Creative Being with Tommaso – DANCEmber 2019

December 2019

What is a movie, if not a continuum of frames, images in movement? Our Artistic Director Tommaso Cartia discusses the Dance & Movement theme in our DANCEmber series, bringing it to the world of movies, with Actress, Writer, Producer and Activist Pooya Mohseni – our host of the month.

Among the topics, a case-study of the images of sound and the sounds of images in the film medium, with an analysis of Lars Von Trier’s atypical musical, Dancer in the Dark, starring Björk; and a review of one of the movies of this Holidays season – A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood directed by Marielle Heller and starring Tom Hanks, Matthew Rhys, Chris Cooper and Wendy Makkena. Stay creatively tune for our exclusive interview with Makkena coming up next this Friday. Ready, set, imagine!

The Wonder-ful Rohrwacher Sisters on Show at MoMA with their Vivid Portrait of Contemporary Italian Cinema

Alice Rohrwacher
A still from Le meravigile (The Wonders).2014. Italy. Directed by Alice Rohrwacher. Courtesy Oscilloscope Laboratories

The Wonders: Alice and Alba Rohrwacher – is the title of the retrospective running from the 4th to the 23rd of December at The Museum of Modern Art, giving the American audience the chance to discover or rediscover the enchanting aesthetic world of writer-director Alice Rohrwacher and actress Alba Rohrwacher. Two brilliant talents, two powerful female figures, one spectacular body of work that is weaving back together the tradition of the golden era of Italian cinema with a modern sensibility, inquisitive and nurturing at the same time. On the occasion of MoMA’s homage to the sisters, I publish here Part 1 of a case-study on Le Meraviglie (The Wonders), one of my favorite movies by Alice Rohrwacher, starring her sister Alba. My analysis explores the complex beauty of the symbolistic construction of the narration through the model of Vogler’s Hero’s Journey and Joseph Campbell’s Monomyth, which lay underneath the magical neo-realism of the cinematography. 

By Tommaso Cartia

The retrospective was brought to MoMA by Istituto Luce Cinecittà, and curated by Josh Siegel of MoMA’s Film Department and Camilla Cormanni and Paola Ruggiero of Istituto Luce-Cinecittà. It showcases both Alice and Alba’s collaboration on movies like Happy as Lazzaro and The Wonders; and their personal efforts. Among them some movies that I consider the undeniable proof of the striking aliveness of Italian Cinema: Corpo Celeste (Heavenly Body) by Alice Rohrwacher; Maestro Marco Bellocchio’s Bella Addormentata (Dormant Beauty) and Sangue del mio sangue (Blood of My Blood) and Laura Bispuri’s Vergine giurata (Sworn Virginand Figlia mia (Daughter of Mine), all starring one of the strongest Italian interpreters of our time: Alba Rohrwacher. For more info on the retrospective please click HERE.

Enjoy here below Part 1 of The Wonders case-study. Part 2 available at the link at the bottom of the article.

Le Meraviglie (The Wonders), written and directed by Alice Rohrwacher, is the coming of age story of an adolescent, Gelsomina, and of her conflicted relationship with a father figure who wants to force the inexorable pressing of her adulthood into a muffled, bucolic world out of time. Gelsomina’s family lives in the Umbrian-Tuscan countryside, leading the rural life of the beekeepers, an old-fashioned world where the development of the modern means of production, the advent of capitalism and industrialization, seem never to have passed and never having affected its virginal genuineness.

The family is constituted by the authoritarian father-master from German origins, Wolfang; the young Italian mother, Angelica (played by Alba Rohrwacher); the younger sister, Marinella; two younger sisters; and Cocò, a young German girl, a handyman and aide of the family. A microcosm of all women to whom the patriarch Wolfang tries to infuse his archaic ideals, with authority but also with a sort of rough sweetness and profound respect. Is Gelsomina, however, the one with whom he has the strongest, visceral relationship. She is the eldest, the one whom everybody address as the head of the family, the one that probably, in her father’s vision, incorporates those male psycho-physical traits that he failed to pass to a son who unfortunately did not arrive. Gelsomina is the foreman of all the honey production jobs, the one who knows its rules and rituality, the only one who Wolfang trusts to coordinate the operations. The other sisters are too little, and the second daughter, Marinella, is a happy slacker. The mother is instead a very practical, straightforward figure. Theirs is a life lived according to the values of pauperism, a protected, existential condition that it is about to suffer the advent of the large-scale industrial productions, that will soon eat alive the family-run businesses. In the immobility of their picture-perfect life is Gelsomina, who starts a first movement, who starts contemplating the possibility of change. The switch in her perspective is triggered by the fairy-tale encounter with Milly Catena (played by Monica Bellucci), a beautiful but over the top host of a TV show – Il Paese delle Meraviglie (The Wonderland).

