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Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Three Generations of Cinema Icon Silvana Mangano

Silvana Mangano is one of Italy's most memorable leading ladies. She was born in Rome on April 21, 1930 and grew up amid conditions of poverty during World War II.  She persevered through those tough times training as a dancer. Then in 1946, she won the Miss Rome beauty pageant, a victory that gave her the push she needed to discover her destiny.

Just three years later, she landed a role in one of the most influential films of Italian cinema, Riso Amaro (Bitter Rice) by Giuseppe De Santis. The film was one of the first of the Neorealism film movement and received an Academy Award nomination in 1950. Produced by Mangano's husband, the prolific filmmaker, Dino De Laurentiis, Riso Amaro is a multi-layered story, which called on Mangano's talent and sex appeal to pull off the part of a peasant girl who could manipulate just about anyone with her beauty. The story follows three main characters through the rice-planting season in northern Italy during World War II in the midst of the profound economic challenges of that period in time. It is a beautiful story that tugs at the heart because like other neorealist films, it paints a clear picture of what people had to go through just to put food on the table for their families.

Mangano's next Italian blockbuster was Alberto Lattuada's, Anna. The 1951 drama features an all-star cast with Silvana Mangano leading the pack as Anna, a sinner who becomes a nun along with Raf Vallone as the wealthy man who loves her and Vittorio Gassman as Vittorio, a sly waiter who sends Anna on a dark path. Mangano's real-life sister, Patrizia, played her sister in the film, and Sophia Loren had a small uncredited part as a nightclub worker. Anna became a huge success in Italy and abroad. The Bayon song, El Negro Zumbon, known as Anna in the United States, was featured in the movie. It became a hit song in 1953 and still remains a revered classic in Italy and Spain. Filmmaker Nanni Moretti used the song in his 1993 comedy, Caro diario (Dear Diary). A clip is also featured in Giuseppe Tornatore's 1988 classic, Cinema Paradiso.

Loren, De Sica, Mangano
Mangano's character, Teresa in Vittorio De Sica's love letter and tribute to his hometown, L'oro di Napoli (The Gold of Naples) was another important role in her career. The 1954 comedy consists of a collection of six Neapolitan vignettes and includes a variety of off the wall stories like a clown exploited by a hoodlum, a pizza vender with bad luck, the wedding of a prostitute and the philandering of a professor. L'oro di Napoli  also features an all-star cast, which includes the likes of Sophia Loren, Eduardo De Filippo and Totò (Antonio de Curtis). Mangano's stunning beauty and strong presence lights up the screen as she takes on the role of Teresa, a local prostitute. The role showcases her subtle sense of humor and impeccable timing as a comedy actress.

Even though she and her husband were international stars, Mangano made an effort to keep her personal life private. A few years back, I spoke with her daughter, Veronica De Laurentiis, a successful actress, author and activist speaking out against domestic violence. (See the RAI program, Amore Criminale) 
She said that although her mother was this incredible sex symbol, behind closed doors, she often seemed sad and depressed. She went on to say, "My family had everything but one thing we did not show was emotion. We didn't talk about emotions."  Perhaps it was easier for Mangano to express herself and her emotions through her work and the characters she portrayed.

Silvana and granddaughter, Giada

In 1988, Mangano filed for divorce from Dino De Laurentiis and the following year, she lost her battle with lung cancer. The name Silvana Mangano may not be the most recognizable here in the United States, but she still lives on everyday in American culture. Her granddaughter is the Food Network's celebrity chef and author Giada De Laurentiis.  You can see a striking resemblance between the two, not only in their beauty but also in their personalities and onscreen presence. Giada De Laurentiis originally wanted to stay out of the limelight and family business, which of course is making movies. The De Laurentiis name is a prominent one in the world of cinema and her original sights were set on simply enjoying her passion for cooking. Then destiny and fate took over and Giada was discovered by Food Network executives who saw that celebrity "It" factor in her and the rest is history. De Laurentiis shares her family stories and recipes with her audiences and through the appearances and recollections of her mother, Veronica and Aunt Raffy, the memory of her iconic grandparents and their Golden Age magic are kept alive. Giada just announced on Twitter that she has a new show in the works, called G, that she will shoot in Positano, Italy. She says the show was inspired by her grandmother.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Cristina Comencini to present film at Open Roads: New Italian Cinema film series in NYC

It was just announced on Friday that director, Cristina Comencini will be attending the North American premiere of her latest film, Latin Lover at the 2015 edition of Lincoln Center’s annual film series, Open Roads: New Italian Cinema.

The female ensemble comedy tells the story of four sisters. Ten years after the death of their father, the famous actor, Saverio (Francesco Scianna), they are forced to face secrets buried in the past.The film explores the consequences of infidelity and how the offspring of multiple marriages and affairs have to deal with the voids, resentment and in this case, sisters from other mothers. I felt a lot of anger while I watched this film, anger towards the man that created all this drama, an arrogant, aloof, self-centered actor, portrayed perfectly by Sicilian born, Francesco Scianna. A few years ago, Maria Sole Tognazzi’s film, L’uomo che ama (The Man Who Loves) was presented at Open Roads. It showed infidelity through the eyes of a man whose fiancé was unfaithful. It was refreshing and unique to see this perspective. Roberto, played passionately by Pierfrancesco Favino, suffered, just as a woman suffers when she is the victim of infidelity, and there was really no joking, no sense of acceptance. However, as we see in Latin Lover, when the person doing the cheating is a man, there is a sense of entitlement and acceptance, and we see all the women, the wives and daughters sitting around making jokes, celebrating their love and adoration for him, even though they suffered and continue to suffer immensely. Even when one of the characters finds her husband in bed with her half-sister, his punishments- expressed in her snares and slapstick abuses were made to be funny. That element did anger me but the performances took my mind off it. Virna Lisi, Valeria Bruni Tedeschi and Angela Finocchiaro are such a joy to watch. The last scene of the film is deeply moving, and in my eyes, slightly redeemed Francesco Scianna’s self-absorbed male character, so my anger came full circle in the end. The all-female ensemble comedy tells the story of four sisters. Ten years after the death of their father, the famous actor, Saverio (Francesco Scianna), they are forced to face secrets buried in the past.

