Carolina Rosi and Didi Gnocchi • Directors of Citizen Rosi
“My father was convinced that a film was something that could improve society”
by Jan Lumholdt
- VENICE 2019: Didi Gnocchi and Carolina Rosi took a moment to discuss their personal documentary on director Francesco Rosi, Citizen Rosi
A vital time in Italian cinema as well as, on a grander scale, in Italian history is depicted in Didi Gnocchi and Carolina Rosi’s personal documentary on director Francesco Rosi (1922-2015). Citizen Rosi [+see also:
interview: Carolina Rosi and Didi Gnoc…
film profile] had its world premiere out of competition at the 2019 Venice International Film Festival.
Cineuropa: How did you devise your documentary on Francesco Rosi?
Carolina Rosi: A fresh idea came when we started to watch my father’s films and felt the power of them. The original idea was a more traditional form, but then we decided to talk about recent Italian history and events from the point of view of his films. When we started, my father was alive and would also be the one who would hold it all together, but he died while we were shooting, so we decided to have me transform myself into this common denominator. I now have two roles: the daughter of the main subject and also the one who explains what’s behind the films as far as the Italian events are concerned.
Didi Gnocchi: I am originally a journalist, and I worked with another journalist, Anna Migotto, who’s been covering organised crime-related topics for a long time. My own expertise lies with Italian history, and I’ve done extensive archival research to get the material for the different topics presented here. I’ve looked into what actually happened during this period when the films were made and what they depict. So Anna and I did the journalistic work. Carolina is the memory of her father on set and also the memory of the sensitive person that he was.
We see footage with father Francesco and daughter Carolina watching the films together. With this project, you must have seen your father’s films from quite a new perspective – an exciting and also a challenging experience, surely?
CR: Very much so. We placed a little camera by the couch while we were watching the films. It became a very precious memory. For one year, we got together to watch them, and that year we spent together – speaking about the movies, me listening to him – was, for me, the first time I got to go deep into his filmography. It all felt so natural, just sitting down and taking it all in. And I really understood, there and then, how powerful these films really are.
Why do you think that the cinema of Rosi and other young Italian filmmakers who emerged around 1960 made such an impact?
DG: Because a democracy was being constructed. Italy was beginning to grow after the war, and this era perfectly encapsulated what was happening. The writer Raffaele La Capria talks about culture as a fundamental element in order to allow the construction of a democracy. And culture was cinema, literature, art and design. These days, people probably don’t have the feeling that without culture they can’t survive. So now, the weight of culture is very different.
So what has changed within Italian cinema since then?
CR: Today’s Italian cinema no longer stems from thoughts containing morals or ethics. It may be very good at narrating what’s happening in the country, but the narration isn’t supported by a point of view that contains an ethical sentiment. The directors have abandoned the idea that the intellectual person has a role in society – a role to help build the foundations of democracy. My father was convinced that a film was something that could improve society.
And the films – Salvatore Giuliano, The Mattei Affair and Christ Stopped at Eboli, to name a few – are still vital, aren’t they?
CR: Absolutely, and very topical. Nothing seems to have changed – unfortunately. And this is partly what we want to point out. The situation we’re living in is not so dissimilar from what it was some 40 or 50 years ago. Also, unfortunately, only those in our own little world of cinema culture know of my father and his generation today. The rest, and young people, don’t know any of them. I’m not just talking about Rosi, but Rossellini, De Sica and even Fellini as well. Nothing.
DG: Also, back then, people came to the cinema from another kind of experience or profession. Today, they come straight from and into cinema. It’s like a field with only one type of seed.
How easy, or hard, was it to realise the film? Did you have backing or support?
CR: We produced it all alone, bought the rights and everything – I told myself I’d sell my house if I had to. We kept on going privately, and then Istituto Luce Cinecittà saw it and became a partner. But at the beginning, it was just Didi and me. And my father. The memory of him is important.
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