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Monday, December 8, 2014

Paying Tribute to Giuseppe “Pino” Mango through one Filmmaker's passion for Basilicata

The Ionian Coast of Maratea in Basilicata
I have great pride in my Lucani origins. It’s a pride that runs deep through my soul and I only realized that depth when I visited for the first time in 2002. I met my cousins and walked the narrow streets my great grandparents once walked. After visiting, I felt truly to have gone home. 

Whenever I want to feel the nostalgia and warmth of the people.. or the clouds lingering over the mountains, I lose myself in the music of Giuseppe “Pino” Mango with his unique voice and regional instruments that bring me back to the land of my heart. Today, the world lost this amazing artist, but his music will live on in those who appreciate his unique talent for creating not only a song, but a memory and an atmosphere.

We mourn the untimely death of Basilicata’s renowned singer and songwriter, Mango, by revisiting my 2012 interview with an innovative filmmaker whose passion is writing about our beloved southern Italy.

Michelangelo Frammartino

A scene from "Le Quattro volte"
His style of filmmaking may be ahead of its time, but the message that drives his creativity stems from the theories of an ancient Greek philosopher who lived some 2,500 years ago.

Michelangelo Frammartino's work is based  on the connection between man and nature. The foundation of this connection dates back to about 570 – 495 BC when the ancient Ionian Greek philosopher and mathematician, Pythagoras lived. He believed that our soul is reincarnated four times into the bodies of humans, animals, minerals and vegetables until it ultimately becomes immortal. This theory was the basis for Frammartino's 2010 film, "Le quattro volte" (Four Times). The film is insightful and poetic in its message and visual landscape. It is raw and direct in its depiction of the connection between man, animals and nature. The New York Times described the film as "an idiosyncratic and amazing film so full of surprises - nearly every shot contains a revelation."

A scene from Alberi
Frammartino's film, "Alberi" (Trees) was recently featured at the Tribeca Film Festival as an installation. The film tells the story of an old ritual that took place in the village of Satriano in Basilicata during Italian Carnevale when the men of the village would cover themselves in leaves, transforming into mystical walking trees. The ritual started during the middle ages but was eventually abandoned by younger generations. Frammartino recaptures the ancient rite in a reenactment that won over New York audiences. According to Frammartino, “Basilicata is home to numerous arboreal rites. Trees are not just figures in the background, they are protagonists, they are the center, what gives meaning to the festival and above that, to life. I found this to be incredibly interesting.”

I caught up with Frammartino while he was in New York promoting his new film. He told me about this connection to nature and how his education in architecture influences his work.

 The Ionian Coast of Caulonia in Calabria
You come from the north, but your films were shot in southern Italy; Basilicata and Calabria in particular. What is your fascination with this part of Italy?
I was born in the north, in Milan, but my family is from Calabria. Both my parents come from a small town on the Ionian coast called Caulonia. This is where I spent my summers as a child, and where I experienced a sense of freedom and deep fusion with nature and everything around me.

Nature is an important part of your work. Tell me about this attachment that you have to nature and how it helps you to express yourself artistically.
We men tend to consider nature solely as a nice background to our events, or in the best cases, a resource at our disposal. We tend to forget the origins of nature and that it is deeply related to other species. I love to work on this unspoken bond. With this philosophy, I am more challenged to "shoot" and film scenes more creatively.

Isola di Capo Rizzuto  in the province of Crotone, Calabria
In your film, "Le quattro volte," what is the significance of the number four? Why four times?
Approximately twenty-five hundred years ago, the first philosopher, Pythagoras lived in Crotone in Calabria. A phrase that is attributed to him reads as follows:
"There will be four of us in the next life, embedded one inside the other. Man is a mineral because he consists of salts, water and mineral substances. Man is a vegetable, because as a plant eats, breathes and reproduces, so does he. Man is an animal with imagination, memory and knowledge of the external world. Man is also a rational being, because he has will and reason. We have four distinct lives in us and we should live four times."

A scene from "Alberi"
What inspired you to make your latest film, "Alberi" and tell the story of this ancient ritual?
I discovered these arboreal cults during the making of "Le quattro volte" and I was very fascinated by them. So I began to do research in Basilicata where they originate, and I found this wonderful mask belonging to the hermit of Satriano di Lucania. It was a perfect fusion of man and nature. I was never in the presence of something that so deeply represented our connection to the land and to the world.

You studied architecture in college. Does that background influence your films?
I find that there are many elements in common between these disciplines. For example, the idea of a narrative can be found in both. A movie is a place where the viewer enters and spends time, and you can say the same about a building.

Do you plan to continue with this theme of nature in your future projects?
Sure, there is the possibility that "Alberi" could evolve and become a feature film.

Michelangelo Frammartino's 2010 film, "Le quattro volte" is available through Amazon. We will keep you updated on the availability of "Alberi."

Purchase "Le Quattro Volte" on Amazon..

For now, I'll leave you with one of my favorite songs by Mango, "Mediterraneo" ...


Bianco e azzurro sei
con le isole che stanno lì
le rocce e il mare
coi gabbiani
Mediterraneo da vedere
con le arance
Mediterraneo da mangiare
La montagna là
e la strada che piano vien giù
tra i pini e il sole
un paese
Mediterraneo da scoprire
con le chiese
Mediterraneo da pregare

Siedi qui
e getta lo sguardo giù
tra gli ulivi
l'acqua è scura quasi blu
e lassù
vola un falco lassù
sembra guardi noi
fermi così
grandi come mai
guarda là
quella nuvola che va
vola già
dentro nell'eternità

Quella lunga scia
della gente in silenzio per via
che prega piano
sotto il sole
Mediterraneo da soffrire
sotto il sole
Mediterraneo per morire

Siedi qui
e lasciati andar così
lascia che
entri il sole dentro te
e respira
tutta l'aria che puoi
i profumi che
senti anche tu
sparsi intorno a noi
guarda là
quella nuvola che va
vola già
dentro nell'eternità

"Mediterranean Sea"

White and azure you are
With islands standing there
The rocks and the sea
With seagulls
Mediterranean Sea to see
With oranges
Mediterranean Sea to eat
The mountain over there
And the road that softly comes down
Between the pine trees and the Sun
A town stands
Mediterranean Sea to discover
With churches
Mediterranean Sea to pray

Sit down here
And glance down there
Between the olive trees
The water is dark, almost blue
And up there
A hawk flies
It almost seems it is looking down at us
Standing still
Largest than ever
Look up there
That cloud that goes
Flies down
Into eternity

That long line
Of silent people along the road
Praying softly
Under the Sun
Mediterranean Sea to suffer
Under the Sun
Mediterranean See for dying

Sit down here
And let yourself go like this
Let the Sun
Enter you
And breathe
As much air as you can
The perfumes that
You smell too
Scattered around us
Look up there
That cloud that goes
Flies down
Into eternity

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