Virna Lisi’s last project, she was as beautiful and as graceful as ever, playing the part of Rita, carrying each scene with the poise and elegance of a true class act. The complete ensemble cast and characters include the Italian daughter Susanna (Angela Finocchiaro), the French daughter, Stephanie (Valeria Bruni Tedeschi), the Spanish daughter, Segunda (Candela Peña), who is married to an unrepentant traitor and the youngest Swedish daughter (Pihla Viitala), that didn't see her father often. Then there is a possible fifth daughter, an American, Shelley (Nadeah Miranda) awaiting a DNA test. 

Cristina Comencini

The daughter of a cinema icon, Cristina Comencini grew up in a home filled with creativity. Today, she is an award-winning author and film director known for her poignant stories that closely examine love and the complexity of relationships.

 Pane, amore e fantasia
Born in Rome in 1956, Cristina Comenicini spent her child surrounded by cinema. One of four daughters, her family life was very influenced by the films of her father, Luigi Comencini, who is known for Golden Age classics like the 1953 Pane, amore e fantasia with Vittorio De Sica and Gina Lollobrigida and the 1955 film, La bella di Rome, with Alberto Sordi. Cristina Comencini enjoyed a lively childhood of film discussions and actors coming to her house to rehearse the lines of her father's screenplays. Writing entered her life at a very young age, and although at first, her father tried to discourage his daughters from working in cinema, there was no stopping fate.
Her love of storytelling led her to write novels, and her life surrounded by film influenced her work as a director. According to Comencini, she "went to the movies chasing literature and found two wonderful crafts." Comencini was educated along with her sisters at the French University in Rome, le Lycée français Chateaubriand. There, she studied business and economy. Upon graduation, she found a job in that field and wrote her first two novels in her spare time. According to Comencini, the first novel stayed in a drawer, never seeing the light of day, and the second was published under a pseudonym.

Given her background, she naturally drifted into the world of television and cinema, and began writing for the small screen in the mid 80's, making her directorial debut for the big screen in 1989 with the film, Zoo starring Asia Argento. She would go on to make several films that were successful in Italy. Then in 2002, she adapted her novel, Il più bel giorno della mia vita (The Best Day of My Life) into the 2002 film with the same title. Told through the eyes of child, it's the story of three siblings brought up with extreme traditional values and how each of them copes when forced to make unorthodox choices that go against their bringing-up. Together with a cast of strong, talented actresses, Virna Lisi, Margherita Buy and Sandra Ceccarelli, Comencini balances the tragic themes of the story with quick-witted comedy relief and sharp dialogue. The film reached beyond Italian borders, earning her the respect and admiration of audiences throughout the world.

La bestia nel cuore
That film paved the way for her 2005 international hit, La bestia nel cuore also known internationally as the The Beast in the Heart and Don't Tell. The film was nominated in the Best Foreign Language Film category at the 78th Academy Awards. Adapted from her novel, the film gave audiences worldwide a chance to see superb performances by some of Italy's A-list actors such as Giovanna Mezzogiorno, Luigi Lo Cascio, Alessio Boni, Stefania Rocca, Giuseppe Battiston and Angela Finocchiaro. With a cast like that, it's no wonder the film made it all the way to the Oscars. The subject matter is heavy with the main characters dealing with haunting issues going back to their childhoods. The comic relief was a fine line to tread, but the actors succeeded, never minimizing the seriousness of the larger subject matter.

Quando la notte
Since then, it's just been one hit film after another with projects like, Due Partite and Bianco e nero adapted from her novels, boasting star-studded casts. Her 2011 film, Quando la notte (When the Night) premiered at the 68th Venice Film Festival. Shot among the picturesque Dolomite mountains in northern Italy, the film tells the story of a mountaineer abandoned by his wife who strikes up a relationship with a woman from the city trying to help her difficult son. The complicated relationship between the mother and son is reminiscent of his own childhood and he decides to step in. Starring two of Italy's finest actors, Claudia Pandolfi and Filippo Timi, Quando la notte is an emotionally-fueled portrait of vulnerable people struggling to live with the pain of the past.

Comencini's recent novel, Lucy, was presented shortly after its release at a popular literary festival in Torino by actor, Fabrizio Gifuni. The book tells the story of a husband who struggles with his free-spirited, independent wife. An anthropologist, she leaves her family to pursue her passion in another land. The book explores his extraordinary love for her as well as her career-driven desire to look into the mystery of existence. I’m hoping this story will lead to another film.

Click on the titles below to watch Comencini's films on Amazon.


Saturday, April 25, 2015

The Timeless Influence of Neorealism

Silvana Mangano in "Riso amaro"
On this April 25th, when Italy celebrates Independence Day, we take a look at a few iconic post-war directors that documented the immense hardship Italians endured.

