgart, where he is furthering his education in filmmaking. I spoke with Andrea Filardi about his promising career and the influence of Basilicata on his work. Our interview was done in Italian, so both versions are included. 

How has your land of Basilicata influenced your work as an artist?
For me, roots are important. I am very attached to my land, although in the last three years I have lived more abroad than in Basilicata. This link with Basilicata is naturally reflected in my way of thinking about directing. The words of Leonardo Sinisgalli explain this concept: "The Lucano never feels satisfied with what he has done because he feels like it’s never enough. The Lucano is always haunted by the demons of discontent.” This same feeling of dissatisfaction is always with me. Even when I am on the set, I never settle for anything. I always search for a way to improve and to do better. When we were shooting the scenes for “Tutti gli uomini hanno un prezzo”, we would reshoot many times without going forward until I achieved the result I wanted. 
 
La Basilicata ha influenzato il tuo lavoro come artista?
Per me le radici sono importanti. Sono molto legato alla mia terra, anche se negli ultimi tre anni ho vissuto più all’estero che in Basilicata. Questo legame con la Basilicata naturalmente si riflette nel mio modo di concepire la regia. Vorrei usare le parole di Leonardo Sinisgalli, per spiegare meglio questo concetto. “Il lucano non si consola mai di quello che ha fatto, non gli basta mai quello che fa. Il lucano è perseguitato dal demone della insoddisfazione”. La stessa insoddisfazione mi accompagna perennemente, anche sul set naturalmente e mi porta a non accontentarmi mai, anzi a ricercare sempre un modo per migliorare, per fare meglio. Per questo motivo quando giravamo il cortometraggio ripetevamo le scene molte volte senza andare avanti finché non si raggiungeva il risultato che volevo.   
 
How did the story for "Tutti gli Uomini hanno un Prezzo" come about? Why did you want to talk about the oil?
The short film was part of a course I took called, "Ciak Basilicata" which is an integral part of the program Contemporary Senses Cinema, coordinated by CinemadaMare. Franco Rina is the director and it’s organized in collaboration with the Region of Basilicata. We chose this theme because the question of oil in Basilicata is a live issue, and unfortunately this is not always clear. The newspapers do not mention it, except for when it’s absolutely necessary (such as accidents in the oil center) but then it’s forgotten again. For this reason the oil issue in the film remains a constant black shadow in the story. “Tutti gli uomini hanno un prezzo” is based on a true story that really happened to a family of Lucania. Since working on the script, a lot of things have changed, but the meaning of the story remains the same.

Come nasce la storia "Tutti gli Uomini hanno un Prezzo"? Perchè volevi parlare del petrolio?
Il corto si colloca all’interno di un percorso di formazione “Ciak Basilicata” che è parte integrante del programma Sensi Contemporanei Cinema, coordinato da CinemadaMare nella persona del direttore Franco Rina ed è realizzato in collaborazione con la Regione Basilicata.  Abbiamo scelto questo tema, perché la questione del petrolio in Basilicata è una questione viva, presente e purtroppo non chiara. I giornali non ne parlano, diciamo che sussurrano qualcosa solo quando è strettamente necessario (come ad esempio gli incidenti nel centro oli) ma subito dopo tutto ritorna sullo sfondo. È per questo motivo che nel corto il “petrolio”, causa scatenante di tutta la vicenda, rimane sempre un’ombra nera sullo sfondo della storia, viene nominato quasi sottovoce una sola volta in tutto il corto. “Tutti gli Uomini hanno un prezzo” è tratto da una storia vera, realmente accaduta ad una famiglia lucana. Poi però lavorando sulla sceneggiatura molte cose sono state cambiate, ma il significato della vicenda è rimasto lo stesso.   

Where was the film shot?
It was shot at the agriturismo, “La Collinetta” in Nova Siri, which is located in the province of Matera. The owner, Pierlucio Ferrara, that in the film was the character, Nicola, was very kind and gave us complete access to shoot scenes inside and outside of the estate, while the scenes of Puccini’s “Madame Butterfly” were shot at the Teatro Regio di Parma, for which I am still grateful.  
 
 
Dov'è il posto del film?
Il Cortometraggio è stato girato interamente a Nova Siri, in provincia di Matera, all’interno dell’Agriturismo “LA COLLINETTA”. Il proprietario, Pierlucio Ferrara, che nel corto l’ho voluto come interprete di Nicola, è stato molto gentile e disponibile mettendoci a disposizioni tutti i locali interni ed esterni della sua tenuta. Mentre le scene della “Madama Butterfly” di Puccini sono state girate al Teatro Regio di Parma, che ringrazio ancora.   

