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KARLOVY VARY 2018 Industry

Adele Tulli • Director

“I aim to generate perspectives to counter heteronormative narratives”

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- KARLOVY VARY 2018: We met up with Italian filmmaker Adele Tulli, who won the Eurimages Lab Project Award at Karlovy Vary with her project Normal

Adele Tulli • Director

The Karlovy Vary International Film Festival’s industry events included the Eurimages Lab Project Award selection once again this year, boasting projects with concepts that go beyond traditional film methods and are based on international cooperation. A €50,000 prize was bestowed upon the project by Italian filmmaker Adele Tulli, entitled Normal and produced by FilmAffair, and depicting a journey through gender norms in contemporary Italy. We met up with her to discuss the film, still in the making. 

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Cineuropa: What is at the core of your project? What are its origins?
Adele Tulli: I began this project as a piece of PhD research four years ago. At the time, while the Italian Parliament was discussing several progressive issues such as gender education in schools and gay civil unions, the very word "normal" became omnipresent within the national public debate: it was being used by both the conservative groups encouraging the protests against the bills, and the organisations defending and promoting them. Both sides were somehow involved in defining polar-opposite ideas of what counts as "normal" – which gender roles and sexual preferences are worthy of a respectable social identity. My intention with the film was to articulate some of the thoughts and ideas regarding the everyday practices and routines that establish what is acceptable group conduct in terms of gender and sexuality. By sketching a portrait of the ritualised performance of femininity and masculinity during ordinary interactions, Normal looks at the daily spectacle of gender normativity through a slightly distorted yet intimate lens, exploring the contradictions and struggles that populate our existences, as we have to conform to society’s expectations.

How do you think your film will respond to the current issue of the representation of gender in art, and in cinema in particular?
The representation of gender in art and cinema has generated the most challenging, thought-provoking and revolutionary approaches as well as the most normative and even offensive ones. I think my film does not intend to offer any clear-cut responses, but rather aims to raise critical questions about how we construct and inhabit our identities as females and males, and what the internalised behaviours, gestures, attitudes, roles and expectations are for each gender. Essentially, the film investigates the complex dynamics that shape people’s desires and identities, and it attempts to do so by using cinema as a form of art that can interrogate and challenge reality, rather than simply representing it.

You are one of two female professionals behind this project. Will the female experience be highlighted in it particularly?
For me, being a female director does not equate to having a specifically "feminine" point of view, which is necessarily antagonistic to that of a male colleague. I do not believe in anything "essentially" feminine or masculine. I think we need to fight in order to have more films directed by women simply because opportunities are not the same at the moment: despite women now being well represented in film schools, very few manage to get their first film made, and on average, women directors get lower budgets than their male counterparts. In Normal, my aim is to stimulate reflection on how both genders are constructed and performed by individuals in contemporary society, and how this process translates into several forms of oppression. 

What are your views on the flagrant inequality between women and men in the film industry? How can we work to fix it?
The statistics on gender inequality in the film industry are disheartening. In almost every role – from directors to writers and cinematographers – women are underrepresented. But this is also true in so many other sectors. It is difficult to say in a few words how we can work to fix this, but I believe the first step in every change always starts with education. As I have the privilege to teach film students, I invest a lot of energy in creating a feminist learning environment (which for me includes not only what and how you teach, but also being aware of the power dynamics within the classroom). Then, of course, at the industry level there should be programmes encouraging equal gender representation in festival selections, juries, funding bodies and so on, to build a more inclusive industry.

You are interested in exploring this topic through creative documentary. What are the positive things that this approach can bring to the subject?
I consider documentary to be a "performative act" between images and the reality that they are supposed to represent. My approach to non-fiction does not necessarily pursue objective truths, but instead subjective perspectives. In other words, for me, documentary forms can be used to provoke a critical interpretation of the reality they observe. In my film, I aim to present a disorientating portrait of accepted ideas of normality, and to generate critical and open-ended perspectives to counter heteronormative narratives.

What will the Eurimages award help you with in particular? What do you still need in order to complete the film?
We are extremely happy and grateful to have won the Eurimages award because it will help us to complete the post-production of the film.

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