It's been called one of the most crucial and influential film movements of all time.  Literally produced among the ashes and rubble following WWII, neorealism films are among the most raw and simple films ever made, and at the same time, they are among the most beautiful because they possess a simplicity and honesty rarely found in anything non-fiction or big-budget. The art of neorealism lies within the ability to work with minimal resources while achieving maximum effect. Shot on location using mostly God's light and non-professional actors, these films broke new ground with their real-life depictions of the working class and Italian society. Neorealism filmmakers such as Vittorio De Sica and Roberto Rossellini were not merely interested in making fictional movies. Instead, they made powerful social statements about the suffering that was going on in their own backyards. They wanted to change things. They wanted to stand up for the people and be the voice of a nation. In doing so, they had a powerful impact on the people of Italy and the way the rest of the world viewed their country. 

Anna Magnani and Ettore Garofolo in "Mamma Roma"
There are about 40 films that illustrate this era of filmmaking, with economic devastation being the thread that connects them all. Of those films, there are a few that really stand out for me as being the strongest portraits of a country struggling to stay alive. They include Vittorio De Sica's "Ladri di biciclette" (Bicycle Thieves), Giuseppe De Santis' "Riso amaro" (Bitter Rice) and Roberto Rossellini's  "Roma città aperta" (Rome Open City). Although the work of Pier Paolo Pasolini isn’t defined as neorealism.. the raw, tough reality of his films followed its style, especially "Accattone" and "Mamma Roma", which were both made in the 1960's. With the exception of "Riso amaro" which was shot in the Po Valley, Rome shines as the infinite set of these films. As difficult as things were, the people of Rome wandered around their Eternal City drinking from its fountains, praying for relief at its churches, contemplating their next move on the steps of monuments that withstood the destruction of centuries and taking a stroll by the Tiber River. In any given scene, you will see carafes of wine on the tables, rows of Roman pines that line the streets and countryside and you will hear the Roman folk songs being sung in dialect by people who refused to give up. All of these beautiful elements, for example, can be found in Pier Paolo Pasolini's "Accatone". But the tragedy of the characters' lives and situations is front and center. Just like Anna Magnani's character in Pasolini's "Mamma Roma"- Vittorio in "Accatone" also makes an effort to give honest work a try, but it seems that no matter what he does, the odds are stacked against him.

Giuseppe De Santis' "Riso amaro" and Roberto Rossellini's  "Roma città aperta" star two of Italy's most beloved actresses; Anna Magnani and Silvia Mangano. Yet despite the immense stardom of the two, both films succeeded in communicating the challenges that Italians faced during those turbulent years. One takes place in a rice field located in Northern Italy while the other takes place on the violent streets of Nazi-occupied Rome; two totally different worlds, yet the same grief and hardship.

Based on my research, I've come to the conclusion that neorealism is truly in the eyes of the beholder. Everyone I talked with has their own favorite film, their own passionate opinion.  If I had to choose one film that defined neorealism for me, it would have to be Vittorio De Sica's "Ladri di biciclette" (Bicycle Thieves). Although one of the film's screenwriters confessed that the film really has no plot, "Ladri di biciclette" is about a man whose only means of work is through a precious bicycle that ends up stolen.

Lamberto Maggiorani and Enzo Staiola in "Ladri di biciclette"
Most of the story documents his exhausting efforts to find that bicycle, and his partner is none other than his son, a little firecracker who is dead set on finding the robber so that his father can get back to work. Both lead characters; father and son, were non-professional actors. You would never know it, and that certainly says something about the skills of Vittorio De Sica as a director. The deep desperation of the characters in this film is overwhelmingly apparent in their eyes and body language. The characters are so tired. They just want a meal, a clean shave and a job that will provide for their families. All of the extras in the film were simply Italian citizens. Some were even homeless. They were not actors, just people hoping to get a meal from the production company after their scene was filmed. If you know that going in, this film will move you to tears. The neorealism movement represented the pain of a country in turmoil. But thankfully, that turmoil did end. I spoke with Richard Peña, the former director of the Film Society of Lincoln Center, about the influence these films had on ending the devastation. I asked him if the neorealism film movement contributed to improving the conditions of post-war Italy. “I think the films focused attention on many social problems, and awareness is often the first step towards social action. The filmmakers, after all, had no power themselves. I also think the films challenged Italians to confront themselves and their own recent history, while trying to imagine what a future Italy might be like.”

Peña went on to explain the importance of neorealism films to Italian history. “The importance of neorealism for Italian history was that it focused the world's attention once again on Italy and Italian culture. No Italian movement, except perhaps for design or fashion, has had the worldwide impact that neorealism has had. I also think it returned the arts to a place of importance in the national dialog about the future of the country.”

Carlo Bruni in "Il miracolo"
The filmmakers of the neorealism movement live on in the work of directors today.  Many young Italian directors have taken their cameras out of the studios and back to the streets. You can see this in the films of Edoardo Winspeare, a Pugliese director who shoots mostly on location using regional music and many non-professional actors.  Alessandro Piva did the same with his sleeper hit “La Capagira”, which made unknown theater actor, Dino Abbrescia an overnight success. I also spoke with New York University Film Professor, Antonio Monda, about neorealism's influence on today's filmmakers. He feels that in Italy, neorealism influences can be seen vividly in the work of Gianni Amelio, especially in his 1994 film, "Lamerica", which is about Albanian immigration in Italy. Monda also feels that neorealism has reached beyond Italian borders and has had an impact on world cinema, especially in Iran with the films of Abbas Rostani.

