*Featured Photo: Brigitte Bardot illuminating Venice with her presence in 1958: the photographers chase her and she immediately becomes the center of social life on the Lido. “BB”, at the peak of her career, came to the 19th Venice Film Festival as part of the cast of the film En cas de malheur (Love Is My Profession) by Claude Autant-Lara. (Photo credit courtesy of Asac – la Biennale di Venezia.)
At midnight on Friday September 2nd, in the Sala Giardino (Lido di Venezia), the world premiere screening will be held of the restored copy of George A. Romero’s masterpiece Dawn of the Dead – European Cut [Zombi, 1978] (USA-Italy, 115’), in the version edited and curated at that time by Dario Argento for the European market with music by Goblin.
The screening will be introduced with a presentation by Dario Argento himself, who was the producer of the film, and by Nicolas Winding Refn, a great admirer of Dawn of the Dead and supervisor of the restoration in high definition.
Dawn of the Dead – European Cut, a cult horror film that gave birth to the modern iconography of “the living dead”, as celebrated in the TV series The Walking Dead, is part of the Venice Classics section of the 73rd Venice Film Festival (31 August – 10 September 2016), and will be screened in a version remastered in 4K, by Koch Media in collaboration with Norton Trust and Antonello Cuomo.
Dawn of the Dead [Zombi, 1978] is the second chapter in the four-part series created by George A. Romero in 1968 with the Night of the Living Dead, later followed by Day of the Dead (1985) and Land of the Dead (2005).
Dario Argento on Dawn of the Dead [Zombi]
“I am particularly pleased that Zombi is being re-released after so many years. Titanus, the distributor at the time, considered it a very strange film with too much action: the music was too extreme, they thought it would not be well received and I was a little scared myself by this terrible prophecy. I didn’t know what to do so I said: «Ok, let’s screen the world premiere in Turin, a city I love because that is where I filmed Deep Red; if it doesn’t do well there, we can do away with it». It was a Friday afternoon and I was rather terrified as I went to the theatre; but I remember seeing a lot of people as I walked over from the hotel and thought: so it can’t be going that bad!.. and in fact when I got there it was packed; I went in and thanked everyone for coming. The film was being shown after a lengthy series of mishaps in Italy: the censors made me cut out a lot of scenes, and as a result I withdrew it. They were asking me to cut far too much; I remember even thinking that the editing would no longer be comprehensible, so I made a series of small cuts, fixed it up a little, and was able to swing an emergency procedure (usually the censors take up to six months to review a film again). When the film was finally released it was forbidden to minors under the age of eighteen which, in my mind, was fairly serious, because we had conceived it for an audience of young people… I have a great memory of Zombi because it was so important for my career and for George’s as well”.
Nicolas Winding Refn on Dawn of the Dead [Zombi]
“I had always considered Dawn of the Dead, or Zombi, to be a clear example of great cinema, both innovative and outrageous at the same time. The most extreme and fascinating tale of American consumerism ever brought to the screen, there is nothing like it. I consider it a great honour to present the version restored in 4K of this masterpiece at the 2016 edition of the Venice Film Festival, which has always been important to me”.
Dawn of the Dead [Zombi] will be available next fall in Blu Ray 4K, Blu Ray and DVD for the Midnight Factory label, in a boxed set with additional contents that will include the other two versions of the film (Extended and Theatrical), also in high definition.
The unmistakable face of Eric von Stroheim, a guest at the Venice Film Festival in 1951, shown here with Giovanni Ponti, the Special Commissioner of the Biennale. In 1958 the Venice Film Festival dedicated a major retrospective to the Austrian director.
KENJI MIZOGUCHI ON THE BEACH – PHOTO
Kenji Mizoguchi on the beach of the Lido in 1953: he was the winner of the Silver Lion that year for Ugetsu Monogatari, jointly with Moulin Rouge by John Huston, Thérèse Raquin by Marcel Carné, Sadko by Aleksandr Ptushko, I vitelloni by Federico Fellini and The Little Fugitive by Ray Ashley, Morris Engel, Ruth Orkin. The Jury chose not to award the Golden Lion.