The program is a contest, a sort of reality show, where different family-run businesses from the area can participate by showcasing their local products. The win is a significant amount of money. Gelsomina is charmed by the Fairy Godmother fascination of Milly, who becomes for the girl an icon, a figure of the woman that she would like to be one day. Gelsomina has been persuaded that winning that contest would be crucial for the future of her family’s business. This idea is of course, strongly opposed by the father Wolfang.

Another disturbing element for the quiet life of the family will be the arrival of Martin, a young German orphan, who will spend a few months with them to help Wolfang with the heaviest jobs. Martin is another reason for restless upheavals for Gelsomina, the gradual transition from the age of puberty to adulthood; the first innocent, erotic impulses towards the other sex. Gelsomina, the heroine of this story, is therefore animated by two complementary desires, albeit apparently different: the conscious desire to make her family win the television program, and the unconscious one that moves her deep wills – to emancipate herself from the paternal figure and run towards her adult age symbolized by the marvelous mirror of the woman who she would like on day to be, Milly, and by the sentimental object of her desire, Martin. This seems to be the controlling idea of the film, which strongly archetypal, symbolic, but also psychological nature suggests a structural analysis that could, therefore, be based on the model of Vogler’s Hero’s Journey and the analysis of Joseph Campbell’s monomyth: it is in effect a story of separation – initiation – return. But Alice Rohrwacher’s aesthetic undeniably refers also to minimalist narrative styles, a magical neo-realism, where often the photogenic beauty of the frame slows down the narrative rhythms to contemplate the wonders of nature that are the other big protagonists of the film. 

The neorealist quotations are therefore well articulated both photographically and on the contents level, starting from the choice of the name Gelsomina, which immediately reminds us of Fellini’s Giulietta Masina in La Strada, who in fact, plays a character named Gelsomina.

At the link below please find Part 2 of the study analyzing the movie in the three acts in which the narration is divided, highlighting the various rites of passage of the heroine and the function of the different archetypal figures she encounters in her journey, read through Vogler’s Hero’s Journey and Joseph Campbell’s Monomyth

Stonewall has Never Been Louder

Stonewall Outloud

With Stonewall OutLoud, directors Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato revive the resounding echoes of the night of the N.Y.C. riots that 50 years ago saw the LGBTQ+ community rebelling against the prevailing conservatism winds that were—and still are in some regards—shaking the American stars and stripes. The torch of the testimony of the people who lived the uproar of those days is passed down to a new generation by featuring some prominent figures of today’s LGBTQ+ community, who lend their voices to the archival audio recordings of the veterans in a mirroring synesthesia. 

By Tommaso Cartia

From the moment this film is on to the moment that it is out, something so visceral touches the profound strings of your heart’s nostalgia, and invades you. It is like re-watching family videos, the voices of our loved ones traversing time and coming back to remind us about their once untamable aliveness, that resilient attachment to the gift of life preserved against any toiling struggles. In Stonewall OutLoud, our family is the extended LGBTQ+ community, with its toiling struggles, and its voices that we can’t dare to put to oblivion. 

Inspired by the audio-documentary Remembering Stonewall by Dave Isay, the movie, narrated by RuPaul, finds a vividly original way to vehicle the voices of the heroes of the uprising, shortening the physical and temporal distance by unleashing them out loud through some popular faces of the current LGBTQ+ scene. Like Actor, Comedian and Activist Daniel Franzese; Singer & Actor Lance Bass; Athlete Adam Rippon: RuPaul Drag Race Star Raja; and more, including Laith Ashley, Charlie Carver, Jeffrey Bowyer-Chapman, Fortune Feimster, Connor Franta, Isis King, Keiynan Lonsdale, Jinkx Monsoon, Ben J. Pierce, Michael Turchin, Amber Whittington and Alexis G. Zall.

