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Thursday, June 30, 2016

Fellini Retrospective begins in New York

IFC Center presents “Fellini,” an 11-film retrospective of the legendary Italian filmmaker Federico Fellini, July 1-September 25 in the ongoing “Weekend Classics” program. With a signature style that combined baroque and fantastic flourishes with more earthy concerns, Fellini (1920-1993) was not only one of the twentieth century’s most beloved filmmakers, but has proven one of its most influential as well. Among numerous awards and distinctions, Fellini’s films won four Oscars, along with prizes at Cannes, Venice, Berlin and other film festivals, with Fellini himself receiving career achievement awards from Cannes in 1974 and Venice in 1985, followed by a special Oscar for Lifetime Achievement in 1993.

The program kicks off with Fellini’s international succès de scandale blockbuster LA DOLCE VITA (1960), screening daily at 11:00am Friday, July 1-Thursday, July 7. An epic portrait of the dawn of tabloid culture, set in the decadent postwar Roman demimonde and starring Marcello Mastroianni and Anita Ekberg, the film was denounced by censors around the world for glorifying immorality, despite winning the Palme d’Or for Best Film at Cannes.

The series continues weekends at 11:00am through September 25. Other highlights of the program include the early black-and-white masterworks I VITELLONI and LA STRADA, the semiautobiographical AMARCORD, the historical fantasies FELLINI’S CASANOVA and FELLINI SATYRICON, the recently restored CITY OF WOMEN, and a Labor Day weekend presentation of 8½, a meditation on creativity starring Mastroianni as a frustrated filmmaker that’s a perennial entry on Top-10-of-all-Time lists.

A related exhibit of rare, international Fellini posters is on display in the Posteritati at IFC Center gallery on the theater’s second floor. A complete film schedule is below.

 “Fellini” – Weekends at 11:00am, July 1-September 25 at IFC Center
JUL 1-7: LA DOLCE VITA (1960)
JUL 8-10: I VITELLONI (1953) – 35mm print!
JUL 15-17: LA STRADA (1954) – 35mm print!
JUL 29-31: IL BIDONE (1955)
AUG 5-7: GINGER AND FRED (1986) – 35mm print!
AUG 12-14: AMARCORD (1973)
 – 35mm print!
AUG 19-21: ROMA (1972)
SEP 2-5: 8 1⁄2 (1963) – 35mm print!
SEP 9-11: FELLINI SATYRICON (1969) – 35mm print!
SEP 23-25: CITY OF WOMEN (1980)

Interview: Vincenzo Mosca of TVCO on "My Italy" and Italian Cinema throughout the World

The 13th edition of the Italian Screenings, the only annual marketplace event dedicated solely to Italian productions is underway in Bari, located in Italy's southern region of Puglia. Organized by Istituto Luce Cinecittà, 130 professionals from 30 countries are expected to attend. The purpose is to sell Italian films to buyers throughout the world.

Among those professionals is Vincenzo Mosca. He and his business partner Sesto Cifola run the world sales and production company TVCO that recently partnered with CristaldiFilm to make Italian films available throughout the world. Cristaldifilm is operated by Massimo Cristaldi and Zeudi Araya. Massimo is the son of Franco Cristaldi, a monumental movie producer and three-time Oscar winner for some of the most beautiful, timeless films ever created, including Pietro Germi's "Divorce-Italian Style", Federico Fellini's "Amarcord" and Giuseppe Tornatore's "Cinema Paradiso". The partnership between these professionals so passionate about Italian cinema is a match made in heaven.

Mosca and Cifola are in Bari to present their film "My Italy". Directed by Bruno Colella who also stars in the film along with an ensemble cast that includes Luisa Ranieri and Rocco Papaleo, "My Italy" tells the story of a director and his assistant traveling around Europe in search of financing for a feature film about four great contemporary artists. Along the way, they meet up with a whole cast of characters and problems which greatly affect the outcome of the film.

I recently spoke with Vincenzo Mosca about his collaboration with CristaldiFilm and Italian film distribution around the world.

How is your recent collaboration with CristaldiFilm going?
Our collaboration with Massimo Cristaldi and Zeudi Araya is very good. The library is so rich in masterpieces. Buyers are interested in most of them. 

Tell me about "My Italy." What was it about this film that made you want to represent it?
Do you think the message is universal and will be understood outside of Italy, helping world distribution of the film?
"My Italy" is an extraordinary combination of contemporary art and comedy in the best Italian way. I found it extremely entertaining and at the same time innovative about Italy, her beauty and contradictions through the eyes of four of the leading contemporary artists who play themselves. I believe this will appeal to world audiences.

Can individuals purchase your films here in America or do you just sell to theaters and distributors?
We first look for distributors to maximize exposure, but we do run our own TVOD channel where a selection of our Italian and European films are available for individual buyers.

In your experience, how do you feel about Italian cinema on a global platform? Is there a big demand for it?
I believe we do have to increase and foster the demand of Italian cinema on a global platform. My idea is to create one single or a few strong platforms dedicated to our cinema. I am sure that would work.

For more information about the vast library of films available through TVCO's partnership with CristaldiFilms, click here- TvcoVOD.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Basilicata protagonista della XIV edizione dell'Ischia Film festival: la kermesse cinematografica dedicata al cineturismo

Basilicata presente da player principale in un autorevolissimo convegno con studiosi provenienti da tutto il mondo, Film Commission nazionali, della Gran Bretagna, dell'Austria, dell'Andalusia e molti altri ancora.  Significativo l'intervento dell'assessore regionale Braia, che ha ribadito come la Regione stia puntando con decisione su questa particolare filiera. Da segnalare anche l'intervento della fondazione FEEM, da sempre impegnata nello studio e la ricerca degli effetti del cinema sul turismo, un lavoro che sarà continuato in sinergia con il GAL Bradanica. La dirigente regionale Patrizia Minardi ha illustrato tre pacchetti turistici basati sui percorsi di cineturismo. Il direttore Leporace ha raccontato il lavoro di promozione della cinematografia lucana, svolto in questi anni in contesti nazionali ed internazionali.
Spazio anche alle proiezioni dei lavori made in Basilicata: hanno raccolto applausi e l'interesse del pubblico sia il cortometraggio Cenere del regista lucano Saponara, presente al festival con l'attore Irene, ma anche "Papaveri e Papere" della regista potentina De Fino, anche lei presente ad Ischia con l'attore Dino Paradiso ed il direttore della fotografia Ugo Lo Pinto.
Proiettato in anteprima il documentario "L’utile meraviglia, orti saraceni di Tricarico", del regista Prospero Bentivenga. Grande apprezzamento per questo documentario che si appresta a girare in Italia e nel mondo. Presente anche il sindaco di Tricarico che, con la Lucana Film Commission, ha sostenuto questa opera.

Nel festival dedicato ai luoghi del cinema non poteva non trovare spazio "Un paese quasi perfetto", proiettato alla presenza di Silvio Orlando e Nando Paone, protagonisti del film girato tra Castelmezzano e Pietrapertosa, e del regista Massimo Gaudioso. Ai tre la Lucana Film Commission ha voluto dare un premio per aver contribuito notevolmente alla promozione della Basilicata e del cinema lucano.

Il programma lucano dell'Ischia Film festival prosegue con la proiezione di "Cento Santi" di Roberto Moliterni, e del documentario “La transumanza in Basilicata, una storia vera”, inserito nel cartellone delle opere “Fuori concorso”.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Michelangelo Antonioni: The Master of Improvisation

Nothing is what it seems. If one had to describe the films of Michelangelo Antonioni with one phrase, that would do it. Antonioni made a career out of mesmerizing audiences with his films of complicated relationships that raise questions, but leave many of the answers to the viewer. In a 1969 interview with American film critic Roger Ebert, Antonioni described his shooting as a constant departure from the script. “I may film scenes I had no intention of filming; things suggest themselves on location, and we improvise. I try not to think about it too much. Then, in the cutting room, I take the film and start to put it together, and only then do I begin to get an idea of what it is about.”

Michelangelo Antonioni was born in 1912 in Ferrara, located in the region of Emilia Romagna. He attended college in nearby Bologna during the 1930s where he became involved in theater and painting. After graduation, he freelanced as a film critic for a local newspaper. Shortly thereafter, he moved to Rome and tried to make a documentary at of all places, an insane asylum. The project fell through, but some have said that his experience in making that film would go on to influence future works, in particular, Tentato Suicidio in 1953.

Many great filmmakers begin their careers with documentaries, and the same can be said of Antonioni. His first completed film documented the lives of residents living in a region near Ferrara, Italy. Gente del Po was released in 1947 and revealed Antonioni’s distinct style of filmmaking that went unparalleled in his time. The success of his documentaries paved the way for his feature length films. In 1950, Antonioni’s first feature film, "Cronaca di Un Amore" was released. The film echoes noir but the traditional plot recipe belonging to noir was compromised in order to shift focus to the intense feeling of the characters. Antonioni is known for his complex, well developed characters who don’t always make morally sound choices.

His first widescreen film and my personal favorite was his 1960 masterpiece L’Avventura in which he tells the story of a missing person through the experiences of the people heading the search. Those people, the missing woman’s fiancé and best friend end up having their own affair. Antonioni's partner and muse Monica Vitti starred in the film and gave a powerful performance with a brilliant air of indifference. L'Avventura along with his other works of that period, La Notte (1961), L’Eclisse (1962) and Il Deserto Rosso (1964) all share a consistent style, theme, social setting and plot. Those works brought his career to the level in which it has remained through the years. He is something of an international art house legend, a classic, golden age director with an unprecedented, ageless method to his filmmaking. His influence has long reached beyond the borders of Italy. 

Despite the success of his films of the early 1960s, the world was just getting a taste of his talent and unique vision. One can say that Michelangelo Antonioni reinvented himself with the making of Blow Up for which he earned two Oscar nominations. The film tells the story of a disenfranchised fashion photographer. When he takes a photograph in a London Park, he realizes something mysterious in the background, setting the stage for the 1966 drama, which co-stars Vanessa Redgrave. To this day, the film stirs up conversation and draws criticism due to its vast room for interpretation. In addition to the Oscar nominations, Blow Up won the Golden Palm at the 1967 Cannes Film Festival and earned a nomination for Best English-Language Foreign Film at the 1967 Golden Globes.  

In 2012, I attended a fascinating exhibit in Rome by the artist, Jacopo Benci. “The Mystery of the Park" featured a collection of instant photographs, digital photographs and a video. The subject of these photos was Maryon Park in southeast London, the location of a key scene in Blow Up.  Benci's fascination with gardens and parks lies in the way that we generally regard parks as "spaces prepared for living in the magic of daylight, for contemplation or for play, for meeting or solitude.." That is quite a poetic thought for a simple and beautiful exhibition of photos. If you are familiar with the film and the scene that was shot in Maryon Park, you will find irony in the peaceful, still portraits that graced the walls of the Roman gallery  where they were displayed. I found the exhibit to be a beautiful union of art and film, which captured the tranquility and vast landscape of one location, and I appreciated the fact it kept relevant an iconic Italian filmmaker of days gone by.

Indentificazione di una donna
Antonioni made films throughout the 70s and 80s, which experimented with different lighting techniques and different ways to use the camera to add his signature style to each scene. He created several layers to his films with the way they were shot, the intensity of the characters’ personalities and the political backdrop of the subjects. The combination of his style of filmmaking and the mainstream market of the late 1970s clashed, forcing Antonioni to eventually give up some of his strong, alternative ways for a more commercial approach. The first product to emerge from that way of thinking was, Identificazione di una donna in 1982. It would be his last film until 1995. 

Al di là delle nuvole
Al di là delle nuvole was Antonioni’s comeback film after he suffered a severe stroke and was unable to work for thirteen years. The project was co-directed by German filmmaker, Wim Wenders. The ensemble cast of Al di là delle nuvole includes John Malkovich, Vincent Perez, Jean Reno, Marcello Mastroianni and Jean Moreau as well as a recognizable selection of pop music. Each story, as Antonioni himself said, invites the viewer to an inner travel “towards the true image of that absolute and mysterious reality that nobody will ever see.”

Michelangelo Antonioni never really managed to connect with mainstream audiences.  He had his own way of telling and shooting a story. He saw things when he looked through the lens of a camera that you and I don’t see. It’s been said that one should see Antonioni’s films several times over to truly appreciate the way he tells a story through the visual medium. He passed away in 2007 at the age of 94. His films are still very relevant and available online.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Interview: Raoul Bova on Second Chances and the New Generation of Italian Filmmakers

Actor Raoul Bova recently presented two of his films in Canada at the Italian Contemporary Film Festival and the Niagara Integrated Film Festival: Carlo Vanzina’s time travel comedy "Rewind and Reboot" (Torno Indietro e Cambio Vita) and the romantic comedy "All Roads Lead to Rome," which he presented alongside cinema legend and co-star Claudia Cardinale.

Bova’s acting career spans more than two decades and it has been a joy to watch him grow and evolve as an actor. He’s not afraid to take on complex characters like Lorenzo in Ferzan Ozpetek’s "Facing Windows" while he seems to embrace and have fun with lighter storylines like the two he just presented.  

I had the great pleasure of meeting Raoul Bova in Niagara Falls where he presented "All Roads Lead to Rome" with Claudia Cardinale. He had a full schedule lined up that day with very little time for interviews, but I managed to slip in three quick questions and he was graceful enough to take the time to answer them. He spoke about the message of his new film and the evolution of cinema on an international scale.

"All Roads Lead to Rome" is being shown all over North America now. What do you think audiences will take away from this film and the Eternal City?
You can watch all the beauty we have in Italy but the most important thing is the story, the love you have between this American woman and this Italian guy. They didn’t have the chance to show each other how much they loved one another. So they are given this second chance. I find that when you have a second chance, you say, now I have the time to show what I really have inside and they finally did. It’s the kind of story where sometimes you’re not ready for that kind of love but after 10 years, you are.

What was it like working with such a diverse, international,  cast? There are newcomers, a legend, Italian actors and Sarah Jessica Parker. That's  quite a group of people.
It was very interesting because it was one way to see our jobs as actors and then with this movie business. It makes you understand that it’s not the language you speak but the feeling you have because it’s always the same. It’s like mathematics. You are in front of the camera. You have your close-up. You have the story and you have to work on the script. The crew was the best. You have an Italian crew. You have an American crew. You have a great European crew- The DP (Director of Photography) is from Hungary. The crew was from all over the world, and right now the movie business is full of different languages. So we were prepared and it was very easy. 

You had a production company a few years ago and you worked with young filmmakers. What do you think about the new generation of Italian filmmakers and what they’re doing? For example, the recent success of Gabriele Mainetti’s "They Call Me Jeeg Robot"..
That was a very unusual production. The director was also the producer of the movie and he was very brave because in the movie industry, not only in Italy but all over the world, when you have success with one type of movie, they repeat it again and again and again- the same story with different actors in a different production but it’s still the same story. I’m very happy that "Jeeg Robot" was successful because it’s a new way to see movies. It also gives encouragement to new directors. It's a different way to see cinema because it’s new, it’s modern.

Raoul Bova currently has three films in pre-production, slated for 2017 releases. In the meantime, "All Roads Lead to Rome" is available on the following platforms in the United States..

Basilicata protagonista dell'Ischia Film Festival

Una presenza significativa e rilevante quella della Basilicata al quattordicesimo Ischia film festival, premio cinematografico internazionale sulla diversificazione culturale dei territori e che si svolgerà dal prossimo 25 giugno al 2 luglio nella scenografica location del Castello d’aragonese. 
Marco Leonardi in "Ustica"
Il programma della kermesse segna due lungometraggi di successo come “Un Paese quasi perfetto” di Massimo Gaudioso e “Ustica” di Renzo Martinelli, tre corti finanziati dal Bando alla crisi, due documentari in vetrina, un Focus dedicato alla Basilicata e presenze significative al convegno internazionale della manifestazione che ha lanciato nel mondo il neologismo del cineturismo grazie all’intuito del direttore artistico della manifestazione Michelangelo Messina che sin dal primo edizione ha posto l'accento sulle potenzialità economiche e turistiche di sviluppo provenienti dal connubio tra produzione cinematografica e territorio. E al prestigioso convegno internazionale di questa edizione su “Lo sviluppo del cineturismo in Europa a 14 anni  dalla sua nascita: analisi e prospettive” insieme ad esperti internazionali come Sue Beeton e Adrian Cotton registrerà l’intervento istituzionale della regione Basilicata  Rilevante e significativo anche il contributo della dirigente dei sistemi turistici  culturali della regione Basilicata, Patrizia Minardi che ad Ischia presenterà il progetto “Tourism movie" approvato dalla giunta regionale e candidato alla promozione nazionale dell' ENIT, nell'ambito dei progetti interregionali "South route" e in coerenza con l'anno dei cammini 2016. Il progetto lucano presenta tre percorsi fruibili  di cineturismo e  si svilupperà, nella prossima triennalità, ancora su altri percorsi coinvolgendo tutto il territorio regionale.
Tra i relatori della giornata di studio anche il direttore della Lucana Film Commission Paride Leporace che si confronterà con diversi colleghi italiani ed esteri presenti ad Ischia e Giuseppe Lalinga che con il Gal Bradanica ha da tempo avviato la significativa esperienza di Cineturismo experience nella collina materana.
La Lucana Film Commission ha contribuito ad ideare il focus dedicato alla regione Basilicata che vedrà uno dei momenti più salienti con la prima assoluta del documentario “L’utile meraviglia. Gli orti saraceni di Tricarico”
Il film, realizzato grazie al Comune di Tricarico in collaborazione con la Lucana Film Commission, esplora il ricamo della terra che genera visioni da land art. Il viaggio dell’acqua, il percorso del più prezioso bene che l’uomo ha saputo raccogliere, goccia per goccia, ha portato la troupe diretta da Bentivenga nei giardini con frutteti, nelle cisterne, nei canali, per le scalette di pietra antica fino alle miriadi di orticelli, molti ormai abbandonati. E’ il percorso dell’acqua, il filo conduttore di questo film documentario. 
Rilevante la presenza dei cortometraggi del “Bando alla crisi” in gara e fuori concorso. In anteprima nazionale sono stati selezionali  per il concorso  “Papaveri e papere” della giovane regista lucana Adelaide De Fino e “Centosanti” del materano Roberto Moliterni, che dopo essersi distinto come sceneggiatore e scrittore vincendo numerosi premi nazionali esordisce alla regia. I due lavori sono accomunato dal fatto di aver ambientato la storia nella Matera degli anni Cinquanta. L’epoca della modernità invece per “Cenere” di Gianni Saponara che ha molto valorizzato in questo suo ultimo lavoro la recitazione del protagonista interpretato dall’attore lucano Nando Irene.
"La transumanza in Basilicata, una storia vera"
Completa la ricca offerta la proiezione del documentario “ "La transumanza in Basilicata, una storia vera", scritto e diretto da Mario Raele, e girato lo scorso anno tra le campagne ed alcuni storici tratturi della regione.
"La transumanza in Basilicata, una storia vera" è stato inserito nel cartellone delle opere "Fuori concorso" ma per l'autore, e la società di produzione, la lucana Rvm Broadcast srl," la selezione in un contesto di settore così importante è motivo di grande felicità e soddisfazione, poiché premia un lavoro lungo e non semplice, che mai si sarebbe potuto realizzare senza l'attiva ed entusiastica collaborazione dei massari protagonisti, e che, ancora una volta, promuove il territorio raccontando le sue antiche tradizioni e gli sforzi compiuti dalla comunità per mantenerle vive". 

Interview: Director Gianfranco Pannone on his film "The Smallest Army in the World"

The history of the Vatican's Swiss Guard can be traced back to the 16th century Renaissance when the soldiers were call upon due to their qualities of loyalty and courage. Pope Julius II declared the troops "Defenders of the Church's Freedom" in 1512. Since then, they have been stationed at the Vatican to protect each and every pope. 

Gianfranco Pannone’s documentary “The Smallest Army in the World" (L’esercito più piccolo del mondo) explores the training that goes into preparing the Swiss boys to become soldiers of the Vatican. Pannone takes his camera to Switzerland, where the journey begins for the young recruits, and then inside Vatican City as they are trained and fitted for their famously colorful uniforms. The young men, who come from all walks of life, offer their thoughts on how the Catholic Church should change with the times in order to stay relevant and modern. There are tender moments in which we see Pope Francis greeting people and one scene in which he is just calmly walking by himself.

Thanks to the Film Society of Lincoln Center, Luce Cinecittà and the Italian Trade Agency, the film made its North American premiere in June at Lincoln Center's annual series, Open Roads: New Italian Cinema. Pannone came to New York to present the film, which was well-received by the audience and critics. The film is scheduled to be shown at other venues throughout the United States in the Fall. I've been connected with the director for years on social media, so it was great to see his work reach American shores. I enjoyed the film and learned so much about the Swiss Guard. I talked with him about the making of "The Smallest Army in the World" and what it was like to work with our beloved Pope Francis. Our interview was originally done in Italian, so both versions are included.

Why did you want to make this film?
The “Smallest Army in the World” was brought to me by the Vatican Television Center. The great thing about it was instead of just commissioning me to make a film, they gave me a lot of creative freedom in telling the story of a group of Swiss boys who go to serve the Church and the pope. It was a great privilege and I enjoyed the freedom I was given during the eight months of filming and then during post-production. In the end, I felt the film was my own, perhaps because of the long and intense path, which I found both informative and entertaining. It was Don Dario Viganò, the Secretary of Communications for the Vatican that asked me to maintain a secular feel to the film so that it would also be understood by the average layperson. 

Perché volevi fare questo film?
L'esercito più piccolo del mondo me lo ha proposto il Centro Televisivo Vaticano. Ma la cosa più bella è stata quella di non essere stato cercato per un lavoro su commissione, ma di concedermi, piuttosto, un bel po' di libertà creativa nel raccontare la storia di un gruppo di ragazzi svizzeri che va a servire la Chiesa e il Papa. Ho avuto un grande privilegio e non poco mi ha sorpreso la libertà di cui ho goduto lungo otto mesi di riprese e poi nel corso del montaggio. Il film, infine, l'ho sentito mio, forse perché ho intrapreso un percorso di lungo respiro e molto intenso, oltre che istruttivo e divertente. Ed è stato proprio Don Dario Viganò, oggi Prefetto per la Comunicazione in Vaticano, a chiedermi di mantenere uno sguardo laico. 

In making this film, did anything surprise you or change your way of seeing the Swiss Guard?
The goal of the film was to create a sort of "behind the scenes" look into the Swiss Guard, not just limited to the beautiful uniforms and ceremonies, but to tell, rather, fragments of the lives of the boys who are, by choice, in the face of centuries of history. I’ll be honest that in the beginning there was a bit of prejudice in me that they could send me only boys who by faith decide to become "soldiers of the Pope". But I soon realized that wasn’t the case and that these young people are in fact very different from just being beautifully-placed statues in the Vatican. The protagonist René along with the two other officers we followed for over a year were the ones who made me realize this. René is a young theologian and almost not at all afraid to express his doubts about the meaning of the Swiss Guard and therefore, to question its purpose.
C'era qualcosa che ti ha sorpreso delle guardie Svizzere dopo aver appreso la loro storia?
Obiettivo del film era quello di realizzare una sorta di "dietro le quinte" della Guardia svizzera, insomma, di non limitarsi solo alle belle divise e alle parate, ma di raccontare, piuttosto, frammenti di vita di alcuni ragazzi come ce ne sono tanti altri, ma che si trovano, per loro scelta, al cospetto di una storia millenaria. Non nascondo che all'inizio c'era un po' di pregiudizio in me: cosa avrebbero potuto trasmettermi dei ragazzi di provincia che per fede decidono di diventare "soldati del Papa". E' andata poi diversamente, perché ho compreso molto presto che questi giovani sono ben diversi dall'essere delle belle statuine. E chi mi aiutato a capire tutto ciò, insieme ai due ufficiali che mi hanno seguito lungo un anno di gestazione, è stato proprio il protagonista del docufilm, René, giovane quasi teologo e per nulla timoroso di manifestare i suoi dubbi sul senso della guardia svizzera e, dunque, di mettersi in discussion. 

Speaking of René, why did you decide to focus on him and Leo? What was it about their points-of-view that you wanted to share with your viewers?
René and Leo are very different from each other, if not opposite. René, as I said, is going to become a theologian. He is an intellectual. Leo, however, is the son of a forester, which is a profession of peasants. Choosing them was almost natural when I went to meet six of the boys in Switzerland before they left for Rome. Then, I really liked the friendship that developed between the two of them, human and sincere. Humanity and sincerity accompany us throughout the whole movie, in the spirit of that great pope who is Francis. 

Perché hai deciso di concentrarti su Leo and René? Cosa c'era dei loro punti di vista che volevi dimostrare?
René e Leo sono molto diversi tra loro, se non addirittura opposti. René, come ho detto, sta per diventare teologo, è un intellettuale. Leo, invece, è un figlio di contadini di professione guardaboschi. Sceglierli è stato quasi naturale, quando sono andato a incontrare in Svizzera sei di loro, prima che partissero per Roma. E poi mi è molto piaciuta l'amicizia che si è creata tra loro due, umana e sincera. Un'umanità e sincerità che credo accompagnino tutto il film, nello spirito di quel grande Papa che è Francesco. 

It was beautiful to see candid shots of Pope Francis. Tell me about the scenes you shot with the pontiff.
My crew and I crossed paths with the Pope three times and it was very nice to see his smile. I enjoyed an advantage. Alongside me and my director of photography, Tarek Ben Abdallah, was Cesare Cuppone, who is pope's the cameraman/photographer and therefore could meet up with the Holy Father with relative ease. I was very impressed by the simplicity of Pope Francis' gestures. For example, in one scene, after he greeted the Swiss guards, he got into a small car and sat in the passenger’s seat next to the driver, rather than having a whole convoy. It’s these things that impress me and give a different perception of men with power. There is no doubt that Pope Francis is an inspiration to all, believers and non-believers. 

Raccontami le riprese con Papa Francesco. Com'è andata?
Con la mia troupe ho incrociato il Papa tre volte ed è stato bello avere in regalo il suo sorriso. Godevo di un vantaggio, ad affiancarmi insieme al mio direttore della fotografia, Tarek Ben Abdallah, c'era Cesare Cuppone, che è l'operatore del Papa e che, dunque, ha potuto riprendere il Santo Padre con una certa facilità. Mi ha colpito molto di Francesco la sua semplicità dei gesti. Per esempio, in una scena, una volta salutate le guardie svizzere, si allontana su un utilitaria sedendosi di fianco all'autista, non dietro, e senza che alle spalle dell'auto ci sia qualcuno che lo scorti. Sono cose che impressionano, che danno finalmente una percezione diversa del nostro guardare agli uomini di potere. Non c'è dubbio, Papa Francesco è un esempio per tutti, credenti e non.

I’d like to talk a bit about the soundtrack, which really stood out to me. With the magnificence of the Vatican and its rich history of art and culture, you could have used dramatic music but instead you chose simple piano notes. What was your reason for this?
With Stefano Caprioli, who wrote and directed the music for “The Smallest Army in the World”, a beautiful tune was created. He understood that to show the everyday life of the Swiss Guards, but also the magnificence of the Vatican manned by the young soldiers who wear colorful uniforms of 500 AD, there was no need for heightened rhetoric, but rather the soundtrack should serve another function, and that is to show great respect for ancient history, in a secular way without sacrificing the power of imagination. That was the alchemy I felt while we were editing. I asked Stefano to limit the tools and we worked together in the studio, relying primarily on the piano and then the odd percussion instrument, which is the tongue drum, subtracting rather than adding. It was great and inspiring to work with him. 

Vorrei parlare un po' della colonna sonora. Con la grandezza del Vaticano ..con la ricchezza  dell'arte che dispone. sculture, dipinti afreschi e tutta la testimonianza della Chiesa cattolica,  potevi utilizzare un tratto di musica impegnativa e forte ... Perché hai preso la decisione di semplici note uscite da un pianoforte?
Con Stefano Caprioli, che ha scritto e diretto le musiche de L'esercito più piccolo del mondo, si è creata una bella sintonia. Ha capito che per restituire il quotidiano di alcune guardie svizzere, ma anche la magniloquenza del Vaticano presidiato da giovani militari che vestono variopinte divise del '500, non ci fosse bisogno di calcare retoricamente, ma che piuttosto la colonna sonora dovesse servire ad altro e cioé a restituire un'emozione mista al grande rispetto per una storia millenaria, in modo laico e partecipato; beninteso, senza rinunciare all'evocazione. E l'alchimia io l'ho sentita al momento del montaggio. Ho chiesto a Stefano di limitare gli strumenti e insieme abbiamo lavorato in studio, affidandoci prima di tutto al pianoforte e poi a quello strano strumento di percussione che è il tongue drum, sottraendo piuttosto che aggiungendo. E' stato bello e stimolante lavorare con lui.

Did you receive any feedback from the Vatican?
I perceived everything entirely positive, except for a few elements by the most conservative fringe of the Vatican. I know that Pope Emerito Ratzinger also saw it and appreciated it. Now the Vatican will produce other documentary films, which I think could be pigeonholed, so to speak, into popular pastorals. It is not by chance that you could see during this time, a film about Pope Francis made by a director of Wim Wenders’ caliber. 

Quali sono i pensieri del Vaticano sul film?
Quello che ho percepito è del tutto positivo, salvo poche resistenze delle frangie più conservatrici del Vaticano. So, per esempio, che l'ha visto anche il Papa Emerito Ratzinger e che lo ha apprezzato. Ora il Vaticano produrrà altri docufilm, che non credo saranno solo incasellati in un ambito, per così dire, divulgativo-pastorale.  E non è un caso che a realizzare in questo periodo un film su Papa Francesco sia un regista del calibro di Wim Wenders.

The documentary will soon be released on home video by San Paolo Film, and will be available in bookstores and video stores throughout Italy. There will be a screening in the U.S. on October 18 at the United Nations in New York and another in Washington D.C. We’ll keep you posted on future dates. In the meantime, check out the trailer..

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Interview: Director Francesco Cinquemani on His New Film "Andron"

Alec Baldwin in a scene from "Andron"
Set in the 22nd century, the new sci-fi movie "Andron," follows a group of young men and women who wake to find themselves in a confined maze. At first they don't remember anything about their lives but slowly their memories return and all they want to do is find their way back into civilization. But in order to break out of this underground world, the members of the group must find their inner strength and work together. This means learning to decipher codes, and overcoming mentally and physically challenging tests all while the outside world watches through a game, placing odds on their fate. 

"Andron" is visually layered with a combination of scenes shot on the Mediterranean island of Malta and computer-generated imagery (CGI). The element I enjoyed the most was the exchange between the characters. The film features a crop of beautiful, young protagonists with some pretty sharp acting chops. There are some lines that I interpreted as a way to slip in some comedy relief. For example, "Clearly, we're not in Kansas anymore." The script for this kind of film is not written for the way we talk in everyday life. So there is an element of fantasy just in watching the actors recite their lines. I enjoyed watching the scenes with Alec Baldwin and his fellow veteran actor Danny Glover. Even if their lines are few, it is a pleasure to see these two American screen artisans work together.

Francesco Cinquemani directing Alec Baldwin
The sci-fi genre is not one that has really interested me in the past but I was drawn to this movie for two reasons- Alec Baldwin and the director Francesco Cinquemani. I grew up with Baldwin’s work in the 80s, first on television with "Knots Landing" and then with films like "Beetlejuice" and "Great Balls of Fire." I remember when he left acting for a while and hosted a music series on the New York classical radio station WQXR. Then being from upstate New York, we were treated to some funny promotional work he did for the Wegmans grocery store chain where his mother is a dedicated customer. I consider Baldwin one of the most versatile and bravest actors of our time, always taking on new and interesting roles. He has never given a weak performance, so I was interested in seeing what he’d do with this role and genre. Cinquemani is an acquaintance I met a few years ago in Rome. He was introduced to me as a "Top Journalist in Italy". We became connected on social media and then recently, I noticed he directed this film. 