GINA LOLLOBRIGIDA ON THE SEASHORE AT THE LIDO – PHOTO
Gina Lollobrigida on the seashore at the Lido in 1956: she was one of the most highly acclaimed stars that year. Oriana Fallaci described her triumphal arrival at the Palazzo del Cinema in L’Europeo magazine: “A roar rose up from the crowd. The metal barricades risked snapping like twigs, the 156 policemen trying to hold back all those bodies were on the verge of being overwhelmed by the crush. Gina alighted from a taxi accompanied by Milko Skofic and by a bodyguard. Milko looked bored. Gina was wearing a blue-green satin dress, glittering with sequins; she exhibited blood-red gloves and not a jewel around her neck. (…) The photographers rushed towards her. The bodyguard enclosed her in a circle of arms. You could no longer see her long breezy black curls, her immense wonderstruck eyes and her full lips. (…) All of this took place at ten in the evening on Tuesday August 28th, the day of the inauguration of the 17th Film Festival, also known as the Lollo’s Festival, for the heroine of our time”. Gina Lollobrigida had already participated in the Venice Film Festival in 1952 as the actress in two films: Altri tempi, a film in nine episodes by Alessandro Blasetti, and Les belles de nuit by René Clair.
ANGELO RIZZOLI AND FEDERICO FELLINI – PHOTO
Producer Angelo Rizzoli and a young Federico Fellini meet outside the Palazzo del Cinema: the year is 1958. A few months later, in March 1959, together they would begin production of La dolce vita.
ELSA MAXWELL AND OLIVIA DE HAVILLAND – PHOTO
Elsa Maxwell, the tireless mover of the Venetian smart set, dressed extravagantly as a Navy officer, hugs actress Olivia de Havilland in Venice, in 1955.
JOAN FONTAINE DISEMBARKS AT THE LIDO – PHOTO
1952: Joan Fontaine disembarks on the famous Darsena of the Excelsior Hotel. The actress came to the Venice Film Festival as the star of Ivanhoe by Richard Thorpe.
MARIA CALLAS IN VENICE – PHOTO
1957: Maria Callas is one of the stars that enliven the nights of the 18th Venice Film Festival with her husband Giovanni Battista Meneghini. That was the year that the opera singer met Aristotle Onassis for the first time in Venice, and two years later he would become her partner.
The Biennale Cinema 2016 will run Aug. 31 to Sept. 10
The opening film of the Venice Classics section of the 73rd Venice International Film Festival (August 31st – September 10th) is Shabhaye Zayandeh – rood (The Nights of Zayandeh – rood )by Mohsen Makhmalbaf (Thursday 1 September, 3:00 pm, Sala Giardino; Friday 2 September, 9:30 am, Sala Volpi).
This is a film that the director made in Iran in 1990. At the time, the Iranian censorship committee decreed that the film betrayed the spirit of the Iranian revolution and so cut 37 minutes out of the original negative. Even the mutilated version was banned however and all public screenings were prohibited; furthermore, no copies of the film were allowed to be made. In 2016 some parts of the original negative were found in the archives of the Iranian censorship committee. The copy, restored byMakhmalbaf himself, is 63 minutes long instead of the original 100. The missing parts have been lost forever.
Mohsen Makhmalbaf has sent the following account of the story surrounding this film.
It’s easy to silence the filmmaker, but it’s impossible to suppress the cinema
by Mohsen Makhmalbaf
I made TheNights of Zayandeh-rood in 1990 (about 26 years ago) in Iran. After watching the film, the censorship committee in Iran asked me to cut out 25 minutes from the film in order to obtain the screening permission. I refused to accept their order. Nevertheless the committee themselves, having ignored my demand, cut those 25 minutes from the original negative of the film.
I was so heartbroken and frustrated, that I couldn’t think of watching the film with the audience in the cinema. It would have felt like going to see a mutilated and maimed body of a living thing on the screen.
Having heard the censorship news, people poured in tens of thousands to watch the film at its premiere during the Fajr Film Festival in Iran. They lined for kilometres outside the cinemas during the screening day. Some had waited through the whole night until morning to be able to get into the theatre to see the film. Those who managed to watch it, liked the film and perceived the message behind it. In the film, they saw the horrible and sad future which the Islamic government was going to bring for them.
After the festival, the censorship committee asked me to cut a further 12 minutes from the film. Once more I declined, and again the cutting was done without my approval. So the authorities reduced the 100 minutes of the original film into a version of just 63 minutes!
After the festival, the film became well known, and many demanded its screening. However the hard line media belonging to the state, put me and the film under constant attacks and accusations for a full six months! Some even demanded my execution. Eventually I was arrested by the secret police and after long hours of interrogation, all the film material was seized by them.