Adam Rippon
Adam Rippon with Veteran of the Stonewall Tree Sequoia. Photo courtesy of David Magdael & Associates

Each one of them revisits rare and priceless material that even America’s history books have shamefully neglected, preventing our kids to fully understand that the freedom of costumes they can experience today when they effortlessly parade during a Gay Pride, was nothing but a strenuous conquest that cost the lives of many. “I connected with the material instantly because it is so important,” said Actor Daniel Franzese, commenting about his role in the documentary. “A lot of our history as queer people is erased, we don’t have any of that in our American history books, anything about gay people growing up in this country. It was completely washed away. When I was approached for the project, I immediately said yes, because it got to me that at this point in my life, as an LGBTQ activist, actor and gay man, I should definitely know more about this stuff. These stories should be all learned and engrained in our consciences,” continued Franzese. 

From the left: Director Randy Barbato, Actor Daniel Franzese, Veteran Activist and SirusXM Host Larry Flick and Daniel Mitchell from Youtube Originals. Photo courtesy of David Magdael & Associates

Emmys and GLAAD Media Award-winning directors Randy Barbato and Fenton Bailey, the visionary minds behind WOW (World of Wonder) – the production that created masterpieces of contemporary LGBTQ+ entertainment beginning with RuPaul’s Drag Race – continue to wonder their audience, weaving together the fragmented history of the American gay community and leaving a profound trace in its legacy and in our conscience.

Randy Barbato and Fenton Bailey
Randy Barbato and Fenton Bailey. Photo courtesy of David Magdael & Associates

“The film was inspired by Dave Isay, the man behind StoryCorps, who 20 years after the Stonewall riots released the audio-documentary Remembering Stonewall,” says Barbato explaining the inception of the project: “We were approached by Youtube Originals to do a film about it and we asked ourselves, ‘How can we bring this back to life?’ Initially, we really didn’t know, it was difficult because there is very little visual archive of the Stonewall uprising. Our number one goal was to find an effective way to communicate the story to a younger generation. We made it happen and it was really sort of magical the way that our performers connected with the voices and the material in the film, it felt so surprisingly organic.” And it feels so surprisingly organic to absorb, as an audience, this alive, out-loud page of American History, that should never ever be put on Mute.

Creative Bridge with Daniela – DANCEmber 2019

Elyssa Dole
Dancer and Manager Elyssa Dole

Apparently, dancing and business are two very unrelated topics. But, as you know, our goal here at Creative Pois-On is to dismiss the misconception that creativity belongs exclusively to those who work in artistic fields. Listen to this episode to explore more about this topic with our Artistic Director Daniela Pavan and our Special Host of the month of DANCEmber, Actress Pooya Mohseni.

Daniela Pavan

Let’s take for example the book The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It for Life, by Ballet Choreographer Twyla Tharp. In that book she describes creativity as “the product of preparation and effort,” and she continues by saying that “it’s within reach of everyone who wants to achieve it.” It seems that people in creative fields work in a sort of continuous cycle of inquiry and action that identifies a goal, to then design and create new ways to reach that goal.

pooya mohseni

A theater director does this for actors, a choreographer with dancers, but if we transfer this mindset in an office this is also what project managers do for example while leading their team to build and market new products. Also, i is very interesting the point of view of dancer and manager Elyssa Dole who, in an article published a few weeks ago, wrote that: “the creative process also includes logistics of execution and a way to value and assess what’s in front of you. Maybe that’s why ballet choreographer George Balanchine compared his work to that of a carpenter.”