What do you feel are the qualities that make Basilicata this land of cinema?
Surely the first quality that comes to mind is Basilicata’s landscape- the richness and variety. You can still find these genuine, untouched spaces within a few kilometers of each other. The barren and arid landscapes of the Calanchi, the vast greenery of Metaponto, the rugged coastline on the Tyrrhenian Sea, the snow-covered mountains of Sirino and of course the ancient architecture of the towns, Matera in particular, make Basilicata perfect for filming. The availability and diversity of the landscapes can bring down the costs of moving from location to location. I hope that Basilicata will continue to attract film productions and will continue to produce homegrown artists, and thus truly become the “land of cinema” for artists who want to show the reality in which they live or where they grew up. 
 
 
Quali sono le qualità che fanno della Basilicata una terra di cinema?
Sicuramente la prima qualità della Basilicata è la ricchezza e la varietà di panorami molto particolari. È possibile trovare ambienti ancora autentici nell’arco di pochi chilometri. Dai paesaggi brulli e aridi dei calanchi, alle distese verdi del metapontino, dalle coste frastagliate sul Tirreno alle nevi del Sirino e naturalmente alle antiche architetture dei centri abitati, prima fra tutti Matera. Questo la rende perfetta per le produzioni cinematografiche, perché c’è la disponibilità di paesaggi molto variegati e si possono abbattere i costi di spostamento. Io spero però che, insieme ai paesaggi, la Basilicata riesca sempre più ad attirare produzioni cinematografiche anche e soprattutto per gli autori lucani. E quindi diventare davvero “Terra di Cinema” per le maestranze artistiche che decideranno di raccontare la realtà in cui vivono o in cui sono cresciuti.    

How did you end up working with filmmaker Antonio Andrisani?
Antonio Andrisani was the main actor of a masterclass in Ciak Basilicata, back when we were writing the screenplays. Then I contacted him to offer him this part. Despite being very busy with the preparation of his current project with Pascal Zullino, after reading the script for my short, he immediately accepted my offer. He is always very open and attentive to new projects by young filmmakers. Working with him was truly inspiring. 

Come sei arrivato a lavorare con Antonio Andrisani?
Antonio Andrisani era stato protagonista di una masterclass a Ciak Basilicata, quando ancora stavamo scrivendo le sceneggiature. Poi l’ho contattato per proporgli di interpretare il politico e nonostante fosse molto impegnato con la preparazione del suo film diretto insieme a Pascal Zullino, dopo aver letto la sceneggiatura del corto, mi ha subito dato la disponibilità. Lui è sempre molto aperto ed attento alle nuove proposte dei giovani e lavorare con lui è stato davvero stimolante.   


So what’s your next project?
I am currently working on a new short film made entirely in Stuttgart, Germany. I am the assistant director and screenwriter. It’s adapted from Anton Chekhov's "The Kiss". The film is part of a filmmaking course of HdM - Stuttgart and it’s been a great training experience. There were 70 of us on the set with an international crew that communicated in English even though the short is in German. I'm also writing a new script to be shot in Basilicata, but it’s still in its infancy. 

Stai facendo un nuovo progetto?
Sì, al momento sto lavorando su un nuovo cortometraggio interamente realizzato in Germania, a Stoccarda. Io ho curato l’aiuto regia e la sceneggiatura, tratta dal racconto breve di Anton Cechov “The kiss”. Il corto fa parte di un corso di formazione della HdM – Stuttgart ed è stata una bella prova lavorativa. Sul set erano coinvolti più di settanta comparse, la troupe internazionale comunicava in inglese ma il corto è in lingua tedesca.  Inoltre sto scrivendo anche una nuova sceneggiatura da girare in Basilicata, ma ancora è in fase embrionale.   

Follow "Tutti gli uomini hanno un prezzo” on Facebook for all the latest updates and screenings.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Friday, February 19, 2016

Interview: Director Massimo Gaudioso on his new film "Un paese quasi perfetto" - made in Basilicata


For decades Massimo Gaudioso has given voice, personality, idiosyncrasies and life to some of the most memorable and fascinating characters in Italian cinema. His 17-year collaboration as a screenwriter with director Matteo Garrone resulted in contemporary classics like Gomorrah, Reality and Tale of Tales.  According to Gaudioso, their fateful meeting took place two decades go at the Torino Film Festival where they were debuting their films. They had a lot in common- in particular the desire to make a self-produced, independent film, which did not follow the usual guidelines, instead was made solely out of their enthusiasm and passion. The exchanged ideas on cinema and immediately found common ground. They vowed to work together someday. “We then made a short film together for a tram in Rome that ran through the city. Matteo asked me if I wanted to help him write his third film Estate Romana (Roman Summer) and since then, we have been together and we’ve developed this beautiful friendship. We matured together professionally, sharing all the successes and even now, when we start to think of a movie, there is always the same “unconscious” desire to do something we had never done before and to learn new things.” 

