|A scene from "Alberi"|
It's an ancient ritual that started during the middle ages but was eventually abandoned by younger generations. In recent years, that ancient tradition, called "Foresta Che Cammina" (the forest that walks) has been making a comeback exactly where it began all those centuries ago- in the village of Satriano di Lucania, located in the region of Basilicata.
Filmmaker Michelangelo Frammartino made a film about this ritual and presented it as an installation a few years ago at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York. "Alberi" (Trees) tells the story of this old ritual that took place during Italian Carnevale when the men of the village would cover themselves in leaves, transforming into mystical walking trees. 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.”
Watch scenes from "Albero" and the presentation in New York..
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.
|A scene from "Le Quattro volte"|
I caught up with Michelangelo Frammartino while he was in New York promoting "Alberi". He told me about this connection to nature and how his education in architecture influences his work.
|The Ionian Coast of Caulonia in Calabria|
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.
In your film, "Le quattro volte", what is the significance of the number four? Why four times?
"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"|
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.
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