Creative Briefing – Our DANCEmber 2019

December 2019

We welcome the Creative Pois-ON DANCE-mber dedicated to the themes of Dance and Movement as keys to re-awake creativity. We also welcome our brand-new host for the month, the uber-talented Actor, Writer, Filmmaker, and Activist  Pooya Mohseni; and we are also debuting a brand new track for our episodes’ intro and outro by Internationally renowned Sing-Songwriter and Fashion Designer Alessandra Salerno

December in New York means sumptuous Christmas trees, lights everywhere, holiday markets. It also means ice skating at Rockefeller Center or in Central Park, staring at the glamorous and luxurious windows along Fifth Avenue, keeping a cup filled with hot chocolate to warm you!
And of course, see The Nutcracker, which is a classic holiday experience for New Yorkers, and also for those who moved here or are just visiting. An enchanting show combining dreaming dancing, sparkling costumes, and outstanding visual effects – all wrapped in Tchaikovsky’s sensational music, a production performed annually by the New York City Ballet at Lincoln Center that is must-see.

Inspired by the magic of The Nutcracker and by the whimsical dance of lights with which the Holiday season gently swings us into the New Year – Artistic Director Daniela Pavan and Tommaso Cartia discuss the powers of dance and movement, and how they can positively transform and strengthen our bodies, minds, and souls. We also talk about the images in movement, the movies, touching base with some of the all-time Holidays classics and exploring a new feel-good movie cheer – A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood starring Tom Hanks. Read our review HERE. This series includes a special Creative Being Interview with a member of the cast of A Beautiful Day, and a surprising Creative Interview with one of the most gifted dancers of our generation. The perfect Holiday Gift! Ready, set, imagine!

Grimanesa Amorós – Lighting Up her Lovingly Romance with the Unknown

Grimanesa Amoros

The Artistic Directors of Creative Pois-On, Daniela Pavan and Tommaso Cartia, gently turned through the pages of the artist’s extraordinarily eventful life to paint a vivid chiaroscuro portrait of the woman behind the art, and the art behind the woman, circling the earth with her light in the attempt to make sense of her lovingly romance with the unknown.

November 2019, is the Enlightenment month for the Creative Pois-On Podcast. “Let there be light. And there was light.” This infamous quote from the Genesis, expresses in a poetic and very visual way, an essential creative process – to bring something to the light, out of the darkness. This is true of all creations: when you birth an idea, when you bring to the light a child, when you light up the stage of a theater and you give light to your creation for everybody to see it, when you stand up under the spotlight to pitch your business idea that you’ve been working so hard on. This is what Creative Pois-On wanted to explore in the four episodes of the November podcast; trying to understand how vital Light is in any creative process, but at the same time how fundamental darkness is, meaning everything that happens in the dark before an idea, a project is out in the light.

Tommaso and Daniela were kind of wresting in the Dark, looking for the perfect interview subject for the November series; until they got hit by the Light in Grimanesa Amorós’s work – an artist who exemplary embodies and exudes the theme of light.

Please listen to our two-parts podcast interview with the artist here below:

About Grimanesa Amorós:
Grimanesa Amorós was born in Lima, Perú, and lives and works in New York City. She is an interdisciplinary artist with diverse interests in the fields of social history, scientific research and critical theory, which have greatly influenced her work. Her works incorporate elements from sculpture, video, lighting, and technology to create site-specific light installations to engage architecture and create community.Grimanesa Amorós has often drawn upon important Peruvian cultural legacies for inspiration for her large-scale light-based installations, which she has presented around the globe from Mexico, Tel Aviv, and Beijing to New York’s Times Square. She often gives talks at museums, foundations, and universities where her lectures not only attract future artists, but students and faculty engaged with science and technology. Amorós has exhibited in the United States, Europe, Asia, the Middle East, and Latin America. For more information about Grimanesa Amorós, visit @grimanesaamoros #grimanesaamoros

A Beautiful Day at the Theater

Tom Hanks-starrer A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood (Sony Pictures), directed by Marielle Heller and recounting the life of the beloved TV personality Mr. Rogers, is impacting the American theaters just in time to light up the Holiday season. A cathartic little miracle that can revive the purity of your child’s heart, before it was ever broken. 

By Tommaso Cartia

Joanne Rogers
Joanne Rogers

“Fred used to say that the space between the television set and the person watching it was holy ground. And I believe that it is true in this theater today. And may I add that I know that Fred would be thrilled to have Tom Hanks representing him on the big screen.” Joanne Rogers – Fred Roger’s widow.