Gaudioso has written other memorable contemporary screenplays including, Benvenuti al sud, È nata una star and more recently, Carlo Verdone’s new film, L’abbiamo fatta grossa. Now, he is in the director’s chair for the highly anticipated, Un paese quasi perfetto, which boasts an all-star cast with Silvio Orlando, Fabio Volo (also a famed author), Carlo Buccirosso and Miriam Leone.

Adapted from Jean-François Pouliot’s 2003 Quebec-made comedy, La grande séduction which was set in a small Canadian harbor, Un paese quasi perfetto takes place in the visually-stunning town of Castelmezzano nestled in the Dolomite mountains of Basilicata. The plot in Gaudioso’s film is the same as the original, only the setting has changed. Un paese quasi perfetto is the story of nearly desperate, but enthusiastic people in dire need of jobs. Most depend on measly government checks to get by. Provoked by the determination of one fed-up inhabitant named Domenico, the town works together to convince the CEO of a factory to build a plant in the town. The biggest requirement is the town must have a residing doctor. And so begins the great adventure to find and convince their chosen big-city Milanese plastic surgeon to pack his bags and set up shop in Castelmezzano. Through briberies, the town beauty and phone tapping, everyone pitches in to help realize their dream of getting back to work.

I had the great pleasure of talking (through email) with Massimo Gaudioso. He was generous with his answers to my questions and wrote with passion and love about his work. It’s no surprise that he has had so much success. Our interview was done in Italian, so both versions are included.
Why did you want to remake the Canadian film, La grande séduction by Jean-Francois Pouliot?
It’s been a while now that I wanted to get back to directing. I am always busy working on other people's projects, I could not find the time to think about one of my own. When they brought me this film I said, here’s a story I would like to have written. In fact, I found several similarities with my style and my personal taste- alternating between comedy and drama- that mix of sentiment and irony, of fantasy and reality. Secondly, the characters, which are very much like those that I’ve always been drawn to: the losers, the poor bastards who bend over backwards to try to stand up to the injustices of life and so daring chase a dream, which ends up being bigger than themselves. Finally the theme- the dignity of work, which I think is very timely in my country.

Perché volevi rifare il film canadese, La grande séduction by Jean-Francois Pouliot?
Era da un po' di tempo che avevo voglia tornare alla regia ma, essendo sempre impegnato a lavorare sui progetti altrui, non riuscivo a trovare il tempo per pensarne uno tutto mio. Quando mi hanno fatto vedere questo film mi son detto: ecco una storia che mi piacerebbe avere scritto. Infatti avevo trovato diverse affinità con il mio stile e il mio gusto personale. Innanzitutto quella alternanza di comicità e dramma, quel mix di sentimento e ironia, di favola e realtà che lo caratterizzano. In secondo luogo i personaggi, che assomigliano molto a quelli che prediligo da sempre: i perdenti, i poveri cristi che si fanno in quattro per cercare di reagire alle ingiustizie della vita e in modo rocambolesco inseguono un sogno apparentemente troppo più grande di loro. Infine il tema, la dignità del lavoro, che mi sembra di grande attualità nel mio paese, anche se, trattandosi di un tema drammatico, non incontra i favori del pubblico italiano.

How did it feel to be the director again after writing for so many years?
Actually, I started doing both. Then, out of laziness and the circumstances of life, I found myself just writing. But I have always been an atypical writer, always very aware of what I consider the two elements of screenwriting: the set and the editing. I really enjoyed directing again. I would say it was liberating to get back behind the camera. 

Come si sente ad essere regista dopo avere scritto le sceneggiature per tanti anni?
In realtà io ho cominciato facendo entrambe le cose, poi, un po' per pigrizia, un po' per le circostanze della vita, mi sono trovato a fare soprattutto lo sceneggiatore. Ma sono sempre stato uno sceneggiatore atipico, dal mio punto di vista, sempre molto consapevole di quelli che considero gli altri due momenti della scrittura: il set e il montaggio. Mi sono molto divertito, anzi oserei dire che è stato liberatorio tornare dietro la macchina da presa. 

