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Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Rome Film Festival Lineup Announced


Four Italian Selections

ALASKA di Claudio Cupellini, Italia, 2015, 125’

Cast:Elio Germano, Astrid Berges-Frisbey, Valerio Binasco, Elena Radonicich, Marco D'Amore, Lubna Azabal, Paolo Pierobon, Pino Colizzi, Roschdy Zem

Nadine is a beautiful French young woman. Fausto is an Italian young man trying to make it in Paris as a restaurant waiter. They accidentally meet at a five-star hotel. Both are fragile, alone and obsessed with the idea of an unattainable happiness. Their intense love is challenged by their own individual ambition and desperation.

È la storia di due persone che non possiedono nulla se non se stessi. Non hanno radici, né un posto dove sentirsi a casa. Si conoscono sul tetto di un albergo parigino: le conseguenze di questo incontro saranno la prigione, l'amore, poi il sogno del successo e la separazione. Anche se il destino sembra sempre riservarsi l'ultima parola in questo melodramma estremo e fiammeggiante incalzato dall'interpretazione di Elio Germano.


DOBBIAMO PARLARE di Sergio Rubini, Italia, 2015, 98’

Cast: Fabrizio Bentivoglio, Maria Pia Calzone, Isabella Ragonese, Sergio Rubini

A comedy bringing together four friends during the course of one evening, which serves as a turning point for their friendship.

Vanni, cinquant’anni, è uno scrittore di successo. Linda, più giovane di vent'anni, collabora nell’ombra ai suoi romanzi: convivono in un attico altoborghese nel centro di Roma. I loro migliori amici Costanza e suo marito Alfredo detto il Prof, al contrario, sono sposati e gestiscono la vita in comune come un’azienda familiare, ponendo il patrimonio sopra ogni cosa. Una sera il Prof e Costanza irrompono in casa di Vanni e Linda. Costanza ha scoperto che Alfredo ha un’amante. L'evento scatenerà una crisi che produrrà una reazione a catena rendendo quel comodo salotto uno scenario di guerra. Una commedia divertente e tagliente che procede inarrestabile tra colpi di scena che scavano senza pietà nei protagonisti.


LO CHIAMAVANO JEEG ROBOT di Gabriele Mainetti, Italia, 2015, 112’

Cast: Claudio Santamaria, Luca Marinelli, Ilenia Pastorelli, Stefano Ambrogi, Maurizio Tesei

Enzo uses his superpowers for petty crime until he meets Alessia, whose love and soul-inspired imaginings will teach him the value of helping others.

Enzo Ceccotti, un pregiudicato di borgata, entra in contatto con una sostanza radioattiva. A causa di un incidente scopre di avere una forza sovraumana. Ombroso, introverso e chiuso in se stesso, Enzo accoglie il dono dei nuovi poteri come una benedizione per la sua carriera di delinquente. Tutto cambia quando incontra Alessia, convinta che lui sia l’eroe del famoso cartone animato giapponese Jeeg Robot d’Acciaio.


REGISTRO DI CLASSE – PARTE PRIMA 1900-1960 di Gianni Amelio, Cecilia Pagliarani, Italia, 2015, 54’ |Doc|

An archive documentary about history of Italian education.

I registri di classe servono a segnare le assenze e i voti degli alunni. Ma non tutti gli alunni sono uguali, non a tutti sono date le stesse possibilità. In questo viaggio lungo più di un secolo, insegnanti, bambini, genitori di ogni parte d’Italia raccontano la storia della scuola dell’obbligo, vissuta in prima persona tra grandi aspettative e delusioni spesso profonde. Un saggio di cinema, esplorazione documentaria e viaggio affettivo, firmato da uno degli autori più amati del cinema italiano contemporaneo.


- French-produced with Italian cast

LE PETIT PRINCE / IL PICCOLO PRINCIPE di Mike Osborne, Francia, 2015, 108’

Voci di: Toni Servillo, Paola Cortellesi, Stefano Accorsi, Micaela Ramazzotti, Alessandro Gassmann, Giuseppe Battiston, Pif, Alessandro Siani

An A-List Italian cast will give voice to the iconic characters of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry's legendary tale, "The Little Prince".