It couldn’t be introduced in a more sweet and yet powerful way the press screening of A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, as that day I was truly looking for a holy ground to unwind. It was a dark and stormy day… in New York City when I walked to the movie theater, one of those days where the spirits of the island of Manhattan seem to get together to conspire against you, possessing your umbrella that cracks and blows away, your traveling Starbucks that spills, your subway ride that gets delayed for a police investigation. It seemed all very gloomy and moody until I comfily sit, and Mr. Rogers appears on the big screen. Thoughtfulness, brightness, charm, acumen, all that Fred Rogers was for generations of kids and young/adults, wrapped up the audience with a pitch-perfect classical narration that still can perform that cathartic little miracle to turn your day around and make you think of the beauty and goodness in people with the purity of your child’s heart, before it was ever broken. 

The miracle is served by the exquisite touch of Marielle Heller who, after the lyrically riveting exploit of Can You Ever Forgive Me? last year, has continued to craft her voice, establishing herself as a contemporary poetess of the silver screen. As she turns the pages of the encounter between Mr. Rogers and Lloyd Vogel (Tom Junod in real life, played by Matthew Rhys), the Esquire journalist who in 1998 was assigned to write a profile on him; Heller gently paints them in pastel-colors dreamy frames. She elegantly orchestrates the camera to embrace the audience as she gets into the fairytale world of Fred Rogers, and out in the more grainy-grey world of Lloyd Vogel, who struggles with a life filled with anger, cynicism and the unresolved issues with a complicated father figure (Chris Cooper).

Heller has the best crayons box in her hands, a cast of stellar actors. Tom Hanks is giving us his boy-next-door charm, playing both the Fred Roger’s inner child and enlightened young/adult with all the complexity, and apparent naivete, that reminds you of his Forrest, and reminds you, he will be probably get that Oscar nomination he has been missing since 2001’s Castaway. Matthew Rhys is strongly believable, neurotic, strong and fragile, dark and lightened at the same time, he is the audience, he is me on my stormy and cloudy day… until he is rescued by the least expected of the Wise-Men. Other notable performances are the ones of Chris Cooper, the despicable and yet tenderly human Lloyd’s father figure, Susan Kelechi Watson (Lloyd’s wife), and Wendy Makkena, in the pivotal role of Cooper’s girlfriend. 

In a movie world saturated of superheroes that are, at times, less heroic than the stuntmen playing them and the special effects acting them under the table; A Beautiful Day is here to remind us of the simple magic of good storytelling and a real, empathetic hero and role-model like Fred Rogers was for his time and Tom Hanks can still be in the entertainment business. 

And if this movie can brighten up even a stormy and cloudy New York’s day, it is indeed that holy ground we’ve been waiting to face the midst of Winter and enjoy our cozy times under the Christmas Tree’s lights. 

Be ready, set and imagine with A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood and our upcoming exclusive interview with Actress Wendy Makkena. Thank you Integrated PR and Monique Moss for the coordination of the piece and the interview. 

Creative Being Interview – November 2019

The month of November dedicated to the theme of Light and Enlightenment ends with a sparkling surprise! Introduced by our host of the month, Author David James Parr; our Artistic Director Tommaso Cartia interviews Multimedia Neapolitan Artist Annalaura di Luggo and explores her collaboration with Hollywood Director, Writer and Producer Stanley Isaacs – husband of Cheryl Boone Isaacs, President, President of The Oscars Board of Governors (AMPAS).

Cheryl Boone Isaacs
Cheryl Boone and Stanley Isaacs at The Oscars

Di Luggo is an experimental artist fusing different art mediums, materials and suggestions to stimulate the conversation about urgent social issues. She is a pioneer and the inventor of a macro-photographic camera capable of shooting the human iris; Annalaura brought the theme of Light at the center of her aesthetic research by catching our profound identity mirrored in the spark of our eyes.

Annalaura Di Luggo – Blind Vision

Photographing different types of people and personalities, from celebrities to the people of her own hometown, the artist gives back the light and the vision also to the blind people with her series “Blind Vision,” and she is bringing her magical camera into the world of the people with the Down syndrome. She is also producing movies, documenting her work, and with the mystical connection she established with Mr. Stanley Isaacs; she is now bringing her visions to the United States. So enjoy our special Creative Being episode and happy Thanksgiving from the Creative Poison Podcast team! Ready, set, imagine!