Since neorealism films are so cherished and highly regarded, many of them are still available today. You can find them easily one sites such as Amazon and Netflix.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Tribeca Film Festival 2015: Vittorio and Paolo Taviani's "Wondrous Boccaccio"

Updated 4 January 2016

"Wondrous Boccaccio" has been added to the lineup of the 2016 European Union Film Festival in Chicago, which will run March 4 – 31 at the Gene Siskel Film Center.
Click here to get your Festival Pass.

From the dramatic music of the opening credits to the last frame of film, "Wondrous Boccaccio" is a poetic, surreal and yes, wondrous escape back in time.

Based on stories written in the 14th century by Giovanni Boccaccio in "The Decameron", the film depicts the dark ages of Tuscany during the plague when grave diggers couldn't keep up with the demand. Iconic filmmakers, Paolo and Vittorio Taviani live up to their reputation by creating an atmosphere of loss, tragedy, fear, struggle and most importantly, hope.

The film opens with the dreary, grey atmosphere of a doomed city whose inhabitants are dying at an alarming number. Mass graves filled with children and adults alike are dug daily with mourning relatives desparately throwing themselves over the bodies of their loved ones. A group of young friends decides to make a run for it and take shelter in a farm house situated in the picturesque, rolling hills of Tuscany. There, we feel for the first time the hope nestled in the green hills, fresh air and blue skies of this remote country get-a-away. The friends set some ground rules on how they will pass their days together while avoiding any animosity, envy or boredom. One ingenious way is to tell stories- detailed, colorful, compelling stories with one common thread: amore. And here begins "Wondrous Boccaccio".

The Taviani brothers call upon a whole host of diverse characters played by an A-list of Italian actors to convey the wild imaginations of these desperate youngsters longing to get their minds off the tragedy, death and ruin facing their city. From a father obsessed with his daughter to a village cretin who believes he's invisible to group of rebellious nuns to a young peasant who makes a heartbreaking sacrifice for the woman he loves, we are wildly entertained with gripping stories that keep us at the edge of our seats.

Composer, Giuliano Taviani, who also wrote the soundtrack for Francesco Munzi's "Black Souls", created a powerful music score that is a perfect accompaniment to the gripping suspense of the film's vignettes.

I highly recommend this beautiful masterpiece, "Wondrous Boccaccio". The Taviani brothers have once again succeeded in creating a magnificent, memorable work, which embraces the magic, dreams and infinite possibilities that make up cinema.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Festival del Cinema Europeo begins today

The festival del cinema europeo begins today with a special section dedicated to actress, Paola Cortellesi..

For more information, visit their website..

Festival del Cinema Europeo

Friday, April 10, 2015

Vito Facciolla Talks About his Character in 'Anime Nere'

Interview: Vito Facciolla - "Pasquale"

Today is the day that we Italian cinema aficionados have been waiting for: Anime nere (Black Souls) officially opens on this side of the Atlantic.

We meet Pasquale in the opening moments of Anime nere and he stays with us during the duration of the film, giving support and a bit of comedy relief to the characters as well as the audience as we all watch and digest the painful tones of  the story.

Vito Facciolla is a Pugliese-born character actor with a wicked sense of humor and impeccable comic timing. He's appeared in a number of Italian films including, Kim Rossi Stuart's, Angel of Evil. However, it seems that Facciolla is really starting to hit his stride. He had a a key role in Ricky Tognazzi's recent RAI television movie, Pietro Mennea - La Freccia del Sud and is experiencing international stardom with the success of Francesco Munzi's Anime nere.

We have much more to discover about Vito Facciolla, but for now he tells us about his character in Anime nere, Pasquale, and how he managed to bring a couple light moments to a very intense, tragic story.

In researching for our interview, I watched many of your videos on YouTube. You are really a very talented actor with a great sense of humor. Also in Anime nere, you managed to let some of that humor show through even though the story was very tragic and dark. How do you manage to balance this fine line of drama and comedy?
You are right about my sense of humor, but the fact that I am a good actor, I have my doubts! I definitely "do" my work with great seriousness and passion. As you see, it is in the root of my last name. Many colleagues are wrong when they say, "I'm an actor". In my opinion it means nothing because we are all actors in life. For example, sales representatives, to name a category; or any other person man / woman who is in a moment of euphoria may be able to give a beautiful show. Being an actor is a different thing. It's a trade, surely one of the most beautiful in the world, but not the hardest! It requires perseverance and sacrifice, tenacity and willpower, illusion and disillusion, coherence and incoherence, great self-confidence, determination, discipline, exhausting tests and continuous psychophysical training; in short, all  the things that I hate, which are also very far from who I am. This is why I love my job. Because it forces me, in a way, to do that which does not belong to me. When I was younger, I immediately put forth the maximum effort in my work to achieve the maximum results, and I was always fascinated by the challenges I faced in working towards goals that seemed more distant or unattainable. Even the work of portraying simple characters becomes a challenge for me. Indeed, I enjoy these challenges because they drive me to reinvent myself and work with the directors to change and become those characters. It's like continuously molding myself with fresh form and then in the next moment, completely undoing it. Addressing the psychology of a character is a very delicate work that you do by yourself. You have to apply a particular study that in most cases occurs mainly in the form of questions, doubts, anxieties and fears.For example, the humor, which I have always had, I tend to exaggerate but then if the director guides me, I can do even better. As with Francesco Munzi,  he focused on the feeling of revenge, already with roots in Greek tragedy, while not neglecting ironic nuances of the characters with a unique lightness; thus increasing the strength and truth. For me, it's very exciting to give a comic angle to a tragic moment, because there is a thin thread that could break immediately and make you fall and lose the credibility of the character.