Finally the Iranian supreme leader wanted to see the film. He watched the film in a private screening in his office. Then he accused it of being against the revolutionary objectives and a threat to national security. Therefore he put a ban order on the film and gave the mutilated negative to the censorship committee to be kept in the archives forever. Subsequently The Nights of Zayandeh-rood was never released from the archives to be screened in any film festival, in or out of Iran. Nor could it be shown to the public.
Twenty six years later (in 2016), the existing negative was stolen and saved from the censorship archives. (I can’t give any details about how this was done.) When after twenty six years I watched the film again, I was surprised to notice that in spite of all the mutilations (nearly one third of the film), the story and the main structure of the film still remained rather unharmed. The film looked like a living thing with no limbs but it was still breathing, and its story and meaning were not lost.
I decided to work on what I had recovered from the remaining negative and the sounds in London. I managed to make the film ready for the screening and sent it to the Venice Film Festival. However the Festival had passed its submission date and was about to announce its lineup and I didn’t expect it to have any chance of being selected this year. Nevertheless, a few hours after the film was sent, I received the following email from Mr. Alberto Barbera, the director of Venice Film Festival.
“I’ve just finished watching your beautiful film and am deeply moved! It is really strong, audacious and touching. Thinking that the film has been slaughtered and cut down to 63 minutes makes me crazy! I can only imagine how even greater was the original version. I definitely want to present it in Venice…”
After reading Mr. Barbera’s words, it felt like the film had been given a new life. I remembered the day all those years ago, when the Iranian supreme leader had sent someone from his office to me. His messenger was a clergy man (Mullah), and he was there to make threats about my execution. I replied to him: “It’s easy to silence the filmmaker, but it’s impossible to suppress the cinema.”
Newtown is a moving new documentary detailing the trauma and tribulations of families and community members dealing with emotions and life after the massacre of 20 children ages 6-7 years old and six adult staff members at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut by 20 year-old Adam Lanza. Lanza had murdered his own mother before driving to Sandy Hook and opening fire with an XM-15 military style M4 carbine rifle. Lanza fired 154 rounds with multiple magazine changes from high capacity 30-round magazines to 15-round magazines. The rounds reverberated over the school’s PA system.
The film opens in a slow-motion sequence of a parade with children in cheer-leading uniforms riding in convertibles in what could be any middle-lass suburb and provides a rather visceral idyllic sentiment of a happy childhood. In a rather seamless fashion, the film cuts to live footage from what appears to be a police vehicle’s on-board camera while a voice over from a 911 call is heard. Immediately, the mood of the film changes. Something has happened. Black and white aerial footage of the school and surrounding area, including a nearby evacuation location, a volunteer fire fighting house culminating in live news coverage of the massacre is shown as details are slowly revealed.
Snyder effectively incorporates the interview into her narrative throughout weaving testimonies into the film’s narrative interspersed with sweeping scenes of the natural beauty of the area. The Sandy Hook School Nurse, Sally Cox, described her feelings hearing the shots being fired wondering when they would stop. A Connecticut State Trooper refused to discuss the graphic details of what he saw at the crime scene focusing on the emotional impact instead. And this theme drives the film.
Snyder artfully uses text overlays with Newtown neighbors communicating with each other during the immediate aftermath. The first text reveals safety for one child and then the news of a child, Daniel Barden, who died. An emotional medium close up framed interview of Daniel’s father, Mark, as he laments not knowing his son’s final moments takes the film’s emotionality to a deeper level. Additional interviews of the Barden’s close neighbor recounting the Friday “after school pizza parties” and the bonding between the two families keep the emotional roller coaster going. An adept point-of-view tracking shot of the community’s pastor as he solemnly makes his way to the church altar to prepare for the upcoming funeral masses opens up a massive void that no one has wanted to talk about. The feeling there is no way to prevent this from happening again surfaces.
Snyder reaches back and adds more archival footage of Congressional hearings with testimony from Newtown’s Dr. William Begg, Emergency Room Services Director. Dr. Begg testifies to the impact assault bullets have on little bodies and the survivability when the bodies have been riddled with anywhere from three to eleven assault rounds. Another clip shows President of the United States, Barack Obama, praising the Connecticut’s sweeping new gun law legislation as he urges Congress to follow suit.
“The number 12/14 has become a defining moment for many members of the community,” reveals a Sandy Hook Elementary School teacher. Here Snyder inserts stunning cinematography starting with a ray of light shimmering through autumnal leaves. Quickly apples are revealed and soon a hand and footage of a family apple-picking event foreshadow the Barden’s decision to conceive another child.
As time passes questions are being asked on how can the community honor these children and what can be done to help as the community searches for answers. The grieving process has begun following the massive trauma and shock they have experienced.
