Marco Danieli • Director
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Worldly Girl, the debut film by Marco Danieli tells a story of love and education, revolving around a young follower of the Jehovah's Witnesses who falls in love with a "worldly" boy and is consequently shut out of her community. Starring Sara Serraiocco and Michele Riondino, the film is in competition in the 2016 Venice Days.
Cineuropa: The world of Jehovah’s Witnesses ?
Marco Danieli: Myself and the co-screenwriter, Antonio Manca, were working on a completely different film that we thought would become our debut piece, when a friend in common told us her story, similar to the one told in the film, and we turned it into a story, drawing our inspiration from other accounts as well. We take a keen interest in coming-of-age stories, and of course a coming-of-age story set in a radical religious environment produces conflict. It’s a context that strongly influences the individual, all the more so a young rebellious woman. What also struck us is that we don’t really know much about Jehovah’s Witnesses. Every now and then we hear about their proselytism, the cliché that they refuse blood transfusions. We discovered a very cohesive and organised community, they’re very determined. It was a fascinating world to research, but ours isn’t an investigative film, or a documentary. It’s a love story in which two very different worlds collide. These two worlds don’t seem to have anything in common, but what draws them together is the existential frustration they both share, which leads them to a revolution involving both.
The parable of the protagonist
Jehovah’s Witnesses demonise the outside world, where you can lose your way. The film is structured almost like a biblical parable, but with a different outcome. The girl is catapulted into this world that is essentially dirty, but the moral of the story lies elsewhere. In the end she doesn’t go back on her decisions. We tried to be objective and realistic in portraying that world, we tried to make all the characters three-dimensional because they all have a dark side to them, including the protagonist. But we have our own point of view, a non-religious approach to the story: the world is a place where it’s easy to lose your way but, for someone looking for their identity, it’s also an opportunity to find yourself, and some experiences are worth it.
The scene of the “trial”
It’s a judicial committee, as they call it, in which it is the “elders” of the community, who guide the various activities – they’re not priests, they may even be married with children – find themselves called upon to tackle problems that are considered serious, to rule on the sin committed by a brother of the congregation. To understand the gravity of the sin you have to fully explore the issue, because like in a secular trial, there could be huge differences between what we see as trifling details. This may lead them to examine more titillating details, which they use to understand what the person has done exactly.
The choice of Sara Serraiocco and Michele Riondino
Sara was the star of a promo reel we made to secure funding for the film. We liked her so much that we wrote the last versions of the screenplay with her in mind, and didn’t hold auditions. She has a sort of natural air of mystery to her, something you can’t put your finger on that seemed right for the character. She’s an actress who, despite having made lots of films, still has a strong natural feel to her, she almost doesn’t look like an actress despite having performance technique. I had liked Riondino for a long time, and found out that he was an American-style actor, a transformist, which is a rare find in our acting culture. He’s very self-critical but very serious as well. He generously gave me a lot of time to rehearse with him, we rehearsed a lot with him and Sara before shooting.