“There are many affinities between Italy and Iran, if we look at our roots, our past, as well as the climate, the active lifestyle, the vitality of the people… I am an enthusiastic connoisseur of the past of your country which I have visited many times in the last 20 years, I have lots of friends and I also know the language, your locations, your humanity, desires, ambitions…I have acquired some experience over the years, I have not come to film a movie as a tourist”.
This is what the Iranian director Amir Naderi tells Cinema & Video International about his new movie ‘Monte-Mountain’, which will be presented in Venice at a special Out of Competition screening. It is the first movie he has filmed Italy: the story, set in the distant past, of Agostino, who lives in a semi-abandoned village at the foot of a mountain with his wife, Nina and his son Giovanni, and their daily struggle with the mountain that stands like a wall blocking out the rays of the sun which never manage to shine on their land.
“I have wanted to make this movie for around ten years, I had even thought of shooting it in Japan, but that was impossible because it is a truly Italian story,” says Naderi.
‘Monte’, produced by Citrullo International, Zivago Media (Carlo S. Hintermann, Gerardo Panichi, Rino Sciarretta and Eric Nyari), in co-production with the US Cineric and the French Cinésud Promotion, in collaboration with Rai Cinema, with a € 200,000 contribution to the production from the IDM Film Commission, was filmed almost entirely on the mountains of the South Tyrol region at a height of over 2,500 meters, in the Latemar mountain group, and in Friuli Venezia Giulia (also with the support of the Friuli Venezia Giulia Film Commission and the Italian Ministry for cultural heritage, activities and tourism – Cinema Directorate General). It is a movie about the challenges of living at high altitudes, the very situation into which the cast and crew who filmed the scenes high up in the mountains were also catapulted.
Extreme filmmaking that Amir Naderi describes as follows:
“Italy is not an easy country to work in for various reasons. So to shoot this movie under very hard climatic and logistical conditions was difficult, but I was lucky to be able to work with exceptional professionals, first and foremost Daniele Frabetti and the whole set design department which constructed an entire medieval town. Then Monica Trappolini and the wardrobe department, the sound was handled by Gianfranco Tortora, the photography by Roberto Cimatti and the other two directors of photography (we filmed with 3 cameras), and the brilliant actors, Andrea Sartoretti and Claudia Potenza.
A 75 person crew – people who knew me and my films and took on the challenge just like my lead character, Agostino, who wants to make the impossible possible. They believed in me, they wanted to put themselves to the test by giving me what I consider to be the most authentic expression of your culture. The idea was mine, the story came from me, but it was molded by the hearts, by the passion of these people, just as happens with the rock in the film: for me the stone represents Italy, the story of your culture and the great artists that have worked it to cre- ate masterpieces, like Michelangelo or Bernini. They also inspired my story”.
From ‘Monte’ Out of Competition, to ‘Caffè’ by Cristiano Bortone at the Giornate degli Autori: from the Middle Ages we move to the current day without leaving the Alto Adige. ‘Caffè’ is an ensemble and global movie, three stories about the epic flow of migrants, the clash between peoples and cultures, the economic decline of western society, the environmental emergency. Three places in the world, China, Belgium and Italy, and a universal common thread that unites and passes through them all: coffee.
“It was a very difficult task, like shooting a whole movie in each separate location because, in addition to the local cast, I also wanted the technical crew to be from the area in order to achieve the maximum level of realism for each story. The only constant element was the director of photography Vladan Radovic who won the David di Donatello award for ‘Anime Nere’, and had already worked with me on ‘Samir’ and ‘Rosso come il Cielo’”, explains Cristiano Bortone, whose Orisa produced the film (in co-production with the Belgian Savage and the Chinese production houses Road Pictures and China Blue). “We filmed for almost 7 months from the end of August last year. The Italian episode, set in Rome, Trieste, and on the road, was all shot in Alto Adige”.
The actors include Ennio Fantastichini, Dario Aita and Miriam Dalmazio. The movie is about Renzo, a young underpaid coffee sommelier who mainly works in the bar of a small town. When his girlfriend, Gaia, finds out she is pregnant, Renzo ends up getting himself involved in a robbery at a coffee-roasting plant which takes an unexpected turn.
The 3 weeks of filming in Alto Adige, around Rablà, Bolzano and the surrounding area, saw the involvement of Helios Sustainable Films of Bolzano for the service production and received support from an IDM contribution to the production of € 300,000. Bortone continues: “Alto Adige has now become one of the most important filmmaking centers in Italy. It was important to film in this region, especially with a view to possible future projects for which I already know the right people, places and modalities”.
‘Caffè’ is the first official Italian-Chinese co-production which is also the result of the work carried out by Bridging the Dragon founded by Bortone himself (who also produced ‘Rosso come il cielo’, one of the most successful foreign films in China) and which quickly became a point of reference for all co-productions between Europe and China (from this year it is the official partner of the Cannes and Berlin markets). The film has also received support from the investment fund of the city of Shangai (D’Hive) and from the government of the state of Yunnan (Yunnan Comm. Group), as well as from Screen Flanders and the city of Antwerp.
“Die Einsiendler”, in competition at Venice in the international Orizzonti section, is the first work by a young director from Alto Adige who is resident in Belgium, Ronny Trocker. “The idea for the movie came from a book by the journalist from Trento, Aldo Gorfer – ‘Gli eredi della solitudine – The heirs of solitude’ – a kind of photographic feature about the farmers living on the mountains in the Val Venosta in the 1970s, which portrays the cruelty of that archaic world”, explains Trocker. “It really impressed me because it is very far removed from the romantic-bucolic clichés about peasants and farmers that are so fashionable today, above all in Alto Adige that, as a tourist region, tends to promote this type of idealization”.
The movie tells the story of the farmers’ young son, Albert (Andrea Lust) who has to decide whether to live with his mother (Ingrid Burkhard) in the family’s isolated mountain farmhouse or down in the valley where he works in the marble quarry. “A personal drama, an uncommunicative relationship between an authoritarian mother and an introverted son who is not that young anymore, between two outsiders from society who are unable to communicate, to articulate their feelings and dreams”, continues Trocker. “This lack of communication is very common in those valleys, it also marked my own youth: for this reason there is very little talking in the movie. I tried to tell the story through the images and the situations: the places speak for themselves”.
There were two basic locations: the farmhouse and the marble quarry in Lasa, both in Val Venosta:
“I wrote the screenplay with the sup- port of the IDM development fund (pre-pro- duction) (Ed. € 20,500) thanks to which I was able to go location hunting in Val Venosta, to the farmhouse and the marble quarry, in order to understand how people live and work in these places”. The IDM the supported the production of the film to the tune of € 320,000.
The film is a co-production between Berlin’s Zischlermann Filmproduktion and the Austrian Golden Girls Filmproduktion & Film- services, with Echo Film responsible for the service.
The two main locations were joined by Merano for the final scene and Silandro, the most im- portant town in the Val Venosta.
“We did the image post-production in Vienna, the sound in Berlin and the mixing in France, at La Fresnoy, a school I attended years ago which offers this type of support to former students” Trockner concludes.
In addition to the funding provided by the South Tyrol Film Commission, contributions to the budget of around € 1 million came from the German BKM, the Medienboard Berlin Brandeburg and ÖFI, the Austrian cinema institute, Austrian TV Servus and Rai Südtirol.