Stefano Sollima • Director
by Vittoria Scarpa
06/07/2012 - Released in Italy on the 27th of January, A.C.A.B - All Cops Are Bastards [trailer, film focus], the first feature film by Stefano Solima, the director of the acclaimed TV series Criminal novel, is opening in French cinemas. An opportunity to recap, together with the director, on a film about a controversial mobile police squad, that has sparked mixed reactions.
Cineuropa: How has A.C.A.B been received?
Stefano Sollima: Considering that genre films are rare in Italy, and that there was no basis for comparison, I am very satisfied (the film grossed nearly three million euros [editor’s note]). There are those who are scandalized, those who interpret the story about a group of cops as a right-wing film, those who take it for a left-wing film and see it for what it is: a portrait of society. Over the last few months I have heard everything and its opposite about A.C.A.B: it is a strange object, with an approach that is not entirely genre cinema and not entirely auteur cinema. It holds a cynicism that our cinema expresses with difficulty, a film in which anyone sees whatever they want to see.
So - what was your intention?
I experienced A.C.A.B as a journey, I gazed with amazement onto a contradictory world. The film does not intend to instigate conflict. The four protagonist policemen are who they are, neither good nor bad, and through them we are telling the story of an evil, intolerant and fascist Italy. It’s surprising because usually our cinema uses ‘good’ to deal with racism, but the reality is that this ‘goodness’ does not belong to us anymore. I asked myself questions about our society. The public and the critics wanted answers: I did not give them.
A.C.A.B has been constantly compared to another Italian film, which came out more or less at the same period and which deals, although in a different manner, with the same subject: Diaz [trailer, film focus] by Daniele Vicari. What do you think of this?
To be honest, they do not deal with the same thing; I don’t even think they are complementary. Their protagonists are from the same unit, but in Diaz there is good and bad, which is not the case in A.C.A.B. Diaz tells a true story, the G8 summit in Genoa, which we acknowledge as something that happened ten years ago. A.C.A.B is not the portrait of an event, but rather of the society that this event is an expression of.
Tell us about your stylistic choices: cinematography, editing, the choice of music.
The idea was to take a documentary-like approach. This is why the film has a sort of “dirty” aspect to it, but there is a lot of work behind it. The cinematography is the result of a great amount of research, especially with regards to locations; we wanted to tell the story of a metropolis, Rome, but not of the three or four areas in which 90% of its films take place. Instead we wanted to show a complete city and its suburbs. The basic idea was to create a visually solid film. The editing is made up of slower moments and improvised accelerations. The music is another way in which the story is told. There is one scene where the policemen pogo to the sound of “Police on my back” by the Clash. After all, it is more than probable that even the policemen listened to punk rock in the 70s.
From a technical point of view, was your experience shooting documentaries in warzones useful (Sollimo worked as a cameraman for CNN, NBC, CNN in Libya, Algeria, ex Yugoslavia, [editor’s note])?
Technically, no. I did not choose to film in this way because I had already made documentaries. The lesson I learned from that experience is that a single truth never exists. Filming the news makes you realize how easy it is to manipulate it. However, I did learn not to trust the ‘exposed’ truth. I try to find as many points of view as possible.
What type of reactions are you hoping for abroad?
In France people are more used to similar themes: I’m thinking of La Haine, and of the corrupt policemen of 36 Quai Des Orfèvres [trailer], the dynamics of non-integration have been dealt with many times. The film was also sold in the Scandinavian countries, England and Germany, where it will be released next autumn. We are also in discussion with distributors in the United States. I’m expecting mixed reactions, just as we have had on home turf.
You said that you are looking to show numerous points of view, what are you working on at the moment? Is there a new project?
Yes, I am writing a story, but it is in too early a stage to discuss. I can only say that it will be a feature film.