As the film moves toward its conclusion, a community event including a challenging obstacle course draws the survivors together as they attempt to overcome the difficulties imposed. As participants struggle to make the finishing line cheers and support are given. Another powerful metaphor Snyder wields with grace and finesse. And again, she reaches back into her tool kit and uses text overlays as the community shares their grief online as they move forward after 12/14/12.
Admittedly, Newtown is an emotionally draining film. Snyder’s direction slowly draws out the emotional strings while infusing hope and a call to action of “we are all in this together.” http://newtownfilm.com/. Indeed.
Two Nepali films have been selected for the 73rd Venice International Film Festival. Deepak Rauniyar’s feature length film ‘White Sun’ and ‘Dadyaa’, a short film directed by Pooja Gurung and Bibhusan Basnet, will represent Nepal in Venice this year. The Venice Film Festival is one of the oldest and major international film festivals of the world.
This is the second consecutive year that Nepali films are represented at the festival. Min Bahadur Bham’s ‘Kalo Pothi’ had its world premiere there last year.
Both Nepali films will compete in the ‘Orizzonti’ (Horizons) section, which falls under the festival’s “official selection” line-up. Bham’s ‘Kalo Pothi’ was screened under the ‘International Critics’ Week’, an autonomous section separately organized by Italy’s critics’ association.
Set during the Maoist Insurgency, the 87 minute long ‘White Sun’ tells the story of two brothers with conflicting ideologies. The protagonist Chandra returns home after a decade, for his father’s final rites. The course of his journey is complicated by the harsh reality of his village.
The film stars Dayahang Rai, Asha Magrati, Rabindra Singh Baniya, Sumi Malla and Amrit Pariyar. “Getting selected for Venice will bring Nepali movies one step forward in the international arena,” Rauniyar said. “I believe this will not only promote Nepali films but Nepal as well.”
A conversation between a former guerilla and a soldier that Rauniyar witnessed eight years ago was the genesis of the movie. “I made this film to portray Nepal after the civil war and the discourse that has since followed,” he added.
‘White Sun’ has been backed by producers from USA, Netherlands and Qatar. Rauniyar’s debut feature film ‘Highway’ was screened at the 62nd Berlin Film Festival in 2012.
Bibushan and Pooja’s second short film ‘Dadyaa’ is shot in Sinja valley, Jumla. Their first short film ‘The Contagious Apparition of Dambarey Dendrite’ had a successful run in international film festivals.
‘Dadyaa’ depicts the struggles of an old couple spending an isolated life in remote Jumla. It has a runtime of 17 minutes. “Our selection in Venice shows that international audience is starting to show interest in Nepal,” said Pooja.
The eleven day long festival will start from August 31. The organizer said that the ‘Orizzonti’ section will celebrate the latest aesthetic and expressive trend in international cinema. It is a competitive section.
The indie crime drama, “Ken and Kazu,” one of the highlights of the 2016 Eiga Sai, the annual Japanese film festival mounted by Japan Foundation Manila, brings to mind the spate of extrajudicial killings of suspected drug pushers that followed Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s declaration of war on drugs.
A story about drug dealers—that breed of people our chief executive is most allergic to—the film was screened Saturday night (Aug. 6) at a packed Tanghalang Aurelio Tolentino at the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP), during the Cinemalaya Independent Film Festival.
Film creator Hiroshi Shoji and line producer Yumi Honda flew to Manila to grace the event. They were also guests of honor at the Cinemalaya opening on Friday (Aug. 5).This year’s alliance between Eiga Sai and Cinemalaya not only allows a crossover of films between the two festivals but has also introduced Japanese guest filmmakers to a larger audience.
In a one-on-one interview with Inquirer Lifestyle at Hotel Jen on Roxas Boulevard, Shoji said he intended for the film to go against the grain and develop a narrative that did not need bombastic or complicated elements. Such practices, he explained, were a recent trend in Japan whose filmmakers want to deliver shock or surprise.
He echoed the concern of veteran director-screenwriter Masato Harada, this year’s Eiga Sai’s first guest filmmaker, about the dearth of original material that actually gets the green light for production.
A graduate of Tokyo Film Center School of Arts, the 30-year-old Shoji wrote, produced, directed and edited “Ken and Kazu,” based on the short film he made in 2011 of the same title. He has had 10 short films, some of which have attracted the attention of Japanese film fests/award-giving bodies.