Ho visto molti video del tuo lavoro su Youtube .. Sei un bravo attore con un grande senso dell'umorismo. Anche in Anime nere, il tuo personaggio possedeva una leggerezza, anche nel mezzo della tragedia. È una linea molto sottile tra dramma e commedia. Cosa ispira ad avvicinarsi al tuo lavoro da questo punto di vista?
Sul senso dell'umorismo ti dò ragione. Sul fatto ch'io sia un bravo attore avrei i miei dubbi! Tu lo dici! Sicuramente "faccio" il mio lavoro con tanta serietà e passione. Come vedi è proprio nella radice del mio cognome. Molti colleghi, sicuramente sbagliando, dicono: "Sono un attore"! Il che a mio avviso non significa nulla, tutti siamo attori nella vita! Per esempio i rappresentanti di commercio, tanto per nominare una categoria; o  qualsiasi altra persona uomo/donna che sia, in un momento d'euforia può riuscire a dar spettacolo magnificamente! 
Fare l'attore è una cosa diversa. E' un mestiere. Sicuramente uno dei più belli al mondo, ma non a caso uno dei più difficili! Richiede caparbietà e sacrificio, tenacia e forza di volontà, illusione e disillusione, coerenza e incoerenza, grande fiducia in se stessi, determinazione, disciplina, prove estenuanti, allenamento psicofisico continuo, insomma tutte cose che detesto e lontane dal mio modo di essere! Per questo mi piace il mio lavoro. Perché mi obbliga, in un certo qual modo a fare ciò che non m'appartiene. Quand'ero più giovane, mettevo subito in campo, sfruttandole al massimo: le mie capacità, qualità,  la mia vis comica ecc, insomma quello che sapevo fare meglio; straordinariamente riuscendovi e riportando gratificazioni in tanti lavori. Ma da sempre mi affascinano le sfide verso le cose più lontane, irragiungibili, apparentemente. Anche il lavoro su personaggi semplici o non ben definiti, diventa una sfida per me! Anzi mi stuzzica maggiormente, perché devo inventare, proporre al regista ed eventualmente modificare. Plasmarsi continuamente, come con la creta fresca. Darle una forma per poi subito essere pronti a disfarla. Non so se mi spiego. Affrontare la psicologia di un personaggio è un lavoro molto delicato che si fa su se stessi. Implica uno studio particolare che spesso t'avvolge a 360° e che nella maggior parte dei casi si presenta maggiormente sotto forma di dubbi, perplessità, ansie e paure. Chiaramente queste si combattono anche con i mezzi propri. Per esempio l'umorismo. Quello ce l'ho sempre avuto, anzi spesso nel lavoro esagero ma, ripeto, l'attore ha il dovere di proporre. Poi se il regista tiene qualcosa, tanto di guadagnato. Come nel caso di Munzi che nel suo film ha ben messo a fuoco il sentimento di vendetta, con già radici nella tragedia greca, pur non tralasciando sfumature ironiche dei personaggi  con una leggerezza unica; aumentandone così la forza e la verità. Per me rimane molto eccitante recitare una situazione comica in un momento tragico, proprio perché esiste un filo sottilissimo che potrebbe immediatamente spezzarsi e farti cadere  nella "macchietta", perdendo così la credibilità del personaggio. Scusa. Non ho il dono della sintesi!

During the creation of this character, which qualities of yourself did you give to Pasquale?
Pasquale is a person that "services" the "family". Perhaps he is a relative, but certainly one that deals with the everyday practicality of banks, payments, reports, etc.. He is the man closest to Rocco. Surely he is ready for anything, even to die. But he is not a servant, in the noble sense of the term. In theater, I played various servants, even Pulcinella, and they all possess common characteristics such as opportunism and a desire to cheat the next person. Pasquale doesn't have any of those qualities. He is simply a servant devoted to his clan since birth. I liked to imagine him a man tested by many personal tragedies, perhaps even a widower recently, but always with a positive background and passionate love towards life. Then on the set of "Anime nere", I had the pleasure of working with Peppino Mazzotta, whom I've known for years, and with whom I attended the same class in acting school. And then with all the others, Anna Ferruzzo, Fabrizio Ferracane, Marco Leonardi, Domenico Centamore, Stefano Priolo, without neglecting any of the crew; came to create a beautiful, unique experience with moments of  absolute and uncontrollable laughter! I will remember this masterpiece because we all worked so well together. Even in the difficult times when we faced various challenges on the set, there was always an atmosphere of great humanity especially by those who welcomed us in Africo.

