Yuri Ancarani and Marco Alessi • Director and producer of Atlantide
“You can’t write a film and then wait for the financing”
by Marta Bałaga
- We talked to Yuri Ancarani and Marco Alessi, the director and producer of the Venice-centred Atlantide, given the Eurimages Lab Project Award at this year’s KVIFF Eastern Promises
Before Karlovy Vary’s Eastern Promises Industry Days wrapped its online edition, jurors Els Hendrix, of Eurimages, Mark Peranson and Adina Pintilie awarded the €50,000 Eurimages Lab Project Award to Atlantide, directed by Yuri Ancarani and produced by Marco Alessi. “Using the metaphor of Atlantis, the director’s singular gaze brilliantly synchronises the perspective of teenagers with the sad perspective of a vanishing city,” it was argued. “Nevertheless, like contemporary Noah’s Arks, the motorboats race across the Venetian lagoon, driven by the energy of youth, in a life-affirming view of a possible future.” Here’s to staying afloat.
Cineuropa: The jurors referred to your vision of a “dying world”. Is that how you see it, too, with Venice as we know it threatening to just disappear one day?
Yuri Ancarani: Venice is the eternal city and is an important symbol – it shows so clearly all of the contradictions of this new Western world. This is an issue I have already analysed in my previous feature The Challenge [+see also:
film profile], with the private lives of the sheiks led between Lamborghinis and traditions. It was a film about the adult world, and during the many screenings, I saw the so-called “adult audience” looking at itself, as if in a mirror, and laughing. Apparently, the signal wasn’t strong enough. Now we are in Venice, the city we all believe we know, but the point of view is different. It comes from young people, so the “damage” is even more evident.
It’s always interesting to hear how filmmakers understand the concept of a “creative documentary”, which is how your movie was described at KVIFF. What kinds of liberties within the format do you have in mind?
YA: This is an experiment. Technology brought us 8K cameras that weigh just two kilos; they’re small and capable of shooting with no lights. We shot many nights only with the full moon, and this allowed us to work at a different pace – to write the film while shooting it, in real time. We collected real dialogues from the Venetian teenagers and used their own words to write the movie. I think that today, writing and shooting afterwards is an obsolete technique, as it creates films that are old before they are even released.
Marco Alessi: To me, “creative documentary” is like an empty box. It gives you a completely new type of freedom, one where you can use all the shades of reality – including the fictional one – to explore the world we are living in. The majority of the films we have produced so far with my company, Dugong Films, are inspired by a simple rule: be surprised by what you are doing. And, at least in my experience, it’s true that a “creative documentary” gives you more chances to be truly surprised. I have to admit that Yuri showed me that everything is possible, although I still have some doubts. And yes, shooting only with the light from a full moon… You just can’t beat it!
You admitted that it was only during the shoot that you discovered how real the danger the city is facing is, and you changed the name of the film. But why the decision to have such young protagonists? Because they can actually witness the end?
MA: Atlantis [the legendary island said to have fallen out of favour with the gods and have sunk into the ocean, first mentioned by Plato], like all famous myths, warns us about our future. It inspires resilience and resistance, which are positive forces that go wild when young people feel “the end” approaching.
YA: As I said before, it’s not the fault of the young people, but of their bad teachers, the adults. In the same way as the sheiks, copying the lifestyle of the Westerners, teenagers start to experiment with the “lifestyle of the adults”, including money, sex and power.
Shooting started this year, an incredibly complicated year for the world and for Venice, as pointed out by Yuri during the presentation. What were your biggest struggles, and now, what are you planning to use this award for?
YA: We want to demonstrate that you can’t write a film and then wait for the financing. When you have a long writing process, it’s clear that the movie is at risk of getting old when it’s finally finished. We are saturated with “scripted” stories or tales – the International School of Film and Television in Cuba teaches it well. To demonstrate this theory, we followed the most beautiful city in the world, as it finds itself in a moment of epochal change. What could possibly be written before?
MA: We still have to complete the last part of the shoot, the last stage of post-production and the last part of the writing process. As Yuri stated, they all happen at the exact same time!
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