“Broken Pieces” is the television series directed by Cinzia TH Torrini, co-produced by Indiana Production with Rai Com.
The series – 12 x 50’ episodes spread over 6 evenings – which is expected to be aired next fall, will be a mixture of genres interweaving a contemporary generational story that features a social drama and thriller.
But the drama intends, above all, to be an act of love for the craft of the Florentine artistic artisans and their workshops for their contribution to transforming Florence into the cradle of the Renaissance.
The latter is the main theme “wrapped in a solid plot” says the director.
As is her custom, Torrini articulates the story within a complex structure, using modern language suitable for satisfying the tastes of the mixed audience (“from 10 to 90 years”) of the major generalist public television network.
The protagonist is the gruff Vanni (played by Sergio Castellitto), an artisan carpenter from San Frediano, the historic Oltrarno district of Florence, who has to cope with the sudden death of his former drug addict son: also abandoned by his wife, he tries to find redemption for his errors as a father and a husband by taking some problem kids from a care home into his workshop to teach them his craft as a form of social rehabilitation. However, as the relationship with the kids grows, Vanni begins to suspect that his son’s death was not suicide…
For Cinzia TH Torrini “Broken Pieces” does not only mean keeping a promise made to the craftsmen of Florence who, in 2009, awarded her the Premio del Porcellino in recognition of her contribution to valorizing Florence but, above all, offers a way of portraying a world that has fascinated her since she was a girl when, she recounts, on her way to school she used to stop and watch “a man with a big black beard wearing a large apron working leather”, and became his friend.
This character was Wanny Di Filippo who, with the historic “Il Bisonte” brand created a network of sales outlets all over the world (“without ever moving production off-shore”, Torrini is keen to emphasize).
Torrini began collecting material on Florentine artisans and, in 2013, with the contribution of the Chamber of Commerce of Florence, made a short film entitled “Firenze capitale dell’arte e dell’artigianato” to show off the local creative excellence exported all over the world and its economic potential.
This piece of information is necessary in order to better understand the story of “Broken Pieces”. Not the plot, which audiences will discover, but the meaning.
An indication comes from “Elisa di Rivombrosa”, the sumptuous TV costume series sold all over the world which enjoyed record audience figures in Italy, in 2003, with over 12 million viewers.
For the making of that successful series “the clothes were all made by hand, and the silks were authentic” says the director: this attention to detail was not a secondary element of its success, “because the public notices when what it sees is quality, and appreciates it”.
The same research went into “Broken Pieces”: the Florentine craftsmen’s street where Torrini filmed for 4 weeks last summer is not a studio- built set but a real street, even though it is not in Florence.
“We decided with the production company to film in Prato”, explains the director, “following a meeting with Stefania Ippoliti of the Toscana Film Commission in Berlin, in February last year during the festival.
She suggested the location in Prato because it would have guaranteed us a full logistical base at the Manifatture Digitali Cinema (MDC) which has all the characteristics of a cineport”. (read news)
The production company – with the support of the Toscana Film Commission and Toscana Promozione – did the rest: the location manager spent a month in Prato and contacted all the proprietors of unused stores along a stree in the old historical town center, Via Muzzi, earning their trust and managing to rent the properties for the period of filming. “With our set department we ‘reopened’ the workshops where the story takes place; it was like being in Cinecittà but with authentic workshops, mate- rials and craftsmen.”
All this was made possible thanks to the help of Prato city council which handled the production company’s requests and mediated with the street’s residents and tradesmen.
“The collaboration between the Council and the Production company” says Raffaella Conti of the Toscana Film Commission “was so satisfactory that the latter is preparing a plaque to hang up in the street to remember the experience of the drama series”.
In fact the Toscana Film Commission worked alongside the production company and the director since the very first location scouting trips.
It was during that phase that the city of Prato was presented as a location and as a reception venue for cinema with the MDC areas.
Therefore the production was able to make use of functional production offices, areas for casting and for makeup/wigs from the preparation phase until filming started.
Moreover the choice of Prato made it possible to avoid causing any congestion in Florence which, nevertheless, still guides the story and appears in the series:
“We filmed in Florence for three weeks”. In addition to the iconic venues like Piazzale Michelangelo, Piazza di Santo Spirito, Piazza Santa Croce, Piazza del Duomo and Piazza Santissima Annunziata (where the protago- nist lives), less “visited” places also appear like the park of Villa Bardini, Piazza del Carmine, Piazza de’ Ciompi, the Cenacolo di Andrea del Sarto or the Museo Bellini, Villa di Maiano and Palazzo Corsini.
And there are some unique places such as Loretta Caponi’s legendary em- broidery workshop which has served and still serves film stars and queens all over the world, or the Antico Setificio Fiorentino silk factory, a unique collection of 18th century looms belong- ing to noble Florentine families which has been restored to its function as a workshop thanks to the stylist Stefano Ricci.
Linking stories with places is the “magnificent obsession” that accompanies Torrini in all her successful dramas: from Agliè Castle, in Piemonte for “Elisa di Rivombrosa”, to the Tuscan Maremma for “Terra ribelle”, to “Un’Altra Vita” which revealed the beauty of the island of Ponza in the winter time as well, to “Sorelle”, which made Italians fall in love with Matera.
Florence has an added value because the beauty of the places has been constructed over the centuries by the labors of men: “I believe that it is only by valorizing the work of the arti- sans that we will manage, over time, to pre- serve the beautiful things we have” says Cinzia, who notes: “craftsmen have their own serenity because they are creative; and people who are creative with their hands have something dif- ferent, special”.
This is music to the ears of Jacopo Ferretti, director of Confartigianato Florence who followed the work on “Broken Pieces”, collaborating with the Chamber of Commerce of Florence.
The association assured the assistance of around sixty craft companies which “recreated” the little market of Santo Spirito and the “white night” in Prato which can be seen in the series.
“Ours is a world that is alive, but it is important that we transmit knowledge about it to new generations. We trust in the strength of the drama to give visibility to this ancient yet very topical craft”, Ferretti tells Cinema & Video International, displaying his great satisfaction for having contributed to putting real craftsmen in the scenes rather than generic extras.
There is also a lot of satisfaction on the part of the Toscana Film Commission, the guarantor of the project with regard to the mediation between the production and city institutions: “The economic activity” confirms Raffaella Conti “was important in the light of the direct business generated by hotels, restaurants and professionals as well as the indirect activity arising from the use of local businesses to supply goods and services to the production companies like the set design and costume departments”.
Moreover for the Toscana Film Commission “Broken Pieces” represents an important stage in the journey to valorize the region’s trades through TV series: first the Prato textile tradi- tion with “Medici” and now the excellence of the artistic craftsmanship of Florence and Prato with “Broken Pieces”.
In addition to the City Councils of Florence and Prato, the Regional Government of Tus- cany and Confartigianato Firenze, the project involved the collaboration of the Fondazione Cassa di Risparmio through the Oma (Art Crafts Observatory) because, Cinzia Th Torrini is convinced, “in terms of beauty and creativity, Florence is the synthesis of Italian identity and international appeal”.