How does your experience as a writer influence your work as a director and vice versa?
For me, the two have always been inseparable, so I cannot say how one thing affects the other. Perhaps I could say that being a writer gives me more control and even a greater respect for the script, while being a director helps me to be a bit less rigid and abstract in the writing phase, with greater attention to characters.

In che modo la tua esperienza come scrittore ha influenzato il tuo lavoro di regista e viceversa?
Per me sono sempre state due cose inscindibili, quindi non saprei dire quanto è in che modo una cosa influenza l'altra. Forse potrei dire che l'essere sceneggiatore mi porta ad avere un maggiore controllo e anche un maggiore rispetto del copione, mentre l'essere regista mi aiuta ad essere un po' meno rigido e astratto in fase di scrittura, con una maggiore attenzione verso i personaggi. 

Why did you choose Castelmezzano as the place for a story adapted from this film?
I was looking for a place that had all the right characteristics to be believably adapted from the original. Those characteristics being a very small, isolated town, almost uninhabited for lack of work, but with glimpses of amazing beauty. After a long process of location-hunting, I decided not to go with the sea, which for us is synonymous with holidays. Instead, I focused on the mountains. I thought of the pristine, tourist mountains. Being native to the South, I focused on a southern region that has always been unjustly forgotten and which has unfortunately had problems similar to those told in the film. As soon as I discovered the Dolomite mountains in Basilicata, I had no more doubts.
Castelmezzano, Italy (photo by Michelangelo Soldo)
Perché hai scelto Castelmezzano come il luogo ideale per una storia tratta da un film francese?
Veramente è un film canadese... Cercavo un luogo che avesse tutte le caratteristiche giuste affinché la storia risultasse credibile quanto quella originale, ovvero: un paese molto piccolo e isolato, quasi disabitato per la mancanza di lavoro, ma con squarci di sorprendente bellezza. Dopo un lungo lavoro di sopralluoghi ho scartato il mare, che da noi è sinonimo di vacanze, e mi sono orientato sulla montagna. Anche in questo caso ho cercato una montagna poco turistica, incontaminata ed essendo originario del sud mi sono orientato su una regione del sud che è sempre stata ingiustamente dimenticata e che ha purtroppo conosciuto problematiche simili a quelle raccontate nel film. Girandola a fondo ho scoperto le Dolomiti lucane e non ho avuto più dubbi... 


Silvio Orlando in a scene from "Un paese quasi perfetto"
There has been a huge increase in film production in Basilicata in the last few years. Tell me about your experience working there.
For me as well as the whole cast and crew, it was a wonderful, human experience. The enthusiasm and the willingness with which we were welcomed is indescribable. I remember that after the last take, we all broke into tears: something that had never happened before, and that I will always carry with me. We involved the entire town and mobilized the entire province. Many locals came to the auditions, people who had never acted nor had ever seen a production with a film camera. I chose many of them as extras because their stories, their faces and their childlike enthusiasm filled the film. I even gave a role to the oldest person in the town, Aunt Catherine at 102-years-old. What a force of nature! There was always a wonderful atmosphere on the set. The sound was crystal-clear due to the air purity and even the light was perfect. What can I say: I hope that the movie projects at least one tenth of these good vibrations.

Negli ultimi anni, è stato un aumento della produzione di film in Basilicata. Raccontami la tua esperienza di lavorare lì.
È stata per me è per tutta la troupe, attori inclusi, un'esperienza meravigliosa umanamente. L'entusiasmo e la disponibilità con cui siamo stati accolti è indescrivibile. Ricordo che dopo l'ultimo ciak sono scoppiati tutti a piangere: una cosa che non mi era mai capitata e che porterò sempre con me. Abbiamo coinvolto tutto il paese, anzi mobilitato un'intera provincia. Sono venute tantissime persone ai provini, gente che non aveva mai recitato nè aveva la minima idea di cosa fosse la macchina produttiva di un film. Ne ho scelti tanti, anche per fare ruoli minori. Con le loro storie, le loro facce, il loro infantile entusiasmo hanno riempito il film. Ho fatto recitare perfino la più anziana del paese, zia Caterina, 102 anni, una forza della natura! C'è sempre stato un clima splendido sul set, il suono era cristallino per la purezza dell'aria e anche la luce era ideale. Che dire: spero che nel film si senta almeno un decimo di queste buone vibrazioni.

Have you thought about your next project? Will you continue with directing?
I would like to but then work always has other ideas! Let’s see if I can find the right story.. but there is no hurry.  