Un vecchio ed eccentrico aviatore e la sua nuova vicina di casa: una bambina trasferitasi nel quartiere insieme alla madre. Attraverso le pagine del diario dell'aviatore, la bambina scopre come tempo prima l'aviatore fosse precipitato in un deserto e vi avesse incontrato il Piccolo Principe, un enigmatico ragazzino giunto da un altro pianeta. Le avventure di uno dei libri più amati di sempre restituite da una innovativa e incantevole combinazione di CGI e animazione tradizionale.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Basilicata: Terra di Cinema - Michele Placido Pays Tribute to Carlo Levi

On Friday, 18 September 2015, an event dedicated to the work of author Carlo Levi will kick off a year-long program of events in Aliano, a commune of Matera. Actor/director Michele Placido will take the stage in honor of Levi, performing excerpts from several of his works including “Cristo si è Fermato ad Eboli“ (Christ stopped at Eboli), which of course was later made into an iconic film by Francesco Rosi. Fellow actors Raffaele Nigro and Rocco Brancati will share the stage with Placido along with local theater actors and musicians. 

Michele Placido

Michele Placido is a jack-of-all-trades when it comes to cinema. He is a celebrated movie star and respected director whose career has spanned over five decades with countless films and international blockbusters.


Placido’s family origins go back to Rionero in Vulture, a town located in the northern part of Basilicata. My family is also from that town and I have visited several times. Furthermore, Michele Placido is a descendent of the infamous bandit and soldier, Carmine Crocco- a fierce man who fought for equal rights and privileges for the people of the south.

Born in 1946, Placido actually grew up in the Puglia region near Foggia and then studied film in Rome at the famous Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia. He also studied with Silvio D'Amico at the Academy of Dramatic Arts, and made his acting debut in the play, “A Midsummer's Night Dream” in the late 60's. Shortly thereafter, he got into television and cinema and has been non-stop ever since. He was fortunate to begin his career under the direction of several cinematic geniuses like Mario Monicelli, Marco Bellocchio and Francesco Rosi. With guidance like that, it's no wonder he rose to the top of his field. Just seven years after his stage debut, Michele Placido won a David di Donatello for his work as an actor in Marco Bellocchio's "Marcia trionfale."



"La Piovra"
Placido has had much success as a director, especially with his 2001 film, "Un Viaggio chiamato amore" and then in 2005 with "Romanzo Criminale". Both films earned international acclaim and were featured in the programs of film festivals in the United States. However, Placido is most successful in the roles that he plays in front of the camera. He is perhaps best known in Italy for his role as a police investigator fighting organized crime in the 1980's TV series "La Piovra". Since then, he has gone back and forth between the big and small screen with memorable characters that push the envelope and call on the decades of experience that Placido has under his belt. Each of his characters has a quiet intensity to them that seems to be his signature as an actor. He can give dignity to the shadiest of characters and nobility to the most humble. His on-camera presence is strong and at times overwhelming as he demands all eyes on him without even saying a word.


Placido works on project after project and has new releases practically every year. The year of 2006 was memorable as he had roles in two international hits with Mario Monicelli's "Le rose del deserto" and Giuseppe Tornatore's "La sconosciuta" - the emotionally charged story of, Irina, (Kseniya Rappoport) a young woman who escapes the sex trade in her native Ukraine and starts a brand new life in an Italian village, working as a maid to an affluent young family. Michele Placido completely transforms himself into one of the most hated villains you will ever experience onscreen. His character, Muffa, is Irina's controlling, abusive pimp who makes her life a living hell. The outstanding performances given by Placido and Rappoport are reasons enough to watch this film. 

With Michele Placido at the 2016 Festa del Cinema di Roma
Both Monicelli's "Le rose del deserto" and Tornatore's "La sconosciuta", were huge successes outside Italy and further validated Placido's status as a versatile filmmaker. Placido tackles all kinds of roles, but is renowned for his characters who fight against organized crime. Perhaps this stems from "La Piovra". However, in 2008, he went for a change of pace and took on the complicated character of Bernardo Provenzano, a well-known mafia boss, for the television movie, "L'ultimo padrino".Then in  2011, Placido took on a lighter role, sharing the screen with comic maestros, Robert DeNiro and Carlo Verdone in the third installment of Giovanni Veronesi's all-star "Manuale d'amore". 

Michele Placido's talents seem to run in the family. His daughter, Violante is a movie star and singer. Her mother is actress Simonetta Stefanelli, who is best known on this side of the Atlantic for her role as Michael Corleone's doomed Sicilian wife in “The Godfather”. Violante followed in her mother’s footsteps and co-starred in a big-budget American project with George Clooney in the 2010 film, "The American".


