Daniele Vicari • Director
"We have a duty to maintain a critical stance in the press, just as we do in cinema"
- Daniele Vicari talks about his new film, Before the Night, which focuses on Pippo Fava, the extraordinary intellectual killed by the Mafia. The film world premiered at Bif&st
The premiere of the new feature film by Daniele Vicari, Before the Night [+see also:
interview: Daniele Vicari
film profile], starring Fabrizio Gifuni was welcomed at Bari Bif&st with excellent audience participation and a long round of applause. The film, which focuses on the Sicilian writer, journalist and playwright Pippo Fava – killed by the mafia in 1984 for his courageous investigations – was produced by Fulvio and Paola Lucisano’s company IIF (Italian International Film)and will be broadcast on Rai 1 on 23 May, on the Giornata della legalità (the Day of Legality – in memory of those who lost their lives at the hands of the Mafia while fighting for legality in Italy).
Cineuropa: This is your first TV film. People are saying that film and television are now on equal footing. Do you agree?
Daniele Vicari: I don't see any difference between film and TV, but in Italy there’s still a certain distinction, because the quality of TV films has been poor in the past. When working on content for TV, the way that images are constructed, and the set and costumes are designed is not valued as much as it is when making a film, which is a technical-productive and artistic mistake, in my opinion. When certain satellite channels touched down in Italy and got serious about making content for TV, you could immediately see the difference. Now TV in general is adapting, Rai Fiction's attempt to improve its quality is evident.
Has the fact that this film was destined for the small screen somehow changed the way it was made?
There was only one difference. As the film had to speak to millions of people, I decided to place the levels of complexity inside the construction of the characters and in each scene, so that the film’s language was fluid but not void of complexity. The process has done me good, every time I said to myself “I need to convey this in the simplest way possible,” I felt as if I’d earned something. There are certain scripts that don’t suit complex movements, because it ends up creating a gap between the director and the story, and between the director and the viewer. This is an ensemble film, there is a main character but not an absolute one and the main characters don’t die twenty minutes from the end. The narrative structure is handled in the editing phase so that the viewer accepts this radical change in narration and gets used to the absence of a main character, without giving in to their emotions.
How did you approach the character of Pippo Fava and this project?
IIF purchased the rights to the book written by Claudio Fava and Michele Gambino, and then Rai joined the project. I committed to the project at a later stage, and willingly accepted the offer. I’m an admirer of Fava, he was one of those great little-known intellectuals, the forerunner of a series of environmentalist battles that I was also involved in in the '80s, against oil rigs in Sicily, for example. At university, we used to photocopy articles from I Siciliani (the magazine run by Fava and co.) and distribute them. For me, this is a story that rests on two pillars: the intellectual who tries to establish his freedom in all its expressive forms, and the generous man who at some point in his life gave back to society what he himself was fortunate enough to receive. This is why we focused on the later phase of his life, a 60-year-old from Rome who finds himself back in the city of Catania, setting up an extraordinary journalism school and an innovative newspaper.
Claudio Fava and Michele Gambino, who were students of Fava (Claudio is also his son), collaborated on the screenplay. How did you use the book as starting material?
The book is split into two sections. Two journalists talk about Fava’s story and character from their own points of view, which I tried to convey in the film. But the film doesn’t focus on these two separate points of view, they were more used to build a multi-faceted character. The research we did was more psychological, the people close to Pippo had to create a certain distance to try to tell his story from a 360-degree angle. We reconstructed Fava’s life in terms of his interaction with others, first on paper and then in a sort of theatre workshop in which we recreated the relationship between the teacher and his pupils.
The film’s photography is very sunny and uses a lot of warm colours. What guided these choices?
The director of photography, Gherardo Gossi, and I discussed recreating the human warmth of the relationship between Fava and his carusi (boys) and between Fava and his son. We wanted to create a contrast between the hard battle they were fighting and the human intimacy between the characters. Although we shot the film digitally, we wanted to use lenses, filters and grain in an expressive way.
The film is a tribute to morally-conscious journalists. Do you think they still exist these days?
Many Italian journalists are under protection, they are civil heroes with a very grim life. Italy is 46th in the world for freedom of the press. Fava's story is a contemporary story, he sacrificed his life for this idea of journalism and created certain conditions so that his sacrifice wouldn’t be for nothing. There are some great journalists in Italy, but our society isn’t particularly concerned with the issue of freedom of the press. It’s an ongoing battle, and we need figures like Fava. We have a duty to maintain a critical stance in the press, just as we do in cinema. If we don’t have freedom of expression, we’re not doing a service to ourselves or to the community.
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