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CANNES 2020 Marché du Film

Ferzan Ozpetek • Director of The Goddess of Fortune

“With parents, it isn’t what’s below the belt that counts, but what you find due north, where our hearts and minds reside”

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- We spoke with Ferzan Ozpetek about the success of his film The Goddess of Fortune which is now set to land at Cannes’ Online Marché du Film as part of the True Colours’ line-up

Ferzan Ozpetek  • Director of The Goddess of Fortune

Building on the huge success that it has met with in Italy, among audiences and critics alike, Ferzan Ozpetek’s The Goddess of Fortune [+see also:
film review
trailer
film profile
]
is now getting ready to hit the international market. Distributed in Italian cinemas in December 2019 and earning a total of €8.2 million, the latest emotion-stirring movie put forward by the Italian director born in Istanbul really does shine bright in sales agency True Colours’ line-up for Cannes’ Online Marché du Film (22-26 June). And with his latest novel Come un respiro also topping the bestsellers lists, with over one hundred thousand copies sold (although, as the director confides, he’d rather wait a while before turning it into a film), we chatted with Ozpetek about The Goddess of Fortune’s strengths.

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Cineuropa: A fantastic stint in cinemas, two David di Donatello trophies, eight nominations for the upcoming Silver Ribbon Awards and widespread critical acclaim. What is it, in your opinion, that has made The Goddess of Fortune so successful?
Ferzan Ozpetek:
I first started to realise there was something special about this film after it was first screened to Warner. It was supposed to be released in early November, but the distributor said “no, let’s release it at Christmas”. I didn’t think the story of two men with two children was very Christmassy but they turned out to be right: the film made a huge impact and generated great word-of-mouth; all those who saw it said they’d found it moving and touching. It had a strong impact on gay audiences, but also on families. So many of them said they’d made their children watch the film to help them understand what kind of a world we live in, how things have changed and how important feelings are. The (unwitting) message of the film is that with parents, it isn’t what’s below the belt that counts, but what you find due north, where our hearts and minds reside.

The Goddess of Fortune is a very moving film, but it’s juxtaposed with great humour: there are tragicomic sides to the end of a love story. How did you manage to balance these two elements?
This is the first film to tackle the issue of two people of the same sex undergoing separation. Usually, films tell the tale of homosexual couples meeting for the first time and the birth of their love, never their growing tired of one another and preparing to break up. As for the tone, life itself is both tragic and comic, and it reflects my way of coping with things: I laugh in very difficult times. Drama should always be accompanied by some degree of levity.

Jasmine Trinca was crowned Best Actress at the David di Donatello Awards for her role in The Goddess of Fortune. Among the film’s eight nominations for the Silver Ribbons which will be presented on 6 July, there’s the prize for Best Actor which Stefano Accorsi and Edoardo Leo are both in the running for. How do you go about getting the best out of your actors?
Jasmine didn’t even want to be put forward for a lead role because – she said – her character wasn’t in all of the film. But her role is central: she enters into the lives of the lead couple and changes things. Jasmine really inhabited the role; at one point she and her character blended into one. Stefano and Edoardo gave everything too, it was as if they really were in love. There are no sex scenes between them, one of them simply caresses the other’s hand, yet we really feel the strength of their love. I really push my actors; the more they give me, the happier I am. When they see how hugely satisfied I am, they give even more. It creates great chemistry; it’s like dancing together almost without hearing any music.

The Goddess of Fortune is a film which came from a very personal place, but which has the potential to speak to everyone.
So many gay couples want to have children. I’ve never felt this need myself, but when my brother who has two children fell ill, my sister-in-law said to me “if anything ever happens to me, promise me that you and Simone will take care of the children”. Obviously, I said yes, but then the idea of such huge responsibility frightened me. That’s where the idea for the film came from. I then added the idea of their love being reborn thanks to these children: you see the person you love, who you’ve grown a bit tired of because you’ve spent 16 years together, and you discover how that person behaves with children and you see them in a new light. The film’s strength lies in this love which is about to ignite again. And everyone can identify with that. A Turkish company wanted to buy this film, for example, and the boss was a very macho man; the topic of homosexuality was very difficult for him to contend with. Yet, after seeing the film, he called me, emotional, telling me that after watching it for ten minutes, he was no longer focused on the fact that it was two men. I think that’s the winning formula: emotion.

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(Translated from Italian)

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