If you’re anywhere near Matera or are able to make the trip, I imagine that Friday’s performance will be a powerful one, and shouldn’t be missed. For more information about the event, check out Matera Inside.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Interview: Documentary Filmmaker Vicki Vasilopoulos on 'Men of the Cloth'

Men of the Cloth is a portrait of three Italian master tailors who confront the decline of the apprentice system as they navigate their challenging roles in the twilight of their career. The film unravels the mystery of their artistry and reveals how their passionate devotion to their Old World craft is akin to a religion.

Italians Nino Corvato, Joe Centofanti and Checchino Fonticoli are master tailors who have spent a lifetime perfecting the skills necessary to construct flawless custom-made suits for their clients in New York City, Philadelphia and Penne, Italy. Now in the twilight of their career, they fear that their Old World knowledge will vanish with them. Enter Joe Genuardi, a tailoring apprentice who reflects the resurgence of popular interest in artisanal craftsmanship as an alternative to corporate mass production, providing hope for the future of this craft.

Filmmaker Vicki Vasilopoulos tells us all about her journey from the idea of making this film to the impact she hopes the film will make on the industry of tailoring. 

This project was made from the heart, and all of your dedication and perseverance paid off. Tell me about your journey from the beginning up until now. Did the film meet your expectations? 
I first met Checchino on a reporting trip to Italy when I was writing a piece on the luxury market for DNR, the men’s fashion newsmagazine (now a part of Women’s Wear Daily). He gave me a tour of the Brioni factory and school in the town of Penne, in Abruzzo. He was so charismatic and passionate about his craft, it left an indelible impression, and I was mesmerized by the environment there and couldn’t help thinking that craftsmen of his stature and experience were a vanishing breed. That planted a seed that would take eleven years to come to fruition.
Nino was fascinating because he had worked at Brooks Brothers prior to opening his own custom tailoring business in New York, so his career went in the opposite direction from what you’d expect: from a large concern to a throwback from another era! And Joe in the Philadelphia area was the elder statesman. He was born in the U.S. but grew up in Italy and worked in Africa. He ultimately took on the challenge of training a young apprentice, which is a critical turning point in Men of the Cloth.
Nino and Joe both represent aspects of the immigrant experience, and I also liked the fact that Checchino, although he was based in Italy, subverts our expectations and represents the opposite end of the spectrum from these two independent tailors in the U.S. I see Men of the Cloth as akin to the Slow Food of clothing, and these gentlemen’s personal stories were my true inspiration for the film. They’re unsung heroes, and I wanted to celebrate their craft. 

What was the reaction from the tailors upon seeing their story on the big screen? 
I think that master tailor Nino Corvato in New York has been very happy to have his life portrayed in an authentic way, and audiences have been treating him like a rock start when we do the Q&A’s at screening events and premieres. I don’t think that Checchino Fonticoli in Italy has seen the film yet; I hope to have my Italy premiere in the near future. As for Joe Centofanti, sadly, he passed away before the film was completed, but his daughter Helen (who continues to run the shop that he founded) is thrilled that the film can carry on her father’s legacy. 

What has the reaction been like from audiences? What are some of the memorable comments you've received?
Men of the Cloth had a sold-out world premiere at DOC NYC, the largest documentary film festival in America. It was the opening night film at the Craft in Focus Festival in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, and was voted an Audience Favorite at the Three Rivers Film Festival in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. It has also screened at the Italian Film Fest Vancouver, the Hamptons Take 2 Documentary Film Festival in New York, the Black Nights Film Festival in Estonia, the Montclair Film Festival in New Jersey, and the La Femme Film Festival for women directors in Los Angeles. It has premiered theatrically in New York, Washington, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Chicago, and Toronto. Upcoming premieres include, Boston, Detroit, Cleveland, San Francisco, and London.
Making the film was a real odyssey, and I wasn’t sure that I’d be able to finish it, given the commitment and sacrifices that it necessitated. But the audience reaction has been so gratifying! I never get tired of hearing people tell me how the film touched them or made them nostalgic or more appreciative of this glorious craft. At a film festival in Indiana in August two audience members called the film “exquisite,” and I was humbled by such an intense reaction.


Do you think this film will encourage younger generations to pursue a career in tailoring?
I’d like today’s generation to value the intrinsic beauty and integrity of a custom-made/bespoke suit and all that it represents – it’s the sum total of a master tailor’s entire life experience – and it’s imbued with his very essence.
I often hear from both young and middle-aged audience members that want to pursue a career in this venerable craft, and I find that very encouraging.  When my theatrical screening tour concludes this fall, I’ll be doing additional screenings at both art museums and colleges with Fashion Design and Italian Studies programs in an effort to continue this inter-generational dialogue. 