Durante la creazione di questo personaggio, quali sono le qualità di te stesso che hai dato a Pasquale?
Pasquale è una persona al servizio della "famiglia", forse un parente. Sicuramente quello che si occupa della praticità quotidiana. Banche, pagamenti, relazioni ecc ed è l'uomo più vicino a Rocco.Sicuramente pronto a tutto, finanche a morire. Ma non è un servo. Nel senso nobile del termine, intendo. A teatro ho interpretato vari servi, finanche Pulcinella e tutti hanno caratteristiche comuni, quali l'opportunismo e il voler fregare il prossimo per esempio. Lui non ha nulla di tutto ciò. Pasquale  è servo votato al suo clan, semplicemente.Segnato già dalla nascita! M'è piaciuto immaginarlo come un uomo provato da tante tragedie personali, forse anche vedovo da poco, ma sempre con una positività di fondo e di amore spassionato verso la vita. Poi sul set di Anime nere ho avuto il piacere d'incontrare  Peppino Mazzotta che conosco da anni,  col quale ho frequentato la stessa classe in accademia e insieme a  tutti gli altri conosciuti nell'occasione: Anna Ferruzzo, Fabrizio Ferracane, Marco Leonardi, Domenico Centamore, Stefano Priolo, senza tralasciare nessuno di tutta la troupe; s'è venuta a creare un'atmosfera bellissima, unica e irripetibile. Con momenti d'ilarità assoluti e incontrollabili! Ricorderò questo capolavoro perché siamo stati bene.Anche in momenti difficili. Grande umanità soprattutto da chi ci ha accolto ad Africo.

You're from a beautiful city in the region of Puglia, Polignano a Mare, which is situated on the Adriatic Sea. Has the experience in growing up in a place so beautiful influenced your work as an artist?
You are definitely influenced by the place in which you are born, but also by the family unit in which you were raised. I was lucky to have two wonderful parents, always cheerful! They were known by everyone as a funny, comical couple. During my childhood and adolescence, I was surrounded by a healthy environment filled with optimism, even in moments of crisisI have an ocean of pride when I speak of my town. I love my town and my fellow citizens. The image of the sea is an infinite vision that I always carry inside. To quote Modugno, I can just run forever... "over there in my country where you feel the sea!"

Sei di' una bella città in Puglia, Polignano a Mare, situata sul mare. La bellezza e la poesia di un luogo così bello influenzano il tuo lavoro di artista?
Sicuramente il luogo in cui si nasce influenza moltissimo, ma anche il nucleo famigliare in cui si nasce e si vive. Io ho avuto la fortuna di avere due genitori fantastici, sempre allegri! Una coppia comicissima contesa da tutti. Negli anni dell'infanzia e adolescenza è importante che ti venga trasmessa una sana leggerezza per poi crescere nell'ottimismo. I miei sono stati bravi a farlo anche in momenti critici. Questo fa la differenza. Non parliamo di Polignano perché altrimenti s'aprono oceani di campanilismo! Adoro il mio paese e i miei concittadini. L'immagine del mare è una visione primordiale che mi porto dentro. Per dirla alla Modugno, appena posso corro sempre: "Laggiù nel mio paese. Dove si sente il mare!"

Have you ever considered directing? You have such a strong presence and personality, I think you'd make a great director.
No, I never thought of becoming a director. There are too many things to learn and too many  techniques. For now, I am fascinated by staying on this side of the camera. There is so much to learn in being an actor, let alone a director.

Hai pensato mai di fare un film come regista? La tua personalità sembra fortissimo.. Penso che si sarebbe un bravo regista.
No, non ho mai pensato di fare il regista. Troppe cose tecniche da imparare. Per il momento m'affascina stare da quest'altra parte della macchina da presa. E forse non mi basterà questa vita per imparare. Figuriamoci fare il regista.
"Black Souls" opens today, April 10th in New York, with other cities to follow..






                         SEATTLE, WA                       
MAY 1ST           DALLAS, TX
                         PORTLAND, OR
MAY 8TH           CHICAGO, IL
                         MIAMI, FL
                         SAN DIEGO, CA
                         HONOLULU, HI
MAY 22ND        BOSTON, MA

Specific Theater Information is at

Watch the trailer:

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Countdown to April 10th U.S. Release of "Black Souls" - Day 3

Interview: Sebastiano Filocamo
"Antonio Tallura"

Sebastiano Filocamo is a highly respected character actor with an impressive resume to his credit. He's worked in just about every genre of performance including theater, television and film. He's worked with international filmmakers such as Roman Polanski and Gerard Depardieu.

Before I knew about his long list of career achievements, I noticed something special about Filocamo when I watched his performance in "Anime nere".  He is a supporting actor in the film, but he owns his scenes and has a commanding presence in the brief time we see him on screen. When I contacted him for an interview, he was very enthusiastic to talk about his experience working on the film. After corresponding with him during our interview, I have come to understand the tremendous depth of passion and love he has for his work. He is truly an artist in every sense of the word. I am so grateful for having found this amazing talent. We will be covering his work more in-depth in future pieces. For now, he tells us about his role of Antonio Tallura in "Anime nere".

(Interview in English and Italian)

