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VENICE 2020 International Film Critics' Week

Alessandro Rossellini • Director of The Rossellinis

"I genuinely believe this film has opened my eyes"


- VENICE 2020: We chatted with Alessandro Rossellini, the director of The Rossellinis, an Italian-Latvian co-production presented in competition at Venice’s International Critics’ Week

Alessandro Rossellini • Director of The Rossellinis

We seized the opportunity to talk to Alessandro Rossellini, director of The Rossellinis [+see also:
film review
interview: Alessandro Rossellini
film profile
, an autobiographical documentary about the tortuous path he took in life and his famous family. An Italian-Latvian co-production, the title was presented in competition at this year’s International Critics’ Week.

Cineuropa: How did this project come about?
Alessandro Rossellini: The project came about at a difficult time in my private life, but also at a financially challenging time. It was an idea to make ends meet, if I’m being honest. At the same time, I was coming out the other side of several years of drug addiction and I was asking myself a few questions. I’d been to therapy, self-help groups and I was ready to face up to my family. So I developed the story on these two bases: the need to take a good look at myself and out of financial necessity. I thought I had a good idea: I have this amazing family all around the world and it would lend itself well to being the subject of a documentary.

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What were the biggest difficulties you faced when making the film?
I met Raffaele Brunetti [the producer of B&B film] and I met with the usual difficulties that arise; that is, writing a project that will be understood by potential broadcasters and distributors, and finding funding, which is the biggest problem for anyone making documentaries.

How did you come into contact with VFS Films [the Latvian co-producer]?
Through Raffaele Brunetti. Raffaele and Uldis Cekulis [the founder of VFS Films] are great friends, they’d already worked together. They’re both solid companies undergoing expansion and they decided to join forces on this project. I was very happy with both producers. There’s something else I should add: I had very little experience, so I needed allies during the writing process and the editing process, but also in terms of co-direction, because I was often standing in front of the camera. I trusted Raffaele to surround me with an array of professionals who could help me develop the story, edit it and package up the product.

How long did the filmmaking process take, from the initial idea to its release?
We’re now coming close to the sixth year. From the time I conceived of it – I was staying with some friends; at the time I couldn’t afford to pay rent on a house – up to the present day. Luckily a lot changed after that. Now I own a house.

Have your relatives seen the film? How did they react?
Of course, they’ve seen it. There were all different sorts of reactions. My father liked it. Robertino was OK with certain aspects of it. To begin with, Isabella – and Ingrid especially – was very resentful of the somewhat critical view I had of my grandfather and they also felt a bit attacked themselves. But then we found a way of meeting halfway. I carried on with what I thought was an honest documentary, without getting into too much of a disagreement with the people I love.

How has your relationship with your family changed?
I genuinely believe this film has opened my eyes. I feel like the film has been really therapeutic for me, because, more than anything else, it helped me to see how I approach certain problems, it made me think and drove me to make peace with certain aspects of myself. Ultimately, it also helped me to grow a little and to feel a bit more liberated from my family legacy.

You’ve worked with Fellini, Lynch, Scorsese... What can you tell us about these experiences?
In terms of Scorsese and Fellini, I was very young. I started to become more of a young professional with Lynch, who I made the pilot for Twin Peaks and Wild At Heart with. I was a set photographer along with another girl, and after that I worked mostly in production. It was really fun. Lynch is a very charismatic person, very affectionate, very kind. At the end of every week, on top of my pay, he gave me 100 dollars to take all the production assistants out to dinner, on him.

Was there ever a point where you thought you couldn’t carry on with the project?
Never. I have to say it all went surprisingly smoothly. I had a clash of views with someone I wrote the script with, after which we decided to stop working together and Brunetti sat me down with Andrea Paolo Massara, a brilliant young screenwriter, and from that point on the project took off. It all went very, very well.

Are you working on any other projects?
I’m working on a challenging and ambitious idea which brings together my own personal experiences on-the-job. I’m a rehabilitation counsellor in the field of drug addiction. I’d like to make an eight-episode documentary in which I explain what drug dependency actually is, working with drug addicts, and how to come out the other side. The project’s currently in the writing phase.

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(Translated from Italian)

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