Vincenzo Marra • Director
"I want to make films with people, not about the people"
by Vitor Pinto
33 years old, two documentaries and two features that were shown in the major international film festivals. Cineuropa met Vicenzo Marra at the Brussels European Film Festival, where his latest film Vento di Terra [+see also:
film profile] was in competition. Awarded in the last Venice Film Festival (Orizzonti section), the film seems to evoke the realist tradition of Italian film, proposing a tough story of life, magnificently performed by non professional actors.
After law school you worked as a sport photographer. How did cinema entered into your life?
I wanted to be a lawyer because I wanted to solve the world's greatest problems, but the study of law did not please me. At a certain point, I began to write a lot and I realised that what I was writing could be put into images. Then I found out there was something called scripts and filmmaking. I haven’t done any film school though. I read Kubrick’s statement “the best way to learn how to make a film is to make one” and with a very small budget I’ve written, directed and edited my first short film Una Rosa Prego.
Your path is atypical. You do fiction first and then documentaries.
After that short-film I have done a documentary that was finally edited in a cinematographic version Estranei alla massa about the Napolitan football supporter. Then I wanted to shoot Tornando a casa, which was my first feature.
In your fiction films there is a way to shoot and a way to tell the story which is pretty close to documentary.
I try to do whatever pleases me with as much freedom as I can. My films might make people think about documentaries but I personally guess that Tornando a casa and Vento di Terra are mainly about fiction, with very few documentary-oriented scenes. Though, I do want to remain as close as possible to reality because it seems to me it is coherent with the film I want to make, only that in fiction things are inversed: there is this technical preparation to catch something close to reality, while when I make a documentary I catch that reality as it is and try to make a film out of it.
I guess Vento di Terra captures amazingly well the authenticity of people. I wonder if that is because you chose to work with people from Naples – that you intimately know – or because of your decision to work with non professional actors.
I want to make films with people, not about the people. There was this question of deep communication that I can only share with people from Naples. In very ancient cities like Naples there are these codes between people, there are words within silence. Vincenzo Pacilli, who has the leading role, was only 16 when we shot the film. I didn’t want an actor to recite. In the end, we achieved a good result that required a lot of effort.
Did you have to rewrite the script in order to adapt it to the way non professional actors performed?
None of the actors read the script. While we were shooting I progressively put the script aside. After the editing, the final result was pretty much similar to what was written in the script.
Despite all the problems that family goes through, the film successfully avoids melodrama. Was it an conscient choice?
I like to keep a certain distance, almost like a photographer who wants to catch reality but I do not want to photograph everything. I am not fond of the spectacular side of it. I think Vento di Terra is also a film about hope, though after all the trips I have done to promote the film, I noticed that non Latin people tend to see it only as a drama. The ending is tough because I didn’t want to cheat on the audience, I didn’t want to have an American happy ending.
It seems to me that part of the hope is based on the fact that despite all the social limitations, characters do remain away from a world of marginality, which is rather uncommon in films set in the suburbs.
Through that family story I wanted to tell part of the history of my country, which is divided between north and south. I wanted to tell the story of the non-privileged ones - who live in the occidental society not in the third world, those trying, despite their social limitations, to build something good in life. I think the role of cinema is to show those alternative images, aspects of the world we don’t usually see.
Is there enough space in Italian industry for those kind of projects?
No, the current situation is very difficult. Making a film like Vento di Terra is almost impossible, I was lucky I could partially finance it with the money I earned by doing Tornando a casa, which was a big success. But projects on this kind of issues are usually badly accepted. For decision makers all that counts is figures.
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