At the 2015 Tokyo International Film Festival, the full-length version won the Japanese Cinema Splash division’s Best Picture Award, a prestigious honor that comes with a cash prize of one million yen bestowed on Japanese indie films.
Shoji landed a distributor in Japan afterward, allowing “Ken and Kazu” regular screenings in a Tokyo cinema. He and Honda, who also interprets for him, have been touring the festival circuit to gain exposure for the film outside their country. Critics have praised Shoji’s work for its gritty depiction of gun-less violence and brutality,as well as for strong character development and acting chemistry.
The titular characters initially come off as just a pair of deceitful lowlifes who serve the yakuza. Yet, behind the thuggery and meth-pimping, Ken and Kazu are complex human beings—one hoping to provide for his lover and unborn child, the other seeking better care for a mom who suffers from dementia.
Here’s a tragic tale that finds a way to flesh out the humanity even in the worst possible kind of individuals—a stark contrast to the state of our nation, where “cardboard justice” is meted out even unto those who have yet to be proven guilty.
If the last edition of the Cannes Film Festival was dominated by important and consolidated “cinema masters,” the red carpet at the 73rd Venice Film Festival will be taken over by marvelous authors.
Looking at the lineup recently presented in Rome, next year’s festival could be defined as the best of Alberto Barbera, Venice’s artistic director. If the key challenge is always to combine “cinema d’auteur” with the legitimate tastes of the general public, this “Mostra” will potentially bring a perfect balance to the lagoon city.
A closer look at the main competition, with six American films, reveals a strong comeback by the big American players in an edition that can be defined as Euro-Atlantic. On one side of the Atlantic Ocean, there is Malick, Larrain, Villeneuve, Ford and Chazelle. On the other side, there is Konchalovsky, Wenders, Kusturica, Brize and Ozon.
In between these two titanic armadas there will be a lonely Asian director, Filipino Lav Diaz (The Woman Who Left), making the 73rd with one of the smallest Asian representations in recent history. But next year’s festival will not only lack Chinese, Japanese, Korean and Iranian filmmakers. Africa, with its vibrant Magreb cinematography, will be also out of the picture.
Compared to the recent Berlin and Cannes festivals, the Venice selection goes into another direction – one that prefers films based on literature (novels and theatrical plays) and history over socio-political stories. The world’s immigration and economic crises have been forgotten, at least for now. Instead, there is a more intellectual approach based on the past as source of inspiration and detector of contemporary conflicts.
Venice has always been synonymous with innovation.
As for the film that will kick off the 73rd Venice International Film Festival, it’s “La La Land” by Damien Chazelle with Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone, as well as two documentaries, Terrence Malick’s “Voyage of Time” and “Spira Mirabilis” by Italian directing duo Massimo D’Anolfi and Martina Parenti.
Meanwhile, among the futurist genres there will be 3D films “Les Beaux Jours D’Aranjuez” by Wim Wenders and a UFO story “Arrival” by Denis Villeneuve, another big risk taken by the festival’s art director Barbera.
Another unmissable film will be the TV series episodes of “The Young Pope” by the Italian Oscar-winning director Paolo Sorrentino with a stellar cast starring Jude Law, Diane Keaton and Cecile de France. Italy will have several films in competition, such as “Piuma” (Feather) and “Questi Giorni” (These Days). The younger generations will be the protagonists of contemporary stories about the difficulties of growing up.
The “European” surprise could come from “Brimstone,” a western thriller film conceived, written and directed by the Dutch film-maker Martin Koolhoven and starring Dakota Fanning, Guy Pearce, Kit Harington and Carice van Houten. It is a triumphant tale of powerful womanhood and resistance against a violent past that refuses to fade. Just like at the Cannes this year, the red carpet in Venice is expected, for the joy of paparazzi and fans, to be one of the best ever, with a stunning Natalie Portman together with Emma Stone, Alicia Vikander and the Italian star Monica Bellucci.
Just as impressive will be the “battalion” of male stars such as Jude Law, Mel Gibson, Michael Fassbender, James Franco, Jim Carrey, Keanu Reeves, Jake Gyllenhaal, Denzel Washington and Chris Pratt.
As for the international jury that will be awarding the golden lions, its president will be British director Sam Mendes. Also on the jury will be American artist, singer, director and writer Laurie Anderson, British actress Gemma Arterton, Italian magistrate, writer, playwright and screenwriter Giancarlo De Cataldo, German actress Nina Hoss, French actress Chiara Mastroianni, American director Joshua Oppenheimer, Venezuelan Golden Lion director Lorenzo Vigas and the Chinese actress, director and singer Zhao Wei.
