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Rä di Martino • Director

The Stand-In is a film reaching beyond the realms of cinema”


- We interviewed the director of The Stand-In, Rä di Martino, who received the Eurimages Lab Project Award at the Karlovy Vary Film Festival

Rä di Martino • Director
(© La Biennale di Venezia / foto ASAC)

The Stand-In [+see also:
interview: Rä di Martino
film profile
, the first feature film by Rä di Martino, won the Eurimages Lab Project Award at the Karlovy Vary Film Festival, an award given to films that are in the production or post-production stage (see the news for further details). This “work in progress” was selected from among 100 European co-productions, in recognition of its going beyond the traditional realms of filmmaking, and was awarded €50,000 by Eurimages. The Stand-In follows the story of an Italian film crew in Marrakesh who are attempting a remake of the 1968 American film The Swimmer, directed by Frank Perry. In Rä di Martino’s film, the cast includes big names such as Valeria Golino, Corrado Sassi and Filippo Timi, the latter playing a character inspired by that of Burt Lancaster in the original film. It is a Dugong Films co-production between Italy, Switzerland and France, also involving Produzioni Illuminati, In Between Art Film (Italy), Snaporazverein (Switzerland) and Haut les mains (France), with sales managed by Slingshot Films. The Stand-In was presented at the Venice Film Festival, in the Cinema in the Garden section.

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Cineuropa: You’re an artist in the visual arts sector who works with all kinds of material across a wide range of mediums. Why did you decide to make your feature debut with this homage to a cult sixties film?
Rä di Martino:
The Swimmer is a film that is much loved by many artists who have drawn inspiration from it, or who have actually copied it to some extent. I work on things that already exist. We’re so overrun with media material that the idea of inventing something new now seems obsolete. I’ve also made video-art works which are a bit like short films in that I always used real actors, but they’re not really narratives as such. They’re more like projects of deconstruction, developed with the museum space in mind. But these have actually been included in film festivals as they can hop from one side of the divide to the other. Over the years, I knew that sooner or later I would make the leap into filmmaking. The Stand-In was going to be my “normal” film, complete with a screenplay and all that comes with it, but I couldn’t do it! I didn’t even write the screenplay, which had its consequences because you’re not then able to request public funding; private finance becomes the only option. Ultimately, it was a project that was considered to have no “cultural interest”, because it was a film shot in Morocco and based on an American movie.

Was it difficult to get funding, despite the involvement of two actors like Valeria Golino and Filippo Timi?
I’ve known Filippo for a while, we’ve collaborated before. He understood and could read between the lines of the project. As for Valeria Golino, we thought of her later on when we were thinking about who could play the Italian star. She was very kind and helpful. My having previously shot The Show MAS Go On was a big help because Iaia Forte, who was involved in my 2014 documentary, is a good friend of Valeria’s and, effectively, Valeria threw herself into the void by embarking on a project with so very little money. Our two Moroccan actors, Nadia Kounda and Younès Bouab, are also well-known in their country. But because the film was so outside of the norm, we had to find sponsors, associations and co-production partners among other independent and rather small companies. We set about filming, and halfway through shooting the project we had the surprise of being awarded the Eurimages prize. It really did feel as if the award fell from the sky because it was exactly what we needed at the time.

The film won the Eurimages award for its “experimental visual and ironic approach to an innovative narrative style and for the unique space it occupies, hovering somewhere between film and art”. Have they captured the essence of the film?
You know what pitches for prizes are like... The project was in no way easy to describe; it’s one of those films where it’s easier to find funding once it’s been shot. I always tried to explain: “It’s a pseudo remake but it’s also a bit of a look behind the scenes”, but no-one understood. Or: “There’s a man going through a bit of a crisis who isn’t an actor and who stammers” - it was almost impossible to explain. All my hopes were pinned on post-production awards!

How is distribution of the film going in Italy?
Slingshot Films, based in Trieste and specialising in art-house extreme, is very bravely attempting to sell and distribute the film, and a few museums that are part of AMACI – the Association of Italian Contemporary Art Museums – and that have an auditorium or have links to a cinema, have organised events to screen the film, including the MAXXi in Rome, the GAMeC in Bergamo with Lab80, and some others. It was shown on a circuit of roughly 14 cinemas immediately after its world premiere at the Venice Film Festival. At this point, with Slingshot, we’re focusing on cinemas, on evening events where I will also be in attendance. This is the only type of distribution possible for films like mine. We also have more screenings planned for festivals, cinemas and museums.

What do you have in mind for the future?
I’m planning to shoot a documentary on Rome over the coming spring-summer, and there’s also a fictional subject that I hope to use as the basis for a screenplay very soon. I’m working on it, even if it is yet another absurd project along the lines of The Stand-In

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(Translated by Michelle Mathery)

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