What is your dream for this film and its legacy or long-term effect on the tailoring industry?
My dream is that Men of the Cloth will continue to build on its grassroots following around the world. I hope to have a PBS broadcast, and I’m looking forward to the release of the Director’s Cut DVD (with extra features) as well as the digital release on streaming platforms like iTunes, Amazon and Vimeo. Fans can sign up for the newsletter at MenOfTheClothFilm.com to receive updates and I encourage them to email queries to info@menoftheclothfilm.com.

If you're in the vicinity of Rochester, New York, Men of the Cloth will be shown at George Eastman House's Dryden Theatre as part of the Labor Film Series on Friday October 9th at 8 PM. Filmmaker Vicki Vasilopoulos will present the film and answer audience questions afterwards.

Friday, September 4, 2015

72nd Venice Film Festival: Interview- Actor Paolo Mazzarelli from 'Italian Gangsters'


Italian Gangsters - Like we’ve never seen them before

Whether it’s the Camorra of Naples, the ‛Ndrangheta of Calabria or Cosa Nostra of Sicily, we are accustomed to seeing cinematic stories of organized crime running rampant in the south of Italy. Director Renato De Maria changes things up and presents us with a highly entertaining account of organized crime that plagued Italy’s northern city of Milan during the difficult years following World War II.


In a wildly creative, innovative film that the Hollywood Reporter describes as “Director Renato De Maria’s most entertaining film to date”, Italian Gangsters focuses on a group of notorious bandits and crime bosses that emerged from the rubble of post-war Italy, when Milan was just about leveled. These bandits came from struggling, working class families, many belonging to the Communist party, and openly opposed to the wartime fascist ideology.
Utilizing archival news footage, newspaper clippings, scenes from feature films by Marco Bellocchio and Michelangelo Antonioni, gripping music, reenactments and narratives by top Italian actors, Renato De Maria presents us with one of the most creative films I have ever seen. Even if you’re not a fan of gangster-themed films, the pace, the complexity and the underlying history of the film will keep you totally engaged and on the edge of your seat.


Actors Andrea Di Casa, Aldo Ottobrino, Francesco Sferrazza Papa, Sergio Romano, Paolo Mazzarelli and Luca Micheletti become the infamous gangesters- Horst Fantazzini, Pietro Cavallero , Enzo Barbieri, Paolo Casaroli, Luciano De Maria and Luciano Lutring. The characters were drawn from the actual writings and confessions of the gangsters themselves. Each actor puts his own twist on his character, creating six fascinating, charismatic protagonists.
I was especially moved by Paolo Mazzarelli’s interpretation of gangster, Luciano De Maria. The performance was very natural and Mazzarelli found the perfect balance of portraying De Maria while adding his own gestures and personality. In doing so, he humbled the character without taking away his bold, eccentric qualities. I also appreciated the story that he recounted- the robbery of via Osoppo in Milan. It was a carefully orchestrated robbery of an armored car that was carried out in the hustle and bustle of the city. It would go on to be one of the most-talked about, most-examined armed robberies in Italy’s history. However, it’s something that most Americans have never heard of, so for this reason, I found it interesting. In reading about the heist, I learned it was the inspiration behind two highly-acclaimed crime comedies- Mario Monicelli’s I soliti ignoti (The Big Deal on Madonna Street) and its sequel, Nanni Loy’s, Audace colpo dei soliti ignoti (Fiasco in Milan). Both films were huge commercial successes and starred iconic actors Vittorio Gassman, Claudia Cardinale, Marcello Mastroianni and Totò.

Paolo Mazzarelli as Luciano De Maria
Reading about the heist made me even more curious, so I contacted Paolo Mazzarelli, the actor that portrays this fascinating character, Luciano De Maria, and asked him to shed some light on De Maria and the robbery of via Osoppo.

