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"Fortunata, a Greek tragedy in the working-class suburbs"

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Sergio Castellitto • Director

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- CANNES 2017: Sergio Castellitto talks to us about Fortunata, screened in Un Certain Regard, and explains how he moulded this role of a woman from the suburbs onto Jasmine Trinca

Sergio Castellitto  • Director
(© A. de Moraes Barros Filho / Getty Images / Festival de Cannes)

“The intellectuals dress in black, the poor dress in colours. My Fortunata, played by Jasmine Trinca, with her miniskirt and vest, is a great chav at heart”. On the day that Fortunata [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Sergio Castellitto
film profile
]
was screened in the Un Certain Regard section of the Cannes Film Festival, its director Sergio Castellitto explained how he moulded this role of a real suburban woman onto Jasmine Trinca, who also starred in his film You Can’t Save Yourself Alone [+see also:
trailer
making of
interview: Sergio Castellitto
film profile
]
. Shortly before taking to the red carpet, having already pocketed the satisfaction of a good box-office result in the first few days of the film’s release in theatres with Universal, Sergio Castellitto and his wife Margaret Mazzantini, who wrote the screenplay, answered questions about the origins of this story of marginalisation and resistance, which many have compared to Mamma Roma by Pier Paolo Pasolini. "I’ve nurtured the idea of a female character like this for 20 years – explained Margaret Mazzantini – one who could be the daughter of Italy, the protagonist of Don’t Move played by Penelope Cruz. Indeed, Fortunata was also supposed to be brought to the big screen by the Spanish actress, but then as time went by I got to know Jasmine, discovered a woman of strength and talent and rewrote the story. Fortunata is a gladiator who fights in the mud with her bare hands, submerged in a suburban context of praying Arabs and Chinese people doing thai chi, a sort of symbolic army that has colonised our suburbs. It’s a Greek tragedy in Tor Pignattara".

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After making a number of films together, how has your creative work as a couple evolved?
Sergio Castellitto
: Film after film, I see Margaret as a writer like and even more than me. Her first draft is subjected to other tweaks, as the characters are altered and the film is edited, a stage which she took over when I, exhausted at the end of filming, went to London to see our daughter. Fortunata was a film that leant heavily on the writing behind it, but like a cage with the door open, it was also open to suggestions from others en route.

Here you’re back focusing on the suburbs…
This is also an identifying feature of Margaret’s writing. She has always focused on the most marginalised in society, the derailed areas. We must remember that social classes exist, despite those who tell us the contrary, and that we still have a right wing and a left wing. If there weren’t we wouldn’t have the frightening conflict we see around the world today. Try travelling to Tor Pignattara from Parioli and you’ll see a different world, inhabited by Sri Lankans and Chinese people. Where there once was Pasolini’s ‘Beggar’ is now a Sri Lankan. In the opening scene of Fortunata we see a stretch of concrete on which Chinese people meet to exercise, followed by the Roman aqueduct and then a fascist-era apartment building: this is Rome.

What do you say to those who accuse you of making literary and film narratives too mainstream?
That we are very much attached to the educational essence of film and that we have thankfully always had a good reaction from audiences. I see readers and viewers as highly intelligent, they are not just an indistinct mass of people as many might think. Also since last night when the film was released in Italian theatres, we’ve been receiving a lot of tweets from women who identify with Fortunata.

(Translated from Italian)

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