Hai pensato al tuo prossimo progetto? Continuerai con regia?
Mi piacerebbe ma lavoro sempre per gli altri! Vediamo se trovo la storia giusta... Senza fretta. 

Gaudioso's film, Un paese quasi perfetto will actually make its world premiere in the United States on Sunday 21 February at the annual Los Angeles – Italia Festival.
Click here for the complete schedule of films.

Un paese quasi perfetto will premiere in Italy on 24 March. Watch the trailer 

Castelmezzano at dusk (photo by Michelangelo Soldo) 
For more information about Castelmezzano and the Dolomite Lucane, visit them online. City council member Michelangelo Soldo, suggests checking out this website - http://www.borghipiubelliditalia.it/en/ - which has information also in English about what he calls "one of the most beautiful villages in Italy". Just type "Castelmezzano" in the search box at the top of the page.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Interview: Sebastiano Filocamo of Marco Bellocchio's "Blood of My Blood"

The Film Society of Lincoln Center's "Film Comment Selects Series" kicked off tonight and will run through February 24. The series will close with Marco Bellocchio's 2014 mystery, "Blood of My Blood" (Sangue del mio sangue).  

It's been described as dark, troubling and enigmatic- one of the strangest and most haunting films in Marco Bellocchio's long and illustrious career. Set between two very different time periods, there are echoes of a vampire film with interlocking narratives. The film opens with a bearded man arriving at a monastery to find a nun hanging from the ceiling from her feet. Federico Mai (Filippo Timi) has come to save his deceased brother's soul after he committed suicide and therefore cannot be buried in consecrated ground unless his lover, Sister Benedetta (Alba Rohrwacher), confesses to their sin. Benedetta faces trials by water and fire- and questioning by the apostolic hierarchy. We are then projected into the present day in which a Russian looks to buy the monastery where Benedetta's torture occurred. A strange assortment of people are found living in the monastery. Among them, a Count and a woman whose husband has disappeared. But this is just the beginning of the mystery.

I spoke with actor Sebastiano Filocamo last September as "Blood of My Blood" was about to premiere at the 72nd Venice Film Festival. I asked him about the film, his character and what it was like to work with a true maestro like Bellocchio.  

Tell me about this story and what makes this so-called haunted monastery unique?
It is set and filmed in Bobbio, a place dear to Bellocchio. My scenes were all filmed in a real convent that had been closed for decades and reopened just to make the film. "Blood of My Blood" was first a short film starring myself along with the director's brother, Alberto and inspired by some reflections of Bellocchio’s favorite themes. One of those themes, perhaps the most delicate and profound, involves a tragedy that has significantly affected the life of one of the characters, the twin brother of a character that committed suicide. It is a film where the past and present are united and where everything is not always explained or even capable of being explained.  

Filocamo and Bellocchio on set
What was it like to work with Marco Bellocchio?
For an actor like me, working with Bellocchio is like trying to build something outside of myself. Remaining credible and revealing, then interpreting the character in ways beyond thoughts and words is one of the most important things that an actor could do. I have never felt so cared for by a director. I have a lot of respect for him, so much that I didn’t want to address him in the informal Italian tense, even though he said that it was ok to do so. There were light moments off the set during lunch and dinner breaks that gave me the opportunity to spend time with him and his entire family, so I was able to get to know them. He gave me a poster of the film and I wanted to ask him to autograph it, but I didn’t want to bother him. Then a friend asked him for me, and he wrote very nice things. Just thinking about it makes me smile because it was a special and unique experience, also because some of the crew members will go on to be directors and producers like Simone Gattoni, one of the producers on this film and Bellocchio's next as well. 

Music plays a huge role in Bellocchio's films. Do you feel this the case also with "Blood of My Blood"?  
Music is a very important element for Bellocchio. I know that he’s worked hard on this film with the composer, Maestro Carlo Crivelli. It’s a very demanding plot that ranges from the 7th century to the present day, so the music follows the different eras. 

 
The film is set to be shown at numerous international film festivals. Do you feel the story translates well to audiences outside of Italy?
The elements of this film- the intensity on the faces of the actors, the photography of Daniele Ciprì, the costumes of Daria Calvelli, the music, the town of Bobbio and the film’s locations- in particular the convent with the walls that tell you about the silences and the cries of years so far away from us- the poetic and the unique way in which Bellocchio tells of this pain cannot be translated literally. Instead, all of these elements will be understood by the innate senses of the viewer in the profound form of art that has no barriers. 

For scheduling and ticket information, visit the Film Society of Lincoln Center.
 