Your character in “Anime nere” is mysterious, always seeming guarded. Tell me about this character and also the relationship between the two families.
Antonio Tallura is the name of my character. He belongs to the Carbone’s  rival family, but Luigi (Marco Leonardi) tries to do business with him. He’s a silent, suspicious man who avoids making eye contact. He was the first-born, the one that will take the place of the father. So he is always on guard and suspicious of everyone, especially rivals. He takes his time in responding and always asks that his father has the last word. That is why he was hesitant in responding to the request to help get rid of Barreca. The relationship between the two families is a little off in the movie and there is not much direct interaction. This was the choice of the director, Francesco Munzi.  He wanted to dedicate more time to the drama within the Carbone family. The Tallura family introduces their daughter to Luciano’s son and this kind of fake friendliness causes friction in the lunch scene. But Francesco decided to show this friction from the Carbone’s point-of-view.
Il tuo personaggio in "Anime nere" è misterioso, sempre sembrando custodito. Parlami di questo personaggio e anche il rapporto tra le due famiglie.
Antonio Tallura è il nome del mio personaggio. Appartiene alla famiglia rivale dei Carbone. E’ quello con cui Luigi cerca di fare gli affari. E’ un personaggio silenzioso, diffidente e con lo sguardo che osserva lontano. Sono il primogenito, quello che prenderà il posto del padre, quindi sospettoso con tutti soprattutto con i rivali.. Prendo tempo e chiede sempre che l’ultima parola ce l’abbia mio padre. Ed è questo tenere sospeso su eliminare Barreca poi dà modo alla storia di avere un percorso diverso e tragico. Il rapporto tra le due famiglie viene poco fuori nel film per una precisa scelta di Francesco. Ha voluto un grande coro per raccontare la storia dei Carbone e ha lasciato più spazio al dramma interno alla famiglia. La famiglia Tallura cerca di far incontrare mia figlia con il figlio di Luciano, finta cordialità, tattica ma questo provoca attriti che nella scena del pranzo in campagna sono evidenti. Ma sono raccontati attraverso gli occhi dei Carbone.
That friction between the two families was very strong. Tell me about the collaboration of the cast in creating that scene and building the tension between both families.
The entire cast and crew was very close throughout the shooting of the movie, and this is due to Francesco’s superb direction. We felt part of a major project and this eliminated any rivalry or competition with respect to the roles. We always found a way to help one another in sharing thoughts, ideas, and suggestions. The author of the novel, Gioacchino Criaco was also available to help us with the dialect and to coach the extras. The location of the set and the various issues related to the town did not make the job easy for anyone. Despite all this, Francesco Munzi's impeccable skills of keeping a perfect balance resulted in a great film. Each actor had his or her own way of staying focused and holding the tension required for that scene. But sometimes the tension was so high, that as soon as the director called, "Action", someone would break out into laughter. A couple times, he actually had to politely ask that a few of the extras leave the set. Then, at the last take, we all just burst out into uncontrollable laughter for 20 minutes.  
Durante la scena della cena, c'era tensione e sarcasmo tra Luigi e la famiglia. Alla fine, Luigi aveva ragione nella sua diffidenza di loro. Parlami della collaborazione del cast per creare quella scena e costruire la tensione tra le due famiglie.
Tutti gli attori professionisti e non siamo stati molto uniti tra noi, anche con tutti gli altri reparti e questo grazie alla superba direzione da parte di Francesco. Ci sentivamo parte di un grande progetto e questa eliminava ogni rivalità o competizione rispetto ai ruoli. C’era un modo di aiutarsi l’un l’altro confidandosi pensieri, idee, e suggerimenti. Chiedevamo consigli a Gioacchino Criaco l’autore del libro da cui è tratto il film quando veniva  a trovarci, alle comparse e ai coach per la pronuncia. C’era molta condivisione. La location del set e le varie problematiche connesse al luogo non rendevano il lavoro facile per nessuno e nonostante tutto questo e con una produzione presente sul campo ad affrontare le difficoltà giorno per giorno, la bravura di un regista è tenere saldo tutto questo e far si che ognuno si sentisse parte importante e questo Munzi lo ha fatto impeccabilmente e il risultato è il grande film che è Anime nere.
Ho avuto dei compagni di lavoro straordinari, disponibili, umani, condizione non facile nel nostro cinema. Ognuno di noi aveva un proprio modo di concentrarsi e tenere la tensione e il rispetto l’un dell’altro e cercavamo di tenerla ciak dopo ciak. A volte la tensione è stata tanto alta che ad esempio durante una scena abbiamo dovuto mandare via uno degli attori non  professionisti perché appena partiva “azione” non riusciva a tenere la tensione e scoppiava a ridere coinvolgendo tutto il set. Un dramma. All’ennesimo ciak Francesco chiese gentilmente all’attore di uscire dal set e abbiamo continuato usando quella tensione per la scena che andavamo a fare. All’ultimo ciak abbiamo tutti fatto un riso liberatorio per 20 minuti.
This role was different from your other projects, especially since you worked so much in theater. How did you adapt to a character so guarded after the more emotional performances you’ve done?
I worked often in theater playing important roles until a few years ago. I've always loved diversity and avoided repeating myself. I prefer contemporary drama to the classics. I enjoy portraying  characters with different psychologies but often caused by social issues dear to me. A few years ago I decided that I would take a sabbatical from being on stage, dedicating myself to other projects such as film. I also wanted to dedicate more time to my collaboration as a volunteer for a non-profit organization in Milan. It was a tough choice, but it paid off. I consider myself an interpreter and I really dig into the psyche of the characters. I like the auteur cinema where you can build a character and where there is a special attention to acting. Sometimes the characters stay with me after shooting, but this is something that my family helps me to over come. However, many footprints of the characters I have played remain hidden inside me.
