LEGGI IN ITALIANO “Zoran, my nephew the idiot”, Matteo Oleotto’s feature debut, is the Italian movie which has been selected to compete in the 28th International Film Critics’ Week. Cinema & Video International reported on this movie last October when it was still in the production phase, and built up a case history.
TRANSMEDIA/ The production
The story of “Zoran, my nephew the idiot” is very interesting: co-produced by Igor Princic from Gorizia with his Transmedia (majority share) and Slovenia’s Staragara Production, it represents the first “organic” co-production between Italy and Slovenia (not just in terms of the funding and locations, but also the artistic cast and technical crew).
It is a very local movie. The story is set in the taverns of Friuli and Slovenia (the “osmisas”), places where the protagonist, Paolo, spends most of his time. Paolo is a man who has never done much with his life. But his life changes when Zoran arrives on the scene, a young boy Paolo “inherits” from a distant Slovenian relative, who speaks in a strange way and seems to be slightly retarded.What at first sight appears to be just one more piece of bad luck turns out to make Paolo’s fortune: Zoran is an unbeatable darts player…
“Zoran” is also a very European movie which is demonstrated by the intricate story of its production: starting with a contribution from the FVG Regional Audiovisual Fund, the project began development in 2009, followed by the producer’s participation at the EAVE Producers’ Workshop and the securing of a co-production partner (Slovenia’s Staragara Production). The movie obtained the prestigious support of Eurimages, a contribution from the Friuli Venezia Giulia Film Fund and the Mibac (Italian Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Activities), and benefited from tax credits and financial contributions from the Slovenian Film Center, Viba film and RTV Slovenia. Finally, in order to complete the 1,400,000 Euro budget, the movie’s producer and director took advantage of a local tradition by launching the “osmisa crowd funding”: wine in exchange for shares in the production with bottles bearing labels of the movie offered by a number of local wineries. On the eve of its Venetian “debut” another two vital partners have emerged from the region: Tucker Film, for the national distribution, and Slingshot Films for foreign sales.
SLINGSHOT FILMS/ Foreign sales
“We will promote this as a coming of age story”, announces Manuela Buono whose Slingshot Films will be handling the foreign sales of the movie: “we will treat it as an event, starting with the premiere in Venice. Our European sales strategy (excluding Italy and Slovenia) will be linked to the festivals, whereas on the other side of the Atlantic it will have to be connected to big events and markets, such as the American Film Market”.
Manuela Buono is banking on the potential offered by the mov- ie. “In its specificity,” she says, “it is telling the story of provincial areas all over the world”.
She expects interest from European buyers: “The leading character, Battiston, is very well known in France. In Scandinavia the selling point is the comedy, they love to laugh in those countries, but in a particular way, and “Zoran” is a particular type of comedy. In Eastern Eu- ropean countries the appeal is the story of a border area with characters who dream of be- ing somewhere else …”
TUCKER FILM/The Italian distributor
Thomas Bertacche, who will be distributing the movie in Italy with his Tucker Film, also promises to put a lot of effort into his work.
In fact, his company was set up in order to offer greater opportunities for visibility to theatrical works linked to the region (“Rumore bianco”, a poetic documentary about the river Tagliamento directed by Alberto Fasulo, was the first movie distributed in 2008). An apparently curious fact is that Tucker owes its fame to the distribution of a Japanese movie, the Oscarwinning “Departures”. There is a kind of logic in this – albeit totally Friulian – because the company was set up to act as the distributor for two cinematographic entities, Cinemazero of Pordenone and Centro Espressioni Cinematografiche (CEC) of Udine. The latter organizes the Far East Film Festival, a prestigious showcase for Asian movies, which held its 14th edition in 2012.
Tucker is developing its original vocation for independent cinema with “Zoran”: “we will not be distributing more than forty copies and the circuit will be city movie theaters”, announces Bertacche.
MATTEO OLEOTTO/My slow moving homeland
“Working with one hundred minutes requires a different type of skill”, confesses Matteo Oleotto, who has made various shorts and TV movies and is now making his feature film debut with“Zoran my nephew the idiot”. He is pleased with the performance of Giuseppe Battiston in his first leading role, “he helped the movie to grow”. He is emotional as he remembers the six weeks it took to make the movie: “It was a true co-production”, he comments, “where the co-stars were Slovenians, as were the director of photography, the set designer, the costumes designer, the electricians, the key grips …Different cultures, great professionalism”.
Diversity fascinates Oleotto, who has decided to portray his land in comic tones, recalling the maestros of 1960s Italian cinema.
“My homeland, “ he tells Cinema & Video International, “is almost unknown, it is a place you tend to just happen upon, where people who live in Italy speak Slovenian and vice versa, where borders are not borders, and even identities are confused”.
Oleotto underlines that he is from the East, from that strip of land “where the pace of life is more similar to that of the Balkans”.
“My homeland is a slow-moving place”, the director from Gorizia continues, “and the characters in my movies also move slowly”.
People who live on the fringes, who are lost, but who find a strong bond in wine. In those parts, wine is not just a simple drink, but a regular food, nourishment. “Everyone is involved with wine in my homeland: they socialize with wine, get rich and even ruin themselves with it …”
But whilst this narrative element is anchored in a wealth of literature, another important aspect of the movie is very new: the game of darts.
“I did actually meet a very timid boy who was very good at this game: when he played, he was transformed, he became another person, strong and relaxed”.
“Darts are very cinematographic”, says the director, “because they travel from A to B”. In the game of darts it is more important to strike your intended target than to hit the bull’s eye.
“To win,” warns the young but wise Matteo Oleotto, “does not mean hitting the bull’s eye but doing the right thing at the right time”. This is the subtext of the story told in “Zoran, my nephew the idiot”. Everyone can and must find their own path.
OSMISA CROWD FUNDING WITH RENATO KEBER’S WINE
Osmisa comes from “osem” which in Slovenian means eight.
Osmisas date back to the times of the Austro-Hungarian empire when, in 1784, Emperor Franz Joseph allowed the peasants to directly sell some of their own products, tax free, for a period of eight years.
Today it is still possible to find Osmisas in houses set in the countryside of Friuli and Slovenia, places where homemade products are sold and consumed: wine, grappa, cheese and salted meats.
Film director Matteo Oleotto and producer Igor Princic “worked” in the Osmisas which provide the setting for their movie, in order to promote and partly finance “Zoran”: they recreated “osmisas” in Rome, Berlin and Cannes, during the various Festivals.
They were able to do this thanks to Renato Keber, whose family has been producing wine for almost two centuries in the Collio DOC district, in the locality of Zegla, in Cormons.
Renato, an enologist, began bottling wine in the 1980s and now produces 60,000 bottles a year, around 40% of which is sold abroad. Renato Keber’s family-run firm is one of the most well-established wineries in Collio. Keber offered one of his wines to be used to make a thousand bottles bearing a label of the movie.
It was not a marketing strategy: “I did it out of friendship”, he reveals very simply to Cinema & Video International.
During the Festival it will be possible to sample the wines of Renato Keber in the Osmisa that will be recreated at the Venice Lido to promote “Zoran”.