Michele Vannucci • Director
"You don’t have to stack the deck"
- Michele Vannucci talks about his debut piece I Was a Dreamer, which was presented at Venice and is based on the real life of the protagonist
I Was a Dreamer [+see also:
interview: Alessandro Borghi
interview: Michele Vannucci
film profile], the debut feature by Michele Vannucci which was presented in the Orizzonti section of the 2016 Venice Film Festival, will hit screens on 1 December under the distribution of Antani in partnership with Kino Produzioni. A mix of comedy, melodrama and crime, the film is based on the real life of the protagonist, Mirko Frezza. In the film, Mirko is 39-years-old, has just been released from prison, and has gone back to his home in the Roman suburbs. Elected as president of his neighbourhood committee, he decides to dream up a different life for his family and the entire suburd he lives in. The cast features Alessandro Borghi, Vittorio Viviani and Milena Mancini.
Cineuropa: You’ve described your film as "recreated reality". It’s undeniable that Mirko is not just an actor, because his story inspired the film.
Michele Vannucci: As far as Mirko is concerned, I always thought back to the American expression ‘bigger than life’. There are people in society, archetypes, who are larger than their own stories, their own trajectories. I met Mirko when I was working on Nati per correre, my graduation short film for the Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia in Rome, five years ago: for the casting sessions I asked the boys to bring in paternal figures. Alessandro Borghi turned up with Mirko. There was strong chemistry between them, they went beyond what I had imagined for them in the screenplay. From there a shared artistic journey was born. The short film Una Storia Normale was a creative documentary made up of interviews, which the screenplay for I Was a Dreamer was based on, and it winning the Solinas Experimenta Award confirmed that we could do something great with it. We put a team together with the co-screenwriter Anita Otto, Matteo Vieille on photography, Lupo Marziale on set design and with the help of the producer Giovanni Pompili we moved to Mirko’s neighbourhood for six months.
Which brought you to your debut feature.
I wanted to make my debut with an existential experience, a truth other than those you see represented in films on Roman suburbs from the last 15 years. When I went to see Mirko on his home turf I found myself laughing and smiling constantly. I didn’t see the epic suffering portrayed in films. Those interviews were all about Mirko, and followed a story made up us, by Anita and myself, with made-up interviews and a precise theme: responsibility in society and family life. It was a canvas for Mirko to use to experience fictional situations in a real-life setting.
Were you not afraid that things might get out of hand?
I love debut films in which the writer lays themselves bare and shows what they can do, without an Oscar-winning director of photography who makes the film in their place or the editor organising the story for them. It’s a leap of faith into the future, you don’t have to stack the deck.
What was your relationship with the production team?
My collaboration with Giovanni Pompili started with Una storia normale. Through that experience I found someone with a very different point of view from my own, with similar tastes to mine. The production process affects the direction, I liked the idea of having that person there for my debut feature. He wanted to secure funding for the development of the film first, but by doing that we would have lost those pretexts of reality that were very much alive at the time. I insisted on filming last summer and he was brave enough to start looking for funding as filming was going on. It was a leap into the dark, and here we are now in theatres.
(Translated from Italian)
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