The Venice International Film Festival runs August 30 through September 10th, 2016. For more information on ticketing click here.
Acclaimed Italian auteur Nanni Moretti finds comedy and pathos in the story of Margherita, a harried film director (Margherita Buy, A Five Star Life) trying to juggle the demands of her latest movie and a personal life in crisis. The star of her film, a charming but hammy American actor (John Turturro) imported for the production, initially presents nothing but headaches and her crew is close to mutiny. Away from the shoot, Margherita tries to hold her life together as her beloved mother’s illness progresses, and her teenage daughter grows ever more distant. Mia Madre premiered in the Main Competition of the 2015 Cannes Film Festival where it won Ecumenical Jury prize while Margherita Buy received the Best Actress prize at Italy’s 2015 Donatello Awards. Characteristically self-reflexive and autobiographical, Moretti’s latest speaks to the poignancy of human transience, how we process loss and how we gain strength through humor.
Mia Madre opens in Los Angeles and New York on August 26th with a national roll-out to follow!
Shots from Mia Madre
“Beautifully observed and delicately balanced…this is Moretti at his interpersonal best; intimate, empathetic and intensely humane.” – Mark Kermode, The Guardian
“Carefully measured and satisfying…the film emerges as a deeply affecting reflection on solitude.” – Ela Bittencourt, Slant Magazine
“Fascinating…a rich and incredibly detailed world.” – Oliver Lyttelton, The Playlist
INTERVIEW WITH DIRECTOR NANNI MORETTI
Is the character played by Margherita Buy in Mia Madre your alter ego?
I never considered playing the main role in this movie myself. I stopped doing that quite a while back, and I’m glad I did. I used to enjoy it, but today I am no longer driven by the fixed idea of wanting to compose my character film after film. I always thought this character would be a woman and a director, and that this woman would be played by Margherita Buy for a very simple reason: a film with Margherita Buy in the leading role would be much better than one with me in the leading role! She’s a much better actor than I am. Margherita carried much of the film’s workload on her shoulders. Out of seventy days of shooting, she was only away one day, and that was for a scene I ended up cutting!
Still, one has the impression that there is a lot of you in this film…
In the scene in front of the Capranichetta movie theater in Rome, during which Margherita’s brother, played by me, asks his sister to break at least one of her two hundred psychological patterns, it was as if I was talking to myself. I always thought that with time I would get used to drawing from the deepest part of me… But on the contrary, the more I move on and continue this way, the more this feeling of malaise arises. This said, the movie is not a personal confession. There are shots and frames, choices, performances – it’s not real life.
How would you define your work? As an autobiography? Autofiction?
Autofiction is a term I really don’t understand. And as for autobiography… All stories are somewhat autobiographical. I was talking about myself when I spoke about the Pope in Habemus Papam (We Have a Pope), played by Michel Piccoli, who felt he was unfit and likewise when I depicted Silvio Orlando’s work and personal stories in Il caimano (The Caiman). More than the wish to measure how much is autobiographical, what matters is to have a personal approach in relation to every single story.
How did you choose John Turturro?
Directors who have made far fewer films than I don’t have any qualms about approaching international stars. But I’m not like that. I called on him because I liked him very much and it seemed to me that his acting style wasn’t naturalistic. But also because we were already acquainted, and he already had a connection with Italy – he has even made a beautiful documentary about Neapolitan music called Passione. John had seen some of my films, which reassured me greatly. I admit that it would have been difficult for me to explain who I am, what I want, what my cinematographic expression is like. He also speaks and understands a little Italian. And he is a film director as well. It’s nice to work with actors who are also directors; it makes it easier to understand one another.
When did you start thinking up the Mia madre screenplay?
I usually allow for a great deal of time between my films. I need to leave behind the psychological and emotional investment of the previous movie. It takes time to recharge my batteries. This time, however, as soon as Habemus Papam (We Have a Pope) was released, I started thinking about my next film. I started writing when the things that I recount in the film happened in my life. And that probably had an influence on the narrative.
How did you come up with the different narrative modes, where dream and reality sometimes intermingle?
It’s important to tell a story in a non-academic manner, to have a narrative which doesn’t limit itself to fulfilling the basics: a narrative which, although familiar with the rules, can do without them. However, it is also important that it rings true within yourself, and also within what you are in the process of telling. You should never have a flat and ordinary relationship with the material you want to present.