Our interview was done in Italian, so I am including both versions.
What did you do to become Luciano de Maria? Tell me about your research.
There are not many written records on Luciano De Maria. So, I just tried to give life, humanity, rhythm and irony to the words the writers gave me for my character- words which alone created a varied and vivid portrait.
Che cosa hai fatto per diventare Luciano de Maria? Raccontami la tua ricerca.
Su Luciano De Maria non esistono moltissime testimonianze scritte. Ho cercato semplicemente di dare vita, umanità, ritmo, ironia alle parole che gli sceneggiatori mi hanno regalato per il mio personaggio, parole che da sole ne facevano un ritratto variegato e vivido.
What qualities of yourself did you give to this character?
I tried to give my bandit an irony and a boldness that, in part, are also characteristics of my own personality. De Maria, like the other bandits featured in the film, played around with his persona, giving it a fictionalized and romantic image. Today, that type of bandit no longer exists, so it was fun and exciting to enter this world and tiptoe around as an actor.
Quali sono le qualità di te stesso che hai dato a questo personaggio?
Ho cercato di dare al mio bandito una ironia e una sfrontatezza che, in parte, sono anche caratteristiche della mia personalità. De Maria, come altri banditi raccontati dal film, giocava col proprio personaggio, con una immagine romanzata e romantica di bandito che, oggi, non esiste più. E' stato divertente ed eccitante entrare nel suo mondo in punta di piedi, come attore.

Your character tells the story of the robbery of the armored vehicle on via Osoppo in Milan. It’s been referred to as "the most sensational robbery ever recorded in Milan". What made that robbery of 27 February 1958 so epic?
There are two things: the huge amount of money stolen, and the fact that the whole operation was carried out not only without hurting anyone, but without firing a single shot. From the point of view of a bandit, it was an absolutely perfect job. After all these years, and not only in Milan, people still remember that robbery. 
Il tuo personaggio ha raccontato la storia della rapina del camion porta valori di via Osoppo a Milano. E’ stata chiamata, “la più sensazionale rapina che mai la cronaca milanese abbia registrato”. Qual è il motivo, che ha reso quella rapina di 27 feb 1958 così epica?
Due cose: l'enorme quantità di denaro rubato, e il fatto che tutta l'operazione sia stata svolta non solo senza ferire nessuno, ma addirittura senza sparare un colpo. Dal punto di vista di un bandito, un lavoro assolutamente perfetto. Al punto che di quella rapina, a Milano e non solo, c'è ancora memoria a distanza di tanti anni.

At any time during his life, did Luciano de Maria express remorse for the crimes that he committed?
I don’t know if he ever really expressed remorse. Surely, the 20 years imprisonment that he served was a long period of reflection and perhaps then, he questioned his actions as a criminal. But there’s really no way of knowing if he traveled that path to clear his conscience.
In quale momento, durante la sua vita, Luciano De Maria ha espresso rimorso per i crimini che ha commesso?
Non lo so. Non so neanche se abbia mai davvero espresso rimorso. Sicuramente i 20 anni di carcere che si è fatto saranno stati un lungo periodo di riflessione e magari anche di messa in discussione del suo operato criminale, ma io non ho elementi per sapere che percorso abbia fatto la sua coscienza.
Italian Gangsters will be available online until September 8th through the Venice Film Festival’s Sala Web program. 

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Italian Winemaking on the Big Screen

Art imitates life in the film, The Duel of Wine. A sequel to The Ways of Wine, Charlie Arturaola, a real-life sommelier revisits his character who experienced a fall from grace since the original film. This time around, Charlie has to work his way back up to regain his respected name and the forgiveness of his wife. A portrait of self-discovery with a sharp element of comedy, “The Duel of Wine” is a thought-provoking love letter to the land, passion and art of winemaking- and wine-drinking for that matter. The lively scenes along with the beautiful soundtrack and locations will reel you right into this decadent world.


The film has been called “a fictionalized documentary” as it mirrors the life of this charismatic wine aficionado. But don’t let the comedy element fool you. Charlie Arturaola is a renowned expert in everything that has to do with wine. He is the president of the Miami based Grappolo Blu Inc. where he lectures, conducts educational tastings, acts as an expert appraiser for insurance companies, consults with foreign importers and mentors new members of the wine community. His fluency in five languages has taken him from Brazil to Bordeaux and from Montefalco to Patagonia, allowing him to deliver his passion for wine in Italian, French, Spanish, Portuguese and English.


Arturaola's larger than life presence lends to his on-screen success and he is a natural in front of the camera. His first film, “The Ways of Wine”, was shown at festivals around the world, and the sequel is about to premiere at the Montreal World Film Festival. Directed by Argentinian filmmaker, Nicolás Carreras, the film was made in Italy and written by Federico Marcello, with cinematography by Agustin Vidal.

The latest film festival to feature The Duel of Wine is the annual N.I.C.E. Film Festival. The film will be shown on November 15 in New York City at the Italian Cultural Institute. 
Click here for more information.
For all the latest news and information on The Duel of Wineclick here to follow the film on Facebook. 

