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BERLINALE 2018 Competition

Laura Bispuri • Director

“Cinema is made of women standing in the background”


- BERLIN 2018: Cineuropa talks to Italian director Laura Bispuri, who after 2015’s Sworn Virgin returns to Berlin’s main competition with the Sardinia-set Daughter of Mine

Laura Bispuri  • Director
(© Vivo film / Colorado Film / Match Factory Productions / Bord Cadre Films / Valerio Bispuri)

In her second feature, Daughter of Mine [+see also:
film review
interview: Laura Bispuri
film profile
, screening in the Competition of the Berlin Film FestivalLaura Bispuri tells the story of young Vittoria, who suddenly finds herself torn between two women: Tina (Valeria Golino), who has been raising her all her life, and the mysterious Angelica (Alba Rohrwacher).

Cineuropa: Daughter of Mine is a film about women – there really is no other way to put it. Is that something that you consciously set out to do?
Laura Bispuri:
I always wanted to talk about women – it has been my mission in my life and my work; it’s a political statement and my journey from the very beginning. Throughout the history of cinema, women have always been sidelined. They have been wives patiently waiting for their husbands to come home, and have often been portrayed in a very superficial way. It’s high time we change that image. Whenever this film is criticised for a lack of focus on men, part of me is quite happy about it. It needs to be this way. And also, cinema is made of women standing in the background, and yet you never hear us complain.

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The story you are telling here is quite universal. There is something almost biblical about it.
When I first started the film, I wasn’t thinking about the Bible. The starting point for me was the real story of a twenty-something girl who decided to be adopted by another woman – even though her biological mother was still alive. But as I started working on it, I came across The Judgement of Solomon [in which King Solomon had to decide which of two women was the real mother of a child]. There are some connections to Greek tragedies, too, so there is certainly an ancient dimension to the story. But at the same time, I wanted to infuse it with contemporary reflections – just like I did in Sworn Virgin [+see also:
film review
Q&A: Laura Bispuri
film profile
 – and have the whole idea of what a family is suddenly implode in our face. Motherly figures, especially in Italy, are always perceived as these icons of perfection. But it’s a fake symbol, and we really need to start questioning it. 

Did you always want Tina and Angelica to be that different from one another? At the beginning, one seems almost like a saint and the other one a whore, living on the margins of this small community, almost like Saraghina in Federico Fellini’s .
What I wanted to show at the beginning was Tina, convinced of being a perfect mother with a perfect daughter. But because of Angelica, she is then forced to challenge these ideas of perfection: both in reference to herself and in reference to her daughter. She realises that her little girl, Vittoria, is much more complex than she thought – and that after all these years, she finally has to acknowledge Angelica’s role in her life, or she won’t have a relationship with her any more. Angelica, on the other hand, at the beginning of her journey feels like she is not fit to be a mother. She is an outcast. But when she gets in touch with the girl, she realises she can actually love and be loved by her. I am not saying that one becomes the other, as that would be way too simple. But they do cross paths at the end. 

Why did you decide to shoot the film in Sardinia? It certainly plays an important part in Daughter of Mine, just like Albania did in Sworn Virgin.
I have a personal connection to the place – I used to spend holidays there as a child. And then I went there again with my own daughter, and that trip somehow stayed with me. It was a cornerstone in our relationship. In my films, I always look for places with a strong personality. I am petrified with terror at the idea of ending up with a postcard, but this time, when I was scouting for locations, something really beautiful happened. I was travelling with a 45-year-old man. He was very humble but had nothing to do with cinema – he works with animals. One evening, I said to him: “But Pierpaolo, you have never even seen my previous film. I have a trailer right here; I can show it to you on my phone.” Which I did, and he said: “I liked it because I saw how you work with the landscape. You make people realise its importance, but then you focus your attention on the actors.” It’s true – I always try to look for that perfect balance, which is why I spend such a long time looking for the right places. And once I find them, I can finally focus on my characters. In just a few words, he told me how I work.

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