Marco Bellocchio’s The Traitor – A Maxi Trial Act of Beauty Unlocking Mafia’s Code of Silence

The Traitor

Exclusive interviews with Maestro Marco Bellocchio and Actor Pierfrancesco Favino, presenting The Traitor (Il Traditore), in New York at the 4th edition of Italy on Screen Today Film Fest directed by Loredana Commonara. The biopic depicting the life of Tommaso Buscetta – the Italian mobster who became one of the first Sicilian Mafia members ever to turn informant – is the Official Italian Entry for the Best International Feature Film at the 2020 Academy Awards, and will be distributed in the U.S. by Sony Pictures Classics from January 2020. 

By Tommaso Cartia

Is there an answer or a possible resolution to the atavic questions and paradoxes that a phenomenon as complex as the Sicilian Mafia still hides in its secreted code of honor? How can we even remotely conceive two different mobsters accusing each other of their lack of morality; or picturing them living and suffering for love, from the loss of a child, or happily appreciating the simple joys of life while living in the constant trepidation to kill or be killed? “We have to think of Mafia, like if it was a foreign country, with its different culture, different language, a country that is completely different from ours,” Pierfrancesco Favino, who stars in the complex role of Tommaso Buscetta, arguments, giving me a brilliant angle to reflect on. It’s through the larger-than-life profile of Buscetta that one of the most prominent Masters of Contemporary Italian Cinema, Marco Bellocchio, reflects on the Maxi Trial (1986-1992), the largest anti-Mafia process in history and on that pivotal moment of Italian history when for the first time ever, Judges Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino, broke through the underworld of the Sicilian Mafia and unlocked its code of silence, changing it forever.

I’m Sicilian, and I’ve witnessed the Mafia operating a couple of blocks from my house in Sicily, probably that’s why I’m usually very cautious, and I dare to say intolerant when I experience some of those clichés and simplifications of that reality fictionalized on the silver screen. I’m also talking about masterpieces like The Godfather, which is a grandiose, epic movie that I perceive though as something to watch for its filmic beauty more than to find answers to those Sicilian Mafia’s atavic questions. Maestro Bellocchio’s The Traitor, is something different, is something that accelerated my heartbeat, chained me to the chair and gave me an unprecedented look on what used to happen a couple of blocks from my house in Sicily: it’s a testimony. I couldn’t expect anything less from the movie painter of Italian cinema, the anarchic poet and intellectual who is as powerful when he is probing of the societal mores of the Italian family and institutions as when he investigates his own autobiographical universe.

Editor in Chief of Creative Pois-On, Tommaso Cartia, interviews Maestro Marco Bellocchio at The Italy on Screen Today Press Lunch. Photo by Francesca Magnani.

The ideas for his movies often come dressed up in imaginative suggestions, in pictorial epiphanies, and that is no surprise as indeed the director of Fists in The Pocket , started out as a painter. “If I have to think of an imaginary, this story reminds me of the art of the American Realism, in particular, the Maxi Trial,” Bellocchio tells me when I asked him about the inspiration behind the movie. “We were able to shoot in the real courtroom where the trial was held, that’s the heart of the movie. I was very interested in the discreetly, conflicting lights of the room, very diffused. And also, spatially, I was attracted by the different point of view of the Mafia convicts within their cages and how we look at them from outside.”If Bellocchio’s imaginary inspiration comes from colors and spatiality, for Favino, it did come from Buscetta himself: “Before studying for the role, I knew a little bit about his story and how he has always been different and unique from the cliché of the typical mob guy. Thinking about the theme of image, in the case of Buscetta, it is particularly interesting, because he has been always obsessed by his own image and looks – he had so many face lifts – I would call it a form of dysmorphophobia. He was also obsessive in the way that he needed to constantly reaffirm his own identity, ‘I am Tommaso Buscetta,’ was one of his signature saying, and again it is paradoxical if we think that he grew up in a family of glassworkers. He also had a maniacal care for his hands and the way that he dressed, such a vanity. He so wanted to see himself in a different way, to adhere to a model of elegance and social status that it didn’t belong to his upbringing.” 