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

All Roads Lead to Basilicata.. A Conversation with Director Antonello Faretta


Antonello Faretta's Montedoro is the story of Pia Marie Mann whose journey to find her birth mother led her to Craco, a deserted town in the heart of Basilicata. 

Born in Potenza in 1973, Faretta has been making films for years, but he first came under our radar in January during the Rome screening of his documentary, Nine Poems in Basilicata. A couple months later, Montedoro made its North American premiere at the Atlanta Film Festival and this filmmaker from Basilicata, along with his partner Adriana Bruno and their protagonist Pia Mann, were thrust into the spotlight, forever changing their lives.

With Montedoro, Faretta captures the immortality of a land that has been raped and pillaged through time by invaders and Mother Nature alike but continues to stand steadfast in all its splendor and eternal natural beauty. Its inhabitants are natural-born warriors whose rich history can be seen in the contours, shadows and expressions of their faces. Their eyes gaze through your soul, and their guarded, instinctive nature enables them to spot the integrity of your character right away. This message is communicated loud and clear in Montedoro with each tortured, introverted, suspicious character we meet. Pia brings an innocence to the landscape, a breath of fresh air with her curiosity, her cell phone and above all, the ambitious mission to find her mother.


Faretta places a completely modern but troubled character and plot in a poetic fantasy world that doesn’t seem possible to exist today. In doing so, the purity of the land is emphasized- a land that existed in another time before it was polluted and its resources extracted by the modern man. Faretta's style of storytelling is reminiscent of the mid 1960s films like Michelangelo Antonioni's Blowup, Pier Paolo Pasolini'sThe Gospel According to Saint Matthew (also shot in Basilicata) and Marco Bellocchio’s Fists in the Pocket. Each filmmaker spoke of tortured souls being the products of their dysfunctional environments. While Faretta’s choice to show the region as he did could be a thorn in the side for those of us trying to promote the modern aspects of Italy whether it be contemporary cinema, technology or culture.. the old-world feel of Italy still appeals to outsiders.

Pier Paolo Pasolini's "The Gospel According to Saint Matthew"
That aspect, in my opinion, is why Sorrentino’s Great Beauty took home an Oscar and Cristina Comencini’s Don’t tell didn’t. Foreigners, Americans in particular, would rather see the Colosseum, the Mouth of Truth and the Parco dei Acquedotti than a contemporary family dealing with a dark secret. That quality will definitely work in Faretta’s favor in his search for international acceptance. For those of us that work to dispel antiquated southern stereotypes like the New York Times editorial in which Northern journalist, Beppe Severgnini described a train in Calabria as a “locomotive coughing along”, we can only hope that international audiences will empathize with Mann’s modern story and appreciate Faretta’s poetic, creative way of telling it rather than believing that Basilicata still operates that way.  The truth is that we need young directors to mirror the reality of their region for their generation, and to show us the young, modern bustling communities filled with life and hope. But at the same time, we also need a director like Faretta to enchant us with the magnificence of Lucania’s vast, majestic landscapes and crucified souls.


Putting aside the film critic in me- the human story, the story of Pia Marie Mann is the real protagonist in this film. Her ambition to find the land of her origins and her birth mother coupled with Faretta’s love and passion for his homeland make up what he describes as “a very personal, intimate film”. When I initially saw the way in which Basilicata was presented, I felt a little confused because in my experiences of traveling through the region, I had never seen anything as "old country" as this. However, after spending about 20 minutes with Mann’s sincerity and sweetness, immersed in Faretta’s spellbinding cinematography and sumptuous colors, I fell in love with this film and was completely drawn into its surreal world.


The first moments of the film as we experience the train ride to the south of Italy brought tears to my eyes as I recalled my first train ride to Basilicata in 2002 when I met my great grandmother’s family for the first time. There’s a uniqueness about the sunlight south of Lazio and Campania that changes and becomes the light of Lucania. I don’t know how he did it, but Faretta nailed that particular atmospheric light.

I was very fortunate to have had the unique experience of watching this film and messaging Faretta at the same time as I was questioning his decisions and style. The work of Pier Paolo Pasolini kept coming to mind, especially The Hawks and the Sparrows. There seemed to be a lot of symbolism and I wondered what it all meant. He assured me that it would all come together for me in the end, which it did. Afterwards, I put some questions together for him and he patiently answered all of them. 