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Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Interview: Valentina Lodovini on her role in Alessandro Piva's "Milionari"

Last week, "Milionari" opened in theaters across Italy. Inspired by one of the Camorra's most  notorious Neapolitan crime bosses, the film is an action-packed, emotionally-charged drama, which offers a glimpse into the life of an infamous gangster and the trauma one woman endured as she stood by the man she loved.

I talked with actress Valentina Lodovini about her role portraying that fascinating woman, Rosaria. Our interview was done in Italian, so both versions are included.

Tell me about your character.
Rosaria is a woman, not a criminal. She has nothing to do with the business or power of the Camorra. She has just fallen in love with a man who is a criminal. My character, otherwise, is just one aspect of organized crime. We call this the Omertà, which describes a person who does not complain about the injustices that lie before him or her. It is someone that prefers not to know and not to ask questions.  

Raccontami il tuo personaggio nel film "Milionari".
Rosaria non è una donna criminale, non tratta mai con il potere della Camorra ma ha scelto un uomo criminale. Il mio personaggio è comunque una sintesi di uno degli aspetti della criminalità organizzata L’omertà. Quando si parla di omertà non ci si riferisce solo a chi non denuncia un sopruso ma anche a chi preferisce non sapere e non fare domande.  

Since the film was based on a true story, what did you do to research your character?
I’ve portrayed other characters inspired by true stories, and I have always avoided doing research on them because I don’t want to risk imitation. I always try to approach the portrayal of a true character with my own sensitivity and work in trying to build the excitement that is the story of the film.

Il film è basato su una storia vera.. che cosa hai fatto per la ricerca del tuo personaggio?
Già altre volte ho lavorato su personaggi realmente esistiti ma evito sempre di fare una ricerca su di loro. Non voglio cadere nel rischio dell’imitazione. Cerco sempre di avvicinarmi con la mia sensibilità al personaggio e lavoro cercando di ricostruire l’emozione che il film vuole raccontare.


What were the challenges in playing this role?
In a few scenes, I wanted the viewer to feel an intimacy like that of the actor Alain Delon as he always tried to separate the criminal world from the private life of his characters.. but it was a beautiful challenge. I always kept this is mind whether in a scene of silence or with a family having lunch and talking to each other.

Quali sono state le sfide in questo ruolo?
Poche scene che però dovevano accompagnare lo spettatore nell’intima di Alen Delon, un’intimità che lui ha sempre cercato di tenere lontano dal mondo criminale.  È una bella sfida questa. In ogni scene dovevo tenere sempre presente tutto, anche il silenzio e la quotidianità di un pranzo di famiglia dovevano raccontare qualcosa.

What do you feel is the moral of this story?
I don’t pretend that my work will change the world but I know well that telling a story like “Millionaires” is important because it offers a look back without rhetoric or bigotry and helps us to understand the present because in this story, we find Italy today. This is a fact.

Vorrei sapere la tua opinione nella morale di questa storia?
Io non pretendo con il mio lavoro di cambiare il mondo ma farlo conoscere sì. Raccontare una storia come quella dei “Milionari” è importante perché senza retorica o fanatismo ci si guarda indietro per capire il nostro presente. Nei “Milionari” ritrovi L’Italia di oggi. È un dato di fatto.

We'll keep you posted on international distribution for this film.

Related articles:
Director Alessandro Piva
Actor Salvatore Striano

Friday, February 12, 2016

The European Film Market at this Year's Berlin Film Festival is Fully Stocked with Italian Films

The Berlin Film Festival’s European Film Market has some serious Italian contenders this year. Heading the pack is “Summertime”, Gabriele Muccino’s return to filming in Italy after spending years in the United States.  Still in production, Summertime is featured in RaiCom’s line-up. The company also has other leading Italian films ready for buyers, including the brand new release, “They Call Me Jeeg Robot”.
 
Below is the complete list of Italian films that will be up for grabs at this year’s European Film Market..For more information, visit the market online.