Questo ruolo era diverso dagli altri progetti, soprattutto perché hai lavorato molto in teatro. Come hai fatto a adattarti ad un personaggio custodito dopo la prestazione più emozionante che hai fatto?
Io ho lavorato in teatro molto fino a qualche anno fa coprendo ruoli importanti. Ho sempre amato non ripetermi. Preferisco la drammaturgia contemporanea ai classici. Ho dato voce a spettacoli e personaggi vari con psicologie molto diverse tra loro ma tutti spesso accumulati da temi sociali a me cari. Ho girato il mondo grazie al mio lavoro, ho fatto esperienze straordinarie, conosciuto genti e culture diverse, contaminazioni importanti per la mia crescita umana e professionale. Questo lavoro mi ha a perto la mente.  Qualche anno fa ho deciso  che mi sarei preso del tempo sabbatico dallo stare sul palco, dedicandomi a quello che in questo momento mi piace fare di più, il cinema e dando più tempo alla mia collaborazione come volontario per una Onlus di Milano La stravaganza che si occupa di disagio psico-sociale e io sono la figura referente per il teatro. Questa dura scelta ha dato i suoi frutti. Ho sempre ammirato la qualità alla quantità nel lavoro e nella vita. Questo è un percorso difficile, fatto di attese e dignità. Mi considero un interprete e scavare dentro la psiche dei personaggi fa parte del mio lavoro. Dargli voce , posture, pensieri oltre le battute, renderlo credibile nel suo artificio. Non amo mai fare me stesso e spesso per questo evito di accettare proposte televisive. Mi piace il cinema d’autore dove puoi costruire un personaggio e dove c’è un attenzione speciale per la recitazione.
A volte resto ingarbugliato dentro la rete del personaggio anche dopo le riprese ma ho avuto dei sani insegnamenti dalla mia famiglia e dai miei maestri così ho capito come devo solo farlo scivolare piano piano. Le impronte dei personaggi interpretati coumunque restano nascoste e in silenzio dentro me.
You’ve really had a diverse career and you’re known for your artistry both onstage and onscreen. What qualities do you possess as an actor that permit you to go back and forth so frequently between the two genres of performing, and always succeed in giving artful, beautiful performances?
I learned how to manage the two things always doing what I like and staying curious and humble in the face of those who know more than me. Working with directors like Bellocchio, Tornatore, with actors like Depardieu, Laura Betti, Valeria Golino, Vincent Gallo, Polanski or with directors of photography such as Blasco Juror, Rotunno or Storaro gave me the opportunity to observe, to learn  about professionalism and respect for this profession. But those experiences really taught me a great lesson of life- that in all things there must be a single seed: passion. When I am offered a role I always think of what I can give to that character and the movie or show and not what it can bring to me in terms of money, success, visibility, prestige and so on. This is my common denominator between cinema and theater, between my work and my life. I like to quote a phrase of Gene Hackman that really represents what I stand for: They taught me to become an actor, not a star. They taught me to play roles, not to have anything to do with celebrities, agents, lawyers and the press.
Hai avuto una carriera diversa e sei conosciuto per la tua arte onstage e onscreen. Quella qualita’ ti possiede come un attore che permette di lavorare così frequentemente tra i due generi di stage e screen.. e riesce sempre a dare belle performance?
Ho imparato a gestire le due cose facendo sempre quello che mi piace e rimanendo curioso e umile di fronte a chi ne sa più di me. Lavorare con registi come Bellocchio, Tornatore, con attori come Depardieu, Laura Betti, Valeria Golino, Vincent Gallo,Polanski oppure con direttori della fotografia come Blasco Giurato, Rotunno o Storaro mi ha dato modo di osservare, imparare sul campo i segreti, la professionalità, la serietà, il rispetto per questo mestiere ma sopratutto la grande lezione di vita per cui in ogni cosa deve esserci un unico seme: la passione.
Per fare cinema si ha bisogno di una concentrazione compressa. In teatro è tutto più dilatato. In breve e semplificando al massimo in uno devi sottrarre nell’altro devi amplificare. La cinepresa ingrandisce e scava dentro per cui hai bisogno di cose piccole che raccontino, in teatro la lente non c’è per cui tutto deve arrivare sostenuto Non sono mai stato un attore che ama la popolarità, l’essere riconosciuto per strada. Ho sempre vissuto questo mestiere come un artigiano che fa qualcosa per gli altri. Non ho mai smaniato per essere onnipresente a feste, mondanità, confusione.
Ho sempre scelto davvero solo le cose che mi piacevamo tranne pochissime volte che ho assecondato qualche volontà del mio agente. Ma non ho mai fatto scelto solo per denaro anzi dico spesso no se un ruolo non mi convince anche se la mia banca non è certo contenta.
Quando mi offrono un ruolo penso sempre cosa io posso dare a quel personaggio e  al film o spettacolo e non cosa può portare a me quel ruolo tipo denaro, successo, visibilità, prestigio e così via. Questo è il mio comune denomatore tra cinema e teatro, tra il mio mestiere e la vita.
Mi piace citare una frase di Gene Hackman che mi rappresenta molto : Mi hanno insegnato a diventare un attore non una star. Mi hanno insegnato ad interpretare ruoli, non ad avere a che fare con la celebrità, gli agenti, gli avvocati e la stampa. Gene Hackman
Check back with us as we will be covering more of Sebastiano Filocamo's work in the future.

"Black Souls" will open in New York on April 10th, with other cities to follow..



                         SEATTLE, WA                       
MAY 1ST           DALLAS, TX
                         PORTLAND, OR
MAY 8TH           CHICAGO, IL
                         MIAMI, FL
                         SAN DIEGO, CA
                         HONOLULU, HI
MAY 22ND        BOSTON, MA

Specific Theater Information is at

Watch the trailer:


In Conversation with Director Cecilia Pignocchi

Filmmakers Arthur Couvat and  Cecilia Pignocchi It’s unusual for a first-time filmmaker to be recognized by a high-profile, international fi...