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Marco Alessi • Producