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Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Cineuropa's Interview with Michele Placido

It was announced this week that Michele Placido's new film, "7 minuti" will be shown at this year's Rome Film Festival.

11 amazing actresses women star in "7 minuti" by Michele Placido, a drama co-produced by Italy, France, Spain and Switzerland and being distributed by German company Koch Media. The cast features Cristiana Capotondi, Ambra Angiolini, Fiorella Mannoia, Maria Nazionale, Ottavia Piccolo, Violante Placido, Sabine Timoteo, Anne Consigny, Mimma Lovoi and Clémence Poésy.

The film is based on the play of the same name by Stefano Massini, who wrote the screenplay with Placido, and is the story of 11 women, a mixture of manual labourers and office workers, who are called to the negotiation table when the owners of the textiles company they work for sell the majority of their shares to a multinational. In a short space of time they must decide, for themselves and on the behalf of their fellow colleagues, whether to accept the proposal of the new owner. We caught up with the director of the film at the ‘Professional Cinema Days’ in Riccione.

Cineuropa: Andrea Occhipinti, the president of the distributors section of ANICA, said here in Riccione that Italian film is not very exportable and tends to follows repetitive formulae. Your film is an attempt to demonstrate the opposite, is it not?Michele Placido: We’re hoping to release the film at the same time in the countries that co-produced it: Italy, along with Spain, Switzerland and France. The exportability of Italian films depends on the producer and the director. Some invest thinking that the film should also have European partners as a way of guaranteeing its distribution beyond national borders, and thus involve other people in the film’s subject matter. The opportunity to direct 7 minuti was presented to me by playwright Stefano Massini, the newly-appointed director of the Piccolo Teatro in Milan, with whom I have other projects in the pipeline involving Cattleya. His writing is contemporary and European, and this film was taken on by a company interested in films that have the potential to do well abroad too. 95% of the films produced by 01 and Medusa are good-quality films, but aren’t exported abroad because there’s never any real plan to do so.

Why did you decide to tackle such a current yet tricky theme?I really loved Massini’s text, which was inspired by La parola ai giurati written by Reginald Rose and directed by Sidney Lumet in 1957. In that film, 11 people are called upon to decide whether a man is innocent or guilty. In his play, and in my film, we have 11 women, all of them very different, who must decide their own fate at the factory, with 400 colleagues waiting for their answer. I was inspired by something that happened in France just a few years ago, and the subject matter really is a hot topic. We have to go back to humanising work, because it’s wrong to simply become slaves to it.

Women and work: a combination that’s somewhat reminiscent of the latest films by the Dardenne brothers.You have to start with the idea of the film. For Bicycle Thieves Zavattini suggested the sensational idea of a man looking for a job to De Sica. Massini’s idea is powerful: the story could have centred around 11 men, but Massini had the intuition to use 11 women, which makes for a very different story. The ideological and political aspect is surpassed by hope, by the vitality exuded by these women, because women are natural bearers of hope, they have strong survival instincts, as one of the protagonists, Cristiana Capotondi, pointed out to me. 7 minuti certainly makes reference to themes that Italian film has tackled in the past, with Giuseppe De Santis, who made Bitter Rice, about female workers in the rice fields, and Roma 11:00, in which 200 girls turn up hoping to secure a job as a typist after seeing an advert in a newspaper. 

On the technical side of things, how did you choose to shoot this social drama which is also full of suspense?I shot this film like an action film, with director of photography Arnaldo Catinari, using three cameras. It’s what I did for Angels of Evil, with the cameras always on the go, with close-ups lingering on the faces of the protagonists. It was challenging to direct 11 women, most of whom are successful actresses, and bring them together in a more unusual role, in which they had to use their brains and their instincts. I saw straight away that I had to give these women a certain degree of flexibility. Fiorella Mannoia, a great singer who forges a special bond with the audience at her concerts, turned out to have an extraordinarily cinematographic face and mind.

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