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Fabio Mollo • Director

"Ceasing to be children and becoming parents"


- Calabrian director Fabio Mollo releases in Italy on 9 March his second work, There is a Light, a road movie that broaches the subjects of the future, fatherhood and love that breaks barriers

Fabio Mollo  • Director

With his debut work, South Is Nothing [+see also:
film review
interview: Miriam Karlkvist
film profile
(2013), Fabio Mollo was selected for the film festivals of Toronto, Rome (where it won the Taodue Prize) and Berlin, and nominated for the Golden Globes. The 36-year-old Calabrian director is back, straight into theatres (from 9 March) with There is a Light [+see also:
film review
interview: Fabio Mollo
film profile
(Il padre d’Italia). The film stars Isabella Ragonese and Luca Marinelli in the respective roles of a pregnant woman who doesn’t want children and a gay man who dreams of becoming a father, who set off on a crazy journey from the North to the South of Italy.

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Cineuropa: Here too the South plays a very important role. Is there a guiding thread that links this second film of yours to your debut piece, Il Sud è niente?
Fabio Mollo: They’re actually two very different worlds: Il Sud è niente is a film with an atmosphere, stolen from reality, and stars Miriam Karlkvist in her acting debut. Il padre d’Italia is instead very much built on dialogue, the staging of the characters, I imagined it right from the off as a film with two professional actors, with a plot that would be stronger than the atmosphere. Both films were however born from the same urgent need, to contribute to telling the story of a generation, society and the cultural times we live in. Il Sud è niente broaches the theme of social silence becoming private silence, whereas this film broaches the subject of two thirty-year-olds who are afraid of becoming parents, for different reasons. 

There’s also an element of physicality to your films.
I like physical cinema. In Il padre d’Italia the body is very important, Isabella and Luca are often naked, but even when they are clothed their physical story is essential, as the story of Grazia’s body was in Il Sud è niente. I like films build on flesh and bone. Despite its many dialogues, I wanted Il padre d’Italia to maintain this carnal aspect.

What type of fatherhood did you want to portray?
For me it was important to tell the story of a generation at that point when we stop being children and try to become parents, despite the difficulties and insecurity. Economic insecurity, but emotional insecurity as well. Paolo and Mia are insecure but in different ways. Paolo lives on the sidelines; Mia, on the other hand, is an explosion of vitality, and Paolo allows himself to be dragged along on a journey that brings him face to face with fatherhood, something he had previously dismissed as he thought it would be going against nature, as a gay man. 

Why a road movie?
It was important to use the road movie format because I think of love stories as a journey. This is the portrayal of an intense love story between two characters who come together at a very delicate time in their lives. A love that has little to do with sexuality, which breaks barriers. We cross Italy geographically, but emotionally and socially as well. As we reach the South, the characters strip off, not only because it’s hot, but because they shed their protective body armour and surrender to life, especially Paolo. 

One of the most evocative scenes in the film is the one filmed in the orphanage. How did you put it together?
We always imagined that Paolo would embark on this journey with Mia as if embarking on a journey into his own childhood. We discover in the film that he grew up in an orphanage, and for me it was important that once we found that out, the film would take an almost dreamlike turn. When he walks into that orphanage it’s as if he’s walking into his past, it’s as if he’s looking back on himself. We shot the scene in a real children’s home in Turin, which helped us to structure it.

What were your points of reference for this film?
I imagined that this film would be like “Gianni Amelio incontra Xavier Dolan”, with a bit of A Special Day by Ettore Scola thrown in for good measure. Filmmakers who are very important to me, revisited with a contemporary look. I like to try to create something of a mix of Italian and European film. The screenplay strongly recalls Stolen Children, whilst the direction is reminiscent of Dolan’s work. The music is very present in the film, we have an aestheticized world even if it is a poor one, because Mia is a girl from the streets, even though she dresses like she’s always going out dancing. But also because Dolan’s direction brings out the best in the actors, and that’s what I imagined right from the start for this film. With Luca and Isabella we gave life to Mia and Paolo scene by scene. Every emotional passage was discussed, tried, and tweaked where necessary. 

Talking of music, what kind of research did you do?
Mia is a singer, and we wanted her musical world to be described by her. We painstakingly looked for the right songs for both the story and the generation. The two singing performances enriched the film: Luca covering Loredana Berté in two intimate moments, and the cover of The Smiths’ work sung live by Isabella. Mia, moreover, is a sort of Berté in the eyes of Paolo, a transgressive singer. The soundtrack recalls the 1980s, which we also wanted to portray visually through the colours and costumes, as well as the use of lots of electronic music of course. 

What are the next steps for the film?
I hope it will be seen abroad as well, and that festivals will be an opportunity for this. But this time round I’m happy to be releasing the film in Italy first. As opposed to South Is Nothing, which did the rounds of lots of festivals and few actual cinemas, I want this film to be seen by as many people as possible, for it to move a wider audience, because it is important for a story like this, recounted in this way, with two actors of this calibre, to be shared, discussed, and perhaps spark debate. 

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(Translated from Italian)

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