I had some questions about the making of "Andron," and what goes into transitioning from journalist to sci-fi film director. Cinquemani was generous with this time and answers.

Cinquemani with his producers Monika Bacardi and Andrea Iervolino
Where’d you come up with the idea for this film?
I have always been fascinated by the fantasy genre. I was born in Rome and I live near the Colosseum. The gladiators have always fascinated me since childhood and that fascination was marked by old movies like "Rollerball" and "The Tenth Victim" (which is Italian). My background as a journalist led me to mix power, media manipulation, reality and gladiators in a vision of the future, even if it's slightly pessimistic. "Andron" began as a TV series. A pilot of the series was commissioned by RAI in 2011 and implemented in 2012. It was called "The Place." I shot it in Italian with Italian actors. Then due to an excessively high budget for Italy, the series did not continue, but the pilot has been shown in several festivals. The recent success of "The Hunger Games" has brought this type of genre back into fashion and allowed my dream for this series to become reality. My producers, Andrea Iervolino and Monika Bacardi viewed "The Place" and they asked me to develop it as a film.

The cast is very impressive and quite diverse. Did you have the actors in mind while you were writing the screenplay?
When I write, I hear the voices of the different characters. It's strange but true. For me, it’s as if they were alive and I see them and hear them. I never think of the actors first because it would influence and alter the characters. But there was an exception in "Andron" because I’ve known Gale Harold for years and I respect him as an actor and as a friend. I readjusted the character I had created for the TV series to accommodate him.

Speaking to the effects, how did you create the city?
Through months and months of work by interacting with my VFX (Visual Effects) supervisor, Peter Nalli and his incredible team of special effects wizards. Everything was discussed and decided beforehand. It was planned, designed and modeled in 3D, made with the other elements, inserted in the actual scene and eventually animated. In the scene of the dolly in which we see the city appear behind Michelle Ryan, there are over a hundred moving elements incorporated that we discussed and decided on in post-production. From the shape of each individual in the building where the river would form the inlet, the quantity and quality of the powder that had to be suspended in the air. In the film, there are nearly a thousand VFX. In the first installment of "The Matrix," there were just over 400.

What did you shoot in Malta?
All of the exterior scenes were shot in Malta. We shot most of the film in an underground power station located in Malta where there are several kilometers of studios. The rest was shot in Rome.

How did Alec Baldwin get involved?
He got involved thanks to Bruno Rosato, my casting director and to Danny Glover's conviction. I had already filmed the scenes with Danny and he spoke well of me as a director. Alec really liked the script and the character. He is a fan of science fiction. He understood all the irony that I had incorporated into the script. "Andron" for me is a bit of parody of this kind of movie where the hero always does well. The film tells the story of the bad guys. It starts with them and ends with them. For me it's the story of the rise to power of Adam (Alec Baldwin). There's a joke that he tells, pointing to the contestants: "You do not even understand the rules of the game." If a game like "Andron" existed in reality, competitors would not have any chance of escaping.

What was it like working with him?
He is a kind and extraordinary person with an exceptional talent. Baldwin is like a charge of nitroglycerin ready to explode. He likes to experiment and is wide open to improvisation. It's like having a Stradivarius in your hands, a tool with which you can play anything. He is always energetic and ready to go. Between takes and during down time, he doesn’t even sit because he doesn’t want to lose his energy.

Is "Andron" your first feature-length film?
It's my first feature-length fiction. Before, I had only made a documentary for an hour and twenty minutes, but when you are used to turn twenty-one episodes per year of a TV show, as I did from 2010 to 2012 when I had my own sitcom on RAI, it is not difficult to manage the timing of a film.

Tell me about your transition from journalist to filmmaker.
I wanted to be a director since I was six-years-old and saw "The Thing" and "The Invasion of the Body Snatchers." Then as I grew up, I realized that it was difficult to find a job working in cinema in Italy. So, I abandoned my dream and I started to study electrical engineering. To pay for school, I started writing articles and was published right away. I was eighteen and this crazy 23-year-old publisher asked me to run his company. It went well. I ended up publishing 30 magazines and in the end, I never became an engineer. Years later, I received another offer and I switched to another publishing house. Things were going well until one morning when I looked into the mirror and saw my old dream. I said to myself: "You're getting old. Soon, you're not going to have a choice. You either try now or live with regret for the rest of your life." So, I went into work that morning and quit my job. Six months later, I had my first TV series on Sky Cinema.

 "Andron" is available to stream through Starz on Amazon..

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...