Pierfrancesco Favino
Consul General of Italy Francesco Genuardi presents the Wind Of Europe International Award to Pierfrancesco Favino. In the picture, Oscar-winning Director James Ivory, special guest of the Italy on Screen Today Film Fest Award Ceremony held at the Walter Reade Theater-Lincoln Center in New York. Photo by Jeff Smith

Starting from that imaginary, Favino really did transform and almost transfigured himself into Buscetta, he was also able to perfectly modulate and emulate his voice and that specific Sicilian dialect, and for someone who is not Sicilian, like Favino, ad even for the Sicilians themselves, it is definitely an epic undertaking with a surprising result. If Favino worked as a biographer with the subject matter, Bellocchio tried to find that something in his autobiographical experience, that he could have made him feel closer to the world of the mobster: “At first it was very difficult to enter that world, starting with the Mafia language, that I didn’t know, a language of few words. Then, getting closer to Buscetta I was fascinated by his love for music, opera, melodrama, and even pop music. That made him closer. Also, the theme of betrayal is something that I can definitely relate to. I’m not ashamed to say that I did betray in my life. I betrayed because I wanted to separate myself from certain situations I didn’t agree with anymore. So, I betrayed with the hope to operate a positive change. Even though this is not really the case of Buscetta, he betrayed not to change but in order that he could have preserved who he was.”

Marco Bellocchio
Artistic Director of Italy on Screen Today Film Fest Loredana Commonara with Marco Bellocchio and Pierfrancesco Favino, recipients of the Wind of Europe International Award at the Walter Reade Theater-Lincoln Center in New York. Photo by Jeff Smith.

Maestro Bellocchio’s words seem to echo one of the most significant books in Sicilian and Italian literature, The Leopard by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa, when addressing the change in Sicilian life and society during the Risorgimento – the time that consolidated the Kingdom of Italy in the 19th century – the author writes: “if we want things to stay as they are, things will have to change.” That’s somehow Buscetta’s philosophy and the possible reason behind his decision to turn informant, and not really pentito (repented), because he never wanted to deny or betrayed what for him were the real Mafia values, against his enemies within the organization of Cosa Nostra. “Buscetta will never be either a hero or an exemplary,” tells me Bellocchio, “he is a man who has been defeated, but that never really wanted to quit being a mobster, on the contrary, he was proud of his princely way of being a Mafia boss. Someone who would respect the core values of the Mafia, with that sort of Robin Hood ideal to help the poorest class, also looking after and never touching children and women. He is a conservatory man in the Mafia organization, he didn’t want their rules to change the way they did because of the explosion of the heroin market and that race to the absolute power that it suddenly invested his enemies, the Corleonesi and specifically Totò Riina. Buscetta comes back from his exile and turns informant because he is forced to, but his courage and loyalty towards his relatives and also the institutions it’s respectable. This way, he was definitely instrumental for the fight of Judge Falcone, that he greatly respected.”

James Ivory
James Ivory with Marco Bellocchio on the stage of Italy on Screen Today Film Fest at the Walter Reade Theater-Lincoln Center in New York. Photo by Jeff Smith.

It is sort of hard, still, to understand the different sets of rules and codes of the Mafia, a world where every common-known value seems to be overturned. Mafia is indeed a criminal organization as well as a way of thinking that is not just of Sicily or the South of Italy, it’s a contemporary world-wide phenomenon; although: “its code of honor is millenary,” argued Favino, who really dig into the Mafia history, “the first traces of the Mafia movement are attributable to the Saracens, an Arab tribe that invaded Sicily and that needed to escape from the Normans who were trying to conquer the island. The Saracens hid in the most remote villages of the island where they started communities in groups of ten. The Mafia’s Decina (the ten in Italian), is still today a branch of the Sicilian Mafia family. And so probably the function of Mafia is rooted in a society that feels far away from the central power, and that needed to come up with its own inner rules.”

Pierfrancesco Favino stepped into the Sicilian Mafia world with the same grace and intellectual honesty and respect that he put in embracing Bellochio’s world: “It was incredible, to be a part of his cinema, which is really art, he is an artist lived by his poetical, philosophical world. The moment that he opens you the door to that world, it’s pure magic. To have gained his trust and his listening is something that will definitely divide my career in before and after Bellocchio.”