I liked the idea that when the audience would see a scene, they wouldn’t immediately understand whether it was a memory, a dream or reality, for they all coexist in Margherita’s character with the same immediacy: her thoughts, her memories of apprehension concerning her mother, the feeling of not being good enough. The narrative time corresponds with Margherita’s various emotional states in which everything coexists with the same urgency. I wanted to recount, from the point of view of a female character, this feeling of not being good enough in relation to her work, her mother, her daughter.
Is this the reason why you wrote it with three women, Chiara Valerio, Gaia Manzini and Valia Santella?
Perhaps, but those aren’t things that you plan or set up in advance. I hardly knew Gaia Manzini and Chiara Valerio. I had met them during a reading. Each one of us was asked to read an extract from a book by Sandro Veronesi. Shortly after, when I decided to start working on this subject, I called them. Valia, on the other hand, is a friend of mine, and we have been working together for a very long time.
What did you imagine would be the film that Margherita was making?
There is a scene that I cut where Margherita says to her daughter: “I’m never in my films,” and her daughter answers: “well, you don’t necessarily have to talk about yourself in your films,” and Margherita replies: “no, not necessarily, but I would like to make films that are more personal.” There it is. I wanted Margherita, overwhelmed by her life and her problems, to make a film that was more political than personal.
In the press conference scene, a journalist asks her: “In such a delicate moment for our society, do you think that your film will succeed in appealing to the country’s conscience?” Margherita starts to give a formatted answer: “Well, today, the public itself is demanding a different kind of commitment…” But her voice slowly fades and we can hear what she is really thinking: “Yes, of course it’s the role of cinema, but why have I been making repeatedly the same things for years and years? Everybody thinks that I have the knack of understanding what is going on, of interpreting reality. But I don’t understand anything anymore.”
I wanted the sturdiness and assertiveness of her film to be in absolute opposition with her emotional state; with what she’s experiencing and how she perceives herself. I wanted there to be a discrepancy between her very structured film and the very delicate moment she is going through.
How did you address the theme of mourning?
In La stanza del figlio (The Son’s Room), I was exorcising a fear. Here, I am referring to an experience that many people share. The death of one’s mother is an important rite of passage in life, and I wanted to recount it without being sadistic whatsoever towards the audience. This said, when you make a film, you are deeply engrossed in what you are doing: you work on the dialogue, the direction, the editing and as a result the theme you are treating doesn’t strike you with the full extent of its impact. Even when the feeling is very strong, I tend to think that the director doesn’t let himself be fully affected by it.
Is it more difficult to shoot, think through and recount a story like this one compared with other films?
No, I don’t think so. There was just a moment during the writing process when I decided to reread the journal I kept during the course of my mother’s illness. I did it because I thought that perhaps our exchanges, those lines could add weight and help the scenes between Margherita and her mother to ring true. In fact, the rereading of these journals was painful.
What else did you read or what did you watch in preparation for Mia madre?
During intense working periods and during a film shoot, I accumulate an array of things. When I finished shooting Mia Madre, I realized that I hadn’t had the time to review the books and the films that I had believed I should read or watch again because they broached the subject of pain, loss or death. It was a great relief for me to understand that I didn’t need them anymore. I saw Woody Allen’s Another Woman again but I didn’t watch Haneke’s Armour, which was on my desk. And especially, I didn’t read Roland Barthes. After my mother’s death, a woman I’m friendly with, offered me Journal de deuil (Mourning Diary), which Barthes had written right after his mother’s death. She told me that it had helped her. I opened a page at random, I read two lines, which felt like a stab in my heart, and I closed it. At the end of the film shoot I took the book off my desk and put it up on the shelf. Fortunately, I no longer felt the need to delve into grief.
The mother is played by an actress who is not known in France, Giulia Lazzarini.
This actress from the Piccolo Teatro de Strehler has a background which is very different from mine, and meeting her was a delightful experience. Not only was she able to understand me, and enter into my film, but, and I haven’t the faintest idea how, she also thoroughly understood my mother.
Your mother was a professor…
She taught for thirty-three years at the Visconti High School in Rome: literature in the middle school, then during the last years, Greek and Latin in the high school. At least one person every week would tell me that she was their teacher. Sometimes, there are people who also had my father as a professor at the University (he was a professor of Greek epigraphy). Many of her former students would come to see her years after passing their baccalaureate. I never had with any of my professors the kind of relationship she had with her students. I’m going to confess something that is a little painful, and which upsets me a bit, but I’ll say it: after my mother’s death, through the things that her former students told me, I had the feeling that something very important about her as a person had entirely escaped me, something that her former students had been able to grasp and share with me. Something essential.