(The answers are followed by a translation for our Italian readers.)
Tell me about this world you've created in Montedoro. It’s almost reminiscent of the Old Wild West in America.. eerie and surreal.
The film was shot in and around Craco, which is located near Matera. It’s literally a ghost town today. It was completely abandoned in 1963 following a large landslide. The magic and mystery are inherent in this place that for me has become a place for the soul. The fact that the lead actress was born in the area adds to the charm and mystery of the landscape. The film shows the valleys of Calanchi di Aliano as well as the most desolate and anonymous area of Matera where there are no tourists. I tried to make a film that followed the flow of consciousness and emotion of this woman and this place. I wanted to find an abstract way to delve deeper into the truth of Pia and this land.


Il film è girato quasi interamente a Craco, vicino Matera, che è un “paese fantasma” oggi completamente abbandonato dal 1963 in seguito ad una grande frana. La magia e il mistero sono insiti in questo luogo che per me è diventato negli anni un luogo dell’anima. Al fascino di questo luogo si è aggiunto nel tempo l’incontro con la protagonista del film Pia Marie Mann, nata proprio a Craco e poi cresciuta negli Stati Uniti. Anche il mondo interiore di Pia è misterioso come la vita di ogni persona. Nel film poi ci sono incursioni nei Calanchi di Aliano e a Matera, nella parte più “brutta” e anonima della città, quella non turistica. Ho cercato di fare un film che seguisse il flusso di coscienza e di emozione di questa donna e di questo luogo, cercando astrazione, un modo per andare più a fondo nella verità di questo luogo e nella vita di Pia.

I mentioned that at times, I felt like I was watching a Pasolini film. Has he been an influence on your career as a filmmaker?
Pasolini is unique, and can’t be pulled off by others. I know his work through his books, films and paintings. He was and still is a key figure for the whole Italian culture. The lack of his presence is strongly felt, especially today in these times of ignorance that we are living. But I wasn’t influenced by Pasolini while preparing Montedoro. I really wasn’t influenced by anyone. It was basically my own with small gifts to some of my favorite directors- Tarkovsky, Parajanov and Kiarostami. More than gifts, I call them signs of admiration. Montedoro is a very personal work1 and I was directly involved in all aspects of making the film. Films for me should resemble the people who make them, and I must say that Montedoro is a lot like me, my character and my personality.

Pasolini è unico, non si può accostare ad altri… conosco la sua opera attraverso i suoi libri e i suoi film, i suoi quadri… La sua è stata ed è una figura fondamentale per tutta la cultura italiana - se ne sente fortemente la sua mancanza soprattutto oggi in questi tempi di ignoranza che stiamo vivendo - ma non pensavo sinceramente a Pasolini mentre preparavo Montedoro e non pensavo a nessuno. È stato un lavoro su me stesso, sulla mia lingua fondamentalmente con piccoli omaggi ad alcuni tra i miei registi preferiti, Tarkovsky, Parajanov e Kiarostami, il primo, quello prima del digitale. Più che omaggi, li definirei segni di ammirazione. Montedoro è un lavoro molto personale, a contatto diretto con i materiali costituenti il film. I film per quanto mi riguarda devono somigliare alle persone che li realizzano e devo dire che Montedoro somiglia molto a me, al mio carattere, alla mia personalità.
A very poignant moment of the film is near the beginning when Pia is in the car with the taxi driver and he's talking about his land.
I am very fond of that scene. It represents the connection I have to my land and to the violence thrust upon it by the waste of the modern world. My region, Basilicata is a beautiful land that is facing energy issues in relation to the environment. In Basilicata, we extract petroleum, a lot of it and the scene in the taxi for me is an act of love for my land and the beauty of nature against the ruins of contemporary life.

Sono molto affezionato a quella scena. Rappresenta il legame con la mia terra e il rifuto di una modernità “violenta” che è contro il territorio stesso, la mia regione, la Basilicata.. è una bellissima terra ma anche una terra che sta affrontando la questione energetica in relazione all’ambiente. In Basilicata, si estrae petrolio, tanto petrolio e la scena del taxi per me è un atto di amore verso la mia terra, la natura.. la bellezza della natura contro le rovine della contemporaneità.
I've read news reports about the petroleum issue in Basilicata. What are the dangers and what is your perspective as a native?
I do not know exactly how things are going and what is actually true. What I know is what comes out in the newspapers. There should be an open forum that would include the executives of mining companies, representatives of environmental organizations, the region's president and the citizens. I know that it sounds like a pure utopia but I like utopias much more than reality- the current one in particular. It horrifies me. I can only say that I am opposed to the extraction of oil in general. As the taxi driver in the film said, "The farmers once caressed the earth with their hoes. Now they pull the blood, which is black in color." Today, what is left? I believe the oil in Basilicata has brought no development and it will not bring any in the future. What I can tell you is that I personally think there are a lot more creative ways to economize with alternative energy. In Basilicata, we have all the elements to accomplish this: water, air, sea, river and wind. 