Our Editor in Chief Tommaso Cartia interviewing Pierfrancesco Favino.

The Traitor has already been a massive success in Italy, it has been already distributed in 100 regions, it was acclaimed and praised at the Cannes Film Festival this year, won several awards at the prestigious Nastro d’Argento, including Best Film, Best Director, Best Actor and Best Score – Nicola Piovani – and it is now nominated for the European Film Awards in all of the most glamorous categories. And so, there’s naturally a lot of expectation and trepidation for the Best International Feature Film submission at the upcoming Academy Awards and the distribution of the movie in the U.S. that will start tip of next year thanks to Sony Picture Classics: “Of course to have a powerhouse like Sony behind the film it gives it a lot of credibility,” told me Bellocchio, “based on the audience reactions we believe the movie is getting a lot of positive hype, so we can just wish for the best.” Someone who has been experiencing the jolts and sparks of the big Hollywood productions is Favino who was recently cast in movies like The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince CaspianAngels & DemonsNight at the Museum and World War Z; so it is interesting to understand his preferential point of view not only on the U.S. journey of The Traitor but on the today positioning and success of the Italian cinema in the American Market: “I believe that the history teaches us that we Italians need to stick in doing our own cinema.

The Traitor
The Traitor Official Movie Poster.

We can’t bend to the codes of the American movies, a cinema that ultimately, we are not able to do, but that doesn’t mean that we have less cards left to play. Actually, The Academy always awarded our cinema when it was authentically Italian. We have two completely different ways to make movies because our cultures are very different. Our hero, is a hero who carries doubts and looks for his deus ex machina, the gods, the fairies, to solve his problems. We come from the spiritual Greek and Latin tradition, from that way of constructing a drama and that fatalistic sense of life. The Americans’ premise is in the Protestant philosophy of the self-made man, the super-hero. It is very different.”

Wishing all of the good luck to The Traitor for its American release; I was happy to have been stimulated to revisit my own doubts, questions and unresolved paradoxes of the Mafia phenomenon that this movie beautifully processes in a maxi trial act of Beauty.

For more info on Italy on Screen Today Film Fest please click here:

The Creative Bridge with Daniela – November 2019, The Enlightenment Month

Our Artistic Director Daniela Pavan discusses the topic of Light and Enlightenment from a business and a creative ideas development point of view with our host of the month, Award-Winning Author, Playwright, and novelist David James Parr.

“I honestly believe that creativity cannot be switched on and off, like a light switch. It’s a process that requires us to become comfortable with making mistakes because it includes failed attempts, it requires us to take courage and try, it’s a test and learn approach. And this creative anxiety is borne out of a society that expects perfection, that expects creatives to generate ideas quickly. This same society though teaches us that there are only right or wrong answers and leaves very little space to experiment and test ideas. Think about Thomas Edison. Its invention of the light bulb in 1879 came out as the result of tons of experiments. According to The Time, he tested more than 6,000 possible materials before finding the one that worked, the carbonized bamboo. Also, he made 1,000 unsuccessful attempts at inventing the light bulb. And when a reporter asked, “How did it feel to fail 1,000 times?” Edison replied, “I didn’t fail 1,000 times. The light bulb was an invention with 1,000 steps.” Edison kept persevering without giving up and gave birth to a disruptive invention for those times, which still is part of our current standards of living. What do you think David?”

David James Parr

“I totally agree with you Daniela. The creative process takes time: You have to accept that sometimes you’re not going to have the time, or the energy, to deliver on an idea. I’ve had what I thought were light bulb moments on the subway on my commute to work in the morning, but by the time I’ve been crammed inside a subway car, and had the train delayed between stops, and the air conditioning to go out, and then to spill out into a station and climb up the stairs, and so on—the idea gets lost. So it’s important to just relax and breathe and know that another idea will come, or maybe that same idea will come back. The writer Jamaica Kincaid once said—and I don’t remember the exact quote—but it was that sometimes writers need to just walk around and feel sad or emotional or go to dark places in their brain in order to illuminate some real truths…”

For the full conversation, listen to the Creative Bridge Episode