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"There was an unusual and unique story to be told here: an unconventional multicultural microcosmos"

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Vito Robbiani • Director


- Cineuropa met with Ticino-born director Vito Robbiani, who recently presented his documentary Stella ciao at the Solothurn Film Festival.

Vito Robbiani  • Director

Vito Robbiani was born in Switzerland in 1972. After studying communication and computer science at the University of Nice (Sophia Antipolis) he worked, starting in 1994, as a director for Radiotelevisione svizzera (RSI) and other European television broadcasting networks. In 1996 he founded the production company Mediatree in Ticino. Cineuropa met with the Ticino-born director to talk about his documentary Stella ciao [+see also:
film review
interview: Vito Robbiani
film profile
, an unconventional portrait of a place as fleeting as the present itself.

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Cineuropa: Where did the idea for Stella ciao come from?
Vito Robbiani: Years ago, when I was working as part on the editorial staff of “Pardonews” during the Locarno Film Festival, I wound up staying at the Stella d’Oro hotel in Tenero. What struck me straight away was the number of guests that were of African origin. Silvio Deidda (the manager) explained that they were asylum seekers waiting from a reply from the State, that he was putting them up temporarily. The idea of tourists and refugees living side by side intrigued me, so I started shooting footage without really knowing what I would do with it. The existence of the hotel, which was more than a hundred years old, was threatened by a building site that was taking over the surrounding area (one of the many “high standing” residential projects that are invading the Italian-speaking part of Switzerland). The combination of all of these elements gave me the impression that there was an unusual and unique story to be told here: an unconventional multicultural microcosm, a place of social interest, and at the same time, the ideal metaphor for our time.

Can you tell us a bit about the audiovisual presence in Ticino (Swiss films shot in this area are few and far between)?
I have to say that considering the size of the Canton of Ticino, where just 350,000 people live, there is a considerable audiovisual presence. There’s a film school (CISA), a degree course in visual communication at the University of Applied Sciences and Arts of Southern Switzerland, two big international film festivals (the Locarno International Film Festival and the Castellinaria International Young Film Festival), as well as three minor festivals, without forgetting television broadcasting network RSI Radiotelevisione svizzera, which is an essential production partner for independent producers in our region. All in all, there are a lot of important centres and events which focus on the moving image.

On the other hand, it is true that compared to bigger centres, there are very few films and documentaries produced in Ticino.

Could you tell us a bit about how your path to becoming a documentary maker?
I don’t know if you can describe it as a path as such, I studied communication sciences at the University of Nice (France), then threw myself into journalism along with editing and then filming. Meeting Gianfranco Rosi on the set of the documentary Face Addict by Edo Bertoglio was a key moment for me. I find his films to be a great source of inspiration.

The mood of Stella ciao is dominated in places by a cold and sensual monotony. How did you (and Ariel Salati) shoot the footage to obtain this effect?
Ariel Salati is a very talented steadicam operator, and together, we spent a few days wandering around the hotel when it was still up and running, and then just before it was demolished. I wanted to use these images as moments of reflection, I wanted them to be images showing the final gasps of the hotel. Then when it came to editing the film with Samir Samperisi, we realised that this style wasn’t in keeping with my footage and the spirit of the film, so we begrudgingly used them in just the trailer. I think sometimes you need to lean on the frames and their duration. I actually wanted to lean on them even more than we did, but in the end a film has to strike the right balance.

(Translated from Italian)

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