Accabadora | L'Accabadora  Italy  Rai Com 

Andron — The Last Labyrinth  USA, Italy  Ambi Distribution 

Anna  Italy  Rai Com 

Arianna  Italy  Rai Com 

The Beginners | Alaska  Italy, France  Films Distribution 

Burning Love | Pecore in Erba  Italy  True Colours 

The Complexity of Happiness | La felicità è un sistema complesso  Italy  Rai Com 

The Correspondence | La corrispondenza  Italy  Umedia International 

Don't Be Bad | Non essere cattivo  Italy  Rai Com 

Fade — The Tales about the Last Days | Face — Storia degli ultimi giorni  Italy  New World Cinemas 

Fire at Sea | Fuocoammare  Italy, France  Doc & Film International 

God Willing | Se dio vuole  Italy  Intramovies 

Italian Race  Italy  Fandango

The Last Will Be Last | Gli ultimi saranno ultimi  Italy  True Colours 

The Legendary Giulia and Other Miracles | Noi e la Giulia  Italy  Intramovies 

Lost & Beautiful | Bella e perduta  Italy  The Match Factory 

Me, Myself and Her | Io e lei  Italy  True Colours 

One for All | Uno per tutti  Italy  Minerva Pictures Group 

Only for the Weekend | Solo per il weekend  Italy  Summerside International 

Ossessione Vezzoli  Italy  Rai Com 

Porno & liberta  Italy  Wide House   

Quo Vado?  Italy  Taodue 

Seline  Italy, USA  River Road Entertainment 

S Is for Stanley  Italy  Rai Com 

Solo | Assolo  Italy  True Colours 

Summertime  Italy  Rai Com 

Them Who? | Loro chi?  Italy  True Colours 

True Colours — Promo Reel  Italy  True Colours 

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Countdown to "Milionari" - Director Alessandro Piva

Every now and then, someone comes along and changes the way things are done.  They raise the bar to a higher standard and offer a different way of looking at life. In the case of Italian cinema, that person is Alessandro Piva. About 15 years ago, this unknown, aspiring filmmaker took his own money, recruited his brother and hired a number of local actors to make a small, experimental film called La CapaGira. The film tells the story of a group of guys doing what is necessary to make a living. Each journey is nearly the same and their conflicts in following the path are very real. There is no pretense, no glamour and no second-guessing. The intense honesty of the story and edgy style in which it was shot, went on to win the approval of audiences and critics all over Italy. Since the release of La CapaGira, the trends of Italian films shifted in a new direction. Italian filmmakers followed Piva’s lead in making smaller films throughout communities and regions outside of Rome’s Cinecittà, which resulted in a more realistic feeling and portrait of life as it actually plays out. I believe that Piva is responsible for the surge in popularity of Italian cinema outside of Italy. Independent filmmakers saw how well he did with La CapaGira, so they followed in his footsteps and today there are countless films that mirror the simplistic style of that landmark film. 

Alessandro Piva’s much anticipated follow-up film, Mio Cognato (My Brother In Law) was a huge success, further emphasizing his talent and originality as one of Italy’s most talented directors. The film co-stars two of Italy’s most versatile actors, Sergio Rubino and Luigi Lo Cascio. The chemistry between the two of them is so strong, it’s as if you are watching actual brothers-in-law interacting with each other. They are a couple of average-Joes, a little down on their luck, followed by a trail of unfortunate coincidences and shady hoodlums. The combination of Piva’s unique style of shooting, articulate direction and clever screenwriting will make you sympathize with the characters’ hardships. Furthermore, Mio Cognato has one of those shocking, unexpected endings that make you want to see the film again in order to re-connect the dots that led to such a surprise.  It is one roller coaster of a movie. You will laugh and you will cry. 

Mio Cognato and La Capagira were both made in the seaside town of Bari, located in the southern region of Puglia. They document everyday life and in some cases, the difficulty of living in the south: a consistent theme with today’s new batch of Italian filmmakers. Piva’s films succeed in doing this with a sharp sense of humor carried by characters who are endearingly flawed and a bit overwhelmed with life and all of its responsibilities. The powerful simplicity of his films will make you fall in love with his Bari; his Bari because Piva shoots the scenes in and around Bari with a sentimental eye that pays homage to this city that hosted his adolescence, and in doing so has captured the strong affection he has for the Pugliese town.  

His latest film, Milionari takes him to the streets of Naples to recount the life of one of the city's most notorious crime bosses. The film features a great cast of actors and is so far, getting great reviews from critics. The film will be in Italian theaters tomorrow. 

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Countdown to "Milionari" - Actor Salvatore Striano

Alessandro Piva with his cast of Milionari
Today begins my countdown to the Italian release of Alessandro Piva’s new film, Milionari. The story, inspired by one of Napoli's most notorious crime bosses, is based on the book written by Luigi Alberto Cannavale and Giacomo Gensini. I will profile the director and a couple cast members. Today, let’s start with actor Salvatore Striano. 

They say that everyone has a story and actor Salvatore Striano is no exception. Born in 1972 in Napoli's notoriously rough neighborhood of Spagnoli, Striano comes from a hard-working family. The third of four children, Striano lost his way during his teenage years, but rebounded like no other, and today he is considered one of Italy’s most talented character actors.

