It seems that Rome Film Festival Artistic Director Marco Müller was very much struck by “TIR,” and said that director Alberto Fasulo has succeeded where many filmmakers have tried in vain. Yet where does the film’s “uniqueness” lie? Certainly, in part, in the complex financial structure that united the interests of such diverse partners. But there’s more to it than that. In anticipation of the film’s premiere at the Festival, on November 15, we spoke to the director about the film’s back-story. It all began in 2008, when a long strike by truck drivers threatened to bring Italy to its knees, and when our filmmaker started hearing the word “crisis” and realized he was entering a “lively and powerful” reality.
Actually, truth be told, it all began much earlier when, as a child, the filmmaker had to deal with his parents’ absence due to their work.
Which is also why, as an adult, along with his passion for cinema, Fasulo cultivates another extraordinary interest: the world of truck drivers.
To him, “they became the symbol of this raw nerve of mine. I was struck by their decision to live far from their loved ones. I asked myself: How is it possible that these men choose to live in the cab of a truck out of love for a family they practically never see and with whom they can’t share a daily life, except on the phone?”
Fasulo started frequenting this world, hanging out with truck drivers, and met Douglas, 40, who had been driving trucks since he was 18. He’d leave home on Monday, come back Friday, go out with friends on Saturday evening, then do it all over again.
Fasulo began writing Douglas’ story, for which he won the Solinas Prize in 2010.
But when Douglas lost his job and set off for Australia to seek his fortune, Fasulo found himself without a “character.”
“That’s when I understood how rapid truck drivers’ reality was, a totally different reality from any other kind of job,” he says. “It’s a litmus test of the economy, where goods move faster than people, and truck drivers move according to the logic of the goods”.
Fasulo realized that working on people wasn’t enough.
To understand, he’d have to enter the system, so he approached trucking companies in search of his story.
“It was a strange six months,” he confesses, “spent talking about my documentary project to people who’d look at me funny.
One of them asked me: ‘Do you want to make a film about truck drivers or slaves?’”
Finally, an “enlightened” businessman (who wishes to remain anonymous) who believed in the project granted Fasulo access into that world.
What’s more, almost of the drivers in his trucking company were from Eastern Europe.
Fasulo began traveling with one of the drivers that the owner had picked: “He was Croatian, from Split, and was a teacher before the Balkan War. But when he returned home he realized the world had changed, that through teaching he was no longer going to be able to guarantee his family the life and rights they had with Communism, but that with capitalism one had to buy. This man was willing to drive 900 kilometers in his car, enter his ‘office’ (the truck cab) and stay there 4-5 weeks, then go home for only one week in order to give his daughters the chance to get university degrees and have a future, a dignified job or at least a choice.
“I finally found the right story that touched upon my raw nerve, so I began working. But after a year I realized that, this time, the documentary set an ethical limit for me. By asking the subject to expose himself, I put his relationships with his company, his family and in a way even himself at risk. And I, on the other hand, who deeply loved this new character of mine could not and would not forget the real person inside.
“I realized that a documentary was not the adequate genre for the story I wanted to tell. It wasn’t enough for reaching the intimacy that I wanted to explore. I wanted to get at the truth of this character, of this story. I de- manded from myself that I enter his drama, his psyche, get under his skin, and I couldn’t place the person playing the character in the story I loved at risk, it would’ve been a contradiction. I wasn’t willing to sacrifice the man for the character, life for cinema, respect for success.”
Through his friend Andrea Collavino, an actor, Fasulo met the professional Slovenian actor Branko Završan, who accepted the challenge, got truck- driving licenses, and was hired by the aforementioned company owner in order to prepare for his character and the film.
For four months, Fasulo and his crew traveled with Završan throughout all of Europe.
In this way, in the film documentary allows fiction to seep in, and the fiction stems from reality.
Says the filmmaker: “Fiction can be more powerful, if it allows you to get to the bottom of the reality you’re examining, to return to certain situations, to get under the skin of your character. But the essential condition, for me, was that the actor had to truly live inside his character.
When I made ‘White Noise’ I had to depict atmospheres, an environment with a river and its relationship with the people who lived along it and the documentary was fine for the subject and directing style I was striving for.
In ‘TIR,’ however, the documentary form was no longer sufficient. I wanted to explore, enter the character’s psyche, and only a generous and skilled actor like Branko could allow that, able as he was to overcome the discomfort of truth.” It took Fasulo five years to arrive at the truth he was seeking. “For me, work is revelation”, he says, “and I constantly ask myself what are the films that need to be made”.
“TIR” is one of one of these films, because the life of a truck driver is a mod- ern metaphor: “Each of us is continually placed in the position of being able and having to choose. The choice is a value in and of itself, at the moment that it’s made consciously. I don’t think there exists a right and wrong, within this dichotomy there’s an indisputable truth that is life itself, and that’s what I wanted to understand: the life of the character Branko that will inevitably make us reflect upon our own lives, which really aren’t all that different.”