“One of Saturn’s ring behind which possible futures hide”
by Camillo de Marco
- Sacro GRA by Gianfranco Rosi, Golden Lion for Best Film at the Venice Film Festival. Coming out on September 26, distributed by Officine UBU
“There is no difference between fiction and documentary, it is always about drama and therefore every story has a way of being narrated. If anything, it is important to ask ourselves what is real and what is fake.” Gianfranco Rosi, director of Sacro GRA [+see also:
interview: Gianfranco Rosi
film profile], talked about the presence of documentaries in the competition, a first-time phenomenon at the Venice Film Festival. For Rosi, who has 25 years of documentary filmmaking experience, Sacro GRA, was born from the idea of urban landscape architect Nicolò Bassetti, constituting a point of arrival.
Cineuropa: You spent three years making this film around the great motorway encircling Rome (GRA).
Gianfranco Rosi: “For the first six months, I got to know the places and their people, the right amount of time to get close to it all. For me, forging relationships even over the course of months is a necessary step. The camera needs to disappear and I need to understand where to position it after spending time with them. I spent time with the palm man for two years: one day, just after sunset, his story came out. I filmed him for twenty minutes, which is what was then used in the film. The most difficult thing to begin with was to get to know the GRA, to make it mine and find out the ways in which it is not just a long line of concrete, but rather something behind which many different stories are hidden, with many possible futures. My meeting with architect Renato Nicolini was key. We took a long trip round the motorway, which I filmed and which became a small documentary I presented at the last Rome Film Festival.
What do these characters have in common?
“The motorway is a narrative pretext. A place without any identity where I found human tissue. I didn’t want to have a plot. I didn’t want to have a beginning or an end. I made the film out of complete instinct. But this morning, I understood what ties all my characters together: a tie with the past. They are all tied to a past, to the 1930s for the aristocrat, to the 1960s and 1970s for the photo novel actor. And then the last eel fisher, delivery man with strong ties to his mother. Anthropological resistance to a world that is no more. There are no stories of young people, they weren’t interested in the camera. This country’s crisis is not the financial crisis, which is cyclical, but the lack of an identity. A crisis which inhabits a city where there is no possible future. And in order to fight against identity crises, you need to film those who have an identity.”
Sacro GRA could be the counter melody to The Great Beauty [+see also:
interview: Paolo Sorrentino
“Let’s say that the two films show aspects of Rome that are the same and opposed: one which moves in a centripetal direction and the other in a centrifuge one. I looked to Rome’s outskirts because that is where life begins, with characters who have a strong character, with a degree of poetry about them, while the city is mummified, it is a touristic, gastronomic and cultural mess.”
One of GRA’s great cantors was Federico Fellini with his film Rome.
“While I was editing the film, we had to come up with taglines. While I was re-watching a foreign version of Fellini’s film, I listened to the off-screen commentary which said “the motorway was like one of Saturn’s rings.” I used the quote at the beginning of Sacro GRA.”
(Translated from Italian)