Salvatore Striano in Milionari
Striano describes his family as “gente semplice” – simple people. His father left for work at 5:30 in the morning and worked well into the evenings. His mother sold clothes at sidewalk stands. At the age of 9, his toddler sister came down with a serious illness and was hospitalized for several months. Striano’s mother did not leave her side. With a father that worked all day and a mother at the bedside of her daughter, there was little to no supervision during that period for Salvatore and his siblings. That’s when things started to go wrong and his so-called street life began. Striano started hanging out with a group of kids. They sold cigarettes and would get into mischief like any other pre-teen boys. However, things got more serious within just two years when he robbed a store with a group of adults who used him for his small frame to fit through a tiny window. Not long after, he ended up in the local jail. He said that his mother slapped him and his father refused to visit him. They were sick over the direction in which their son was heading- right for a life as a career-criminal or camorrista, like so many other kids in that neighborhood. After he was released from jail, he went right back to his old ways. From robberies, to possession of an unlicensed firearm to cocaine dealing, he was in and out of jail in Naples and was even sent away to a high-security prison in Spain. Eventually, he ended up at Rome's maximum-security Rebibbia Prison. It was there that his life profoundly changed for two reasons: his mother passed away during his incarceration and he discovered acting. 

In a scene from Cesare Deve Morire
While at Rebibbia, he was urged to participate in the prison’s infamous theater program in which inmates create a production of a master play. At first, he turned down the opportunity but then reconsidered. I asked Striano about this experience. He told me that it was a production of Napoli Milionaria by the beloved Neapolitan actor and playwright, Eduardo De Filippo. He was asked to portray a female character. He wasn’t crazy about the idea but he took all the suffering that he was feeling for his mother and channeled it into his character. And his passion for acting was born. He wanted to know more about literature and its great masters. He thought about studying Dante but another inmate discouraged him and said that he should read Shakespeare’s Hamlet instead. He told me that when he began reading Shakespeare, it made him feel a little “stupid” perhaps because of the story’s complexity and language. But he persevered and today, he owes his life to Shakespeare. He says that he truly became free after discovering this world of literature and acting.

Striano's first movie role was the camorrista, Scissionista in Matteo Garrone's critically acclaimed Gomorrah. Striano exploded onto the acting scene with Scissionista. He took complete control of every scene. You would never know it was his first role. Once the film was released in Italy, Striano became an overnight sensation, a Neapolitan success story. He was invited to just about every Italian talk show to share his incredible journey. He was then invited to schools in the south to talk about his life in crime and the pivotal role education and literature played in turning his life around. Watch Striano's amazing performance in this clip from Gomorroah..


Over the years, I've enjoyed Striano's work as an actor. However, I had no idea of his background until I met Giovanna Taviani during a retrospective of her work in Rochester, New York. During her presentation of the Taviani brothers' Caesar Must Die (Cesare Deve Morire), she talked about Striano's background and all that he has done to give back to the community in terms of talking to kids about the importance of education and culture.  After learning about his story, I can’t watch him without thinking of Anna Magnani and another beloved Neapolitan actor, Antonio De Curtis (Totò). I’ve written often about the tortured souls of these two actors and how more often than not, those real-life experiences were most likely called upon while their characters suffered on screen.  

Striano center stage in Cesare Deve Morire
Since Gomorrah, Striano has appeared in a number of films and television shows. However, the performance that really blew me away was “Brutus” in the Taviani brother’s Cesare Deve Morire, a production of Shakespeare's Julius Caesar in Rome's maximum-security Rebibbia Prison. Needless to say, the role was deeply poignant for Striano as he literally returned to his roots of acting. Perhaps that’s why his performance is so strong and compelling. There are several scenes that make this film a masterpiece including the beginning when during the audition process, inmates are asked to give their name, date, place of birth and residence prior to incarceration.. expressed in two polar opposite emotions-  desperate despair and defiant anger. The director of the production suggests the men perform in their own dialects, which include Roman, Neapolitan, Calabrese and Pugliese. In doing so, it makes the actors feel more natural in the portrayal of their character. Striano was pardoned from the prison in 2006, but with this role, it’s obvious that the experience is a key part of his not-so-distant past. 


With Salvatore Striano in Rome
Salvatore Striano is a natural performer. He acts with complete heart and soul. When you watch him in an interview or just being himself, there is a calmness about him but the moment the camera starts rolling, he immediately transforms himself into someone else. 

Milionari will be released in Italy on Thursday, 11 February. Watch the trailer..

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