What have you learned making this film?
I can answer this question very specifically. I feel exactly as I did during my first film shoot – the same anxiety, the same confusion, the same utter lack of confidence. I don’t think it’s this way for everybody. I believe for many people with experience, their knowledge of the profession and a certain detachment counts. I, on the other hand, have this very clear impression: it always feels as though I am making my first film. This time, it was with even more anxiety. There are people who say it is my most personal film; perhaps that is the reason why. But I just don’t know.
I can say, however, that I have learned something along the way. I’m nicer to the actors, I’m more willing to stand by their side; I stick up for them. And what else have I learned…well indeed, there’s something I learned very quickly: the fact that when a film comes out, it no longer fully belongs to you. The public sees it, transforms it. There are things that have escaped you entirely that the public picks up, reveals and sheds a light upon…
“I want to see the actor next to the character.” This is one of Margherita’s lines that she often repeats to her actors.
It’s something I say all the time. I don’t know whether the actors understand it, but in the end, I’m able to get what I had in mind out of them.
(This interview has been compiled from questions asked in various interviews given by Nanni Moretti to the Italian press in April 2015. Press materials provided by http://www.musicbox.com)
Zero Days, the latest film by acclaimed documentarian, Alex Gibney, details claims that the US and Israeli governments conducted covert cyber warfare operations against the Iranian government and the Iranians’ nuclear enrichment program. Zero Days, a fitting Opening Night Film for AFI DOCS, served as a catalyst for conversation in the Q & A immediately followed its screening at the Newseum in Washington D.C.
AFI President & CEO Bob Gazzale introduced the film and commented on the importance of Director Gibney’s work in line with “dreams for a better world. Dreams that demand debate!” In addition, Gazzele stated how honored he was to be partnering with this year’s presenting sponsor AT & T. AT & T spokesperson, Jennifer Coons, took stage and expressed what a privilege it was for AT & T to bring together politics, business and investment to learn from one another while connecting people.
Zero Days opened with a 2010 clip from an Iranian television station with the Iranian leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad vehemently denouncing Western and Zionist regimes interference in the Iranian nuclear enrichment program. Throughout the film, Gibney intersperses narrative voice overs and archival footage as the spokespersons for the US government repeatedly delivered “I can’t comment” when asked about the existence of a cyber warfare super virus, soon to be revealed as Stuxnet. Two malware, computer programming specialists from internet security behemoths Symantec and Kaspersky, uncover Stuxnet and both reach a professional conclusion after engaging in deep analytic data processing that the virus they are uncovering is more than just the work of an at-large hacker. The sophistication and the virus’ ability to replicate itself without a user doing anything and its ability to mutate undetected is known in malware jargon as ‘zero-day exploitation’ without any protection against it and was undoubtedly the work of a nation-state. The effect the virus had on the Iranian infrastructure as it attacked power plants, energy grids, gas pipelines and industrial sites resulted in deaths and severe repercussions for scientists and line operators alike. The Symantec and Kaspersky experts estimated 500,000 attacks were unleashed over the course of its deployment.
A former employee of the US Nuclear Regulatory Agency went on camera to say that he knew of one or two nation-states that were using cyber weapons for offensive purposes. However, when asked who the states were and were the states involved using Stuxnet, a dance of denial ensued with the former employee back peddling while reiterating he did not mention names of the existence of Stuxnet often uttering “I can’t comment on that.”
In Zero Days Gibney has upped the ante from previous works with heightened production values utilizing CGI and textual overlays to convey the genesis of a new era and a medium of espionage at the highest governmental levels and has done his homework as he provides a historical backdrop of the Iranian nuclear program disclosing the US gave Iran its first nuclear reactor under the Shah of Iran’s rule. In addition, he shows the pride the Iranian people have in their nuclear program demonstrated by their national celebrations for Nuclear Enrichment Day, a national nuclear day that has galvanized the republic of Iran. Throughout the remainder of Zero Days Gibney delves deeply into Homeland Security and the arsenal of the US Cyber Command apparatus with probing interviews and expose investigative reporting concluding with speculation on where this new game of global cyber warfare may lead.
Zero Days is one of this year’s most important films in light of recent accusations a foreign power hacked the Democratic National Committee’s computer system as well as Democratic Presidential Nominee, Hillary Clinton’s campaign system. New York Times columnist David E. Sanger reports on this in the July 30th edition with his article “U.S. Wrestles With How to Fight Back Against Cyberattacks.”