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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

A Conversation with Director Edoardo Ponti

Director Edoardo Ponti with his mother, Sophia Loren (photo credit below) 

Director, Edoardo Ponti will present his new film, "Human Voice" at the Tribeca Film Festival on Saturday. His mother, Sophia Loren, stars in the film along with Virginia Da Brescia and Enrico Lo Verso. Based on the Jean Cocteau play of the same name, the film tells the story of Angela, a woman who recounts her last telephone conversation with the man she loves as he is leaving her for another woman. The film is scheduled for several screenings during the festival. For more information, visit the festival's film guide.

Watch the trailer..

Edoardo Ponti

You can say that talent runs in the family, and Edoardo Ponti is following in those footsteps. Born into cinema royalty, Ponti is the son of Sophia Loren and Carlo Ponti. He was raised in a household of iconic filmmakers but lived a very low key, normal life along with his older brother, Carlo. Since movie making is in his blood, he knew at an early age that he wanted to pursue a career in film. In 1994, he graduated Magna Cum Laude from the University of Southern California where he majored in English Literature and Creative Writing. Three years later, he earned his Master of Fine Arts degree in Film Directing & Production from the University of Southern California School of Cinema & Television. Before venturing out on his own, he was mentored by the legendary filmmaker, Michelangelo Antonioni.

In 1998, he made the short, independent film, "Liv" and then four years later made his first feature film, "Between Strangers," staring Loren along with Mira Sorvino and Deborah Kara Unger. The story follows three women, each dealing with her own personal crisis. Olivia is an artist who draws what she sees in her dreams. Catherine is a renowned cellist who has left her husband and daughter to search for her father. Natalia is a photojournalist who is haunted by the moral price for a photo. The film premiered at the 59th Venice Film Festival. 

"The Nightshift Belongs to the Stars"
Ponti's 2013 release, "The Nightshift Belongs to the Stars" (Il turno di notte lo fanno le stelle) made its North American premiere at the 2013 Tribeca Film Festival, and won the top honor for Best Narrative Short. The film follows a man and woman who forge a friendship during the evening before they each have open heart surgeries. While talking, they find common ground, discovering each other's passion for mountain climbing. They vow that if their surgeries are successful and they make it to six months, they will meet at the Dolomites in northern Italy to climb together. What follows is a story of facing one's fears and getting a second chance at life, amid stunning cinematography that will take your breath away. In a jury comment, the Tribeca Film Festival described the film as one that "expresses love in its many dimensions and literally gets to the heart of the matter.”

Watch the trailer...

I caught up with Edoardo Ponti while he was in New York attending the screening. We talked about the film as well as growing up with his iconic parents, Sophia Loren and Carlo Ponti.

I'd like to ask you first about your current film, "The Nightshift Belongs to the Stars," which was just shown at the Tribeca Film Festival. How did this project come about, and how are audiences receiving the film?
It's been an absolute success. The film has been screening around the world with great emotion by audiences, which is inspired by the poetic landscape and what the characters are going through with the subject of organ donation. A man is given the heart of a woman and the two characters vow to climb the Dolomites together if they make it to 6 months. The great Neapolitan writer, Erri De Luca wrote the screenplay. He was familiar with my work and sent me the script, and I fell in love with it. The genesis for him is he is a mountan climber, one of the few over 60, and actually had a heart attack while climbing in the Dolomites. 

What is the message that you would like to communicate through this film? 
The message is one of hope and courage and that as long as you have one heart beat left in your heart, it's not too late follow your dreams or rediscover an old love. As long as you have one heart beat left, it's never too late.

You wrote and directed your 2002 film, "Between Strangers." Do you enjoy writing, or does your true passion lie with directing?
Filmmaking is a multi diverse experience. Writing and directing are very different; they come from two different parts of the heart. Writing is similar to shadow boxing.. you have to confront yourself, I am more comfortable being a co-writer. I prefer the collaboration of writing. As a director, you have to be able to ride all these different disciplines. The common thread is communication.

Let's talk about your family. What was it like growing up with two icons as parents? Did you feel like a regular kid, or did you feel that there was really something extraordinary about your household and your childhood?
It was extraordinary how ordinary my childhood was. That's from the intellegence of my parents. We were not a true Hollywood family. We had a group of friends that had nothing to do with film. We were raised to stay grounded and to never take anything for granted.

Your mother and your wife have had leading roles in your films. What are those collaborations like? 
My father produced many of my mothers films, so working with loved ones is natural for us. They are actors that I admire and they are part of my family, so it's quite natural for me and it's helpful in finding the right words to communicate. The lines of communication are already well-oiled and open.

I grew up watching your mother in films. I've seen her interviews, cooked recipes from her cookbook, and adored her for as long as I can remember. Would you please tell me something about Sophia Loren; the mother, the person and the woman when the cameras are off?
What's amazing is how grounded she is. She never allowed us to be seduced by her success or believe in the glamour of her profession. She is a woman who lives for her family and for her own personal growth. She has an enormous appetite to work and to tackle roles that she has not yet tackled.  It is beautiful for us to look up to our mother and admire the woman that she is.. and I truly do. She is an exceptional human being.

You've had several roles throughout your lifetime: the son of icons, brother, husband, father, filmmaker. Do you feel that any of those roles stand out in defining you?
The sum of everything I have is the total of everything I've done. There is no question that the most important role is my role as father. In the end I am putting into the world two people and I am responsible in helping them grow up and also giving them enough space to be become their own people. It's a big responsibility.

When Ponti is not busy making award-winning films, he is spending time with his wife, actress Sasha Alexander, and their two children, Lucia Sofia and Leonardo Fortunato.

Watch Ponti and Loren's 2002 collaboration "Between Strangers" on Amazon..


-Tribeca photo credit: April 20, 2014 - Source: Slaven Vlasic/Getty Images North America

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