Non so bene come stiano le cose e come me molti credo, quanto so è quello che esce sui giornali. Bisognerebbe mettere ad un tavolo pubblico i dirigenti delle compagnie di estrazione, i rappresentanti delle organizzazioni ambientaliste, il presidente della Regione e i cittadini… pura utopia lo so ma a me piacciono le utopie molto di più della realtà che spesso - quella attuale in particolare - mi fa orrore. Posso solo dirti che sono contrario alle estrazioni di petrolio in generale, come dice il tassista nel film ad un certo punto quando sta conducendo Porziella a Montedoro: “…qui un tempo i contadini accarezzavano la terra con le loro zappe, adesso ci tirano il sangue, che è nero di colore…”. Un tempo c’era una cultura qui, quella della terra, quella contadina (il film si ispira a Scotellaro e a lui dedicato) c’erano dei valori. Oggi cosa ci resta? Io credo che il petrolio in Basilicata non abbia portato alcuno sviluppo e non ne porterà. Quello che posso dirti è che personalmente credo molto di più in formule innovative per fare economia con le energie alterative, in Basilicata abbiamo tutto, acqua, aria, mare, fiume, vento.
There are several scenes with animals.. the goat, the horse, the sheep and the bird with the broken foot. What is the significance of the animals? 
The film contains many symbols and among them there are different animals. They all have different meanings and I prefer to have those that watch the movie give their own meaning to the symbolism. For me, each symbol has one meaning but it’s interesting to see the meaning other people give to these symbols. The film relies heavily on the active participation of the viewer.

Il film contiene molti simboli e tra questi ci sono diversi animali. Hanno significati diversi, tutti, e trovo giusto che sia chi guarda il film a riempire di significato questi simboli. Per me ne hanno uno ma è interessante capire cosa ci vede la gente, che significato loro danno a questi simboli. Il film conta molto sulla partecipazione attiva di chi lo guarda.
Explain to me your belief that film follows life but never viceversa.
Life is an art superior to cinema. So, the actors are not actors. They are human. It’s how we all are. You have to clear the "burden" of the camera to be part of the living. I lived the story of Pia and Craco for many years. I spent so much time in Craco because I wanted to know the people, so they would tell me their story. The films that interest me the most are those that are inspired by true stories, the truth and that they become tools to make a path with those who are represented in the film itself. Movies are a tool to reach a deeper truth, and to go beyond the surface of things.


La vita e’ un’arte superiore al cinema. Cosi' gli attori non sono piu attori ma esseri umani. Come siamo tutti noi. Bisogna far scomparire il “peso” della macchina da presa essere parte di un “vissuto”. Ho vissuto Pia e Craco per molti anni. Ho vissuto quasi anni Craco a conoscere la gente farmi raccontare la loro storia. I film che mi interessano di più sono quelli che seguono storie vere, la verità e che diventano strumenti per fare un percorso con chi è rappresentato nel film stesso e con la troupe stessa. I film sono strumento per poter raggiungere una verità più profonda, per andare a fondo, oltre la superficie delle cose.

Tell me also about your passion for photography. You have a natural talent for capturing a moment in time, especially in your photo, Ulivo e grano.
It was one of my first childhood passions. My father had some cameras in the house and a super-8 camera. It was thanks to him that I discovered the beauty of looking through a lens, a viewfinder. Slowly photography has become for me a way of looking at the world and to take note of the world, I don’t do photographs for exhibitions, but for me. My photographs are like travel notes.
È una delle mie prime passioni infantili. Mio padre aveva alcune macchine fotografiche in casa e una cinepresa super-8. È stato grazie a lui che ho scoperto la bellezza di guardare attraverso una lente, un mirino. Piano piano la fotografia è diventata per me un modo di guardare il mondo e di prendere nota del mondo, non faccio fotografie per mostre ma per me, le mie fotografie sono come appunti di viaggio.

Montedoro will be shown at the St. Louis International Film Festival on the following dates: Thursday, November 12 at 2:15pm & Sunday, November 15 at 9:30pm at Plaza Frontenac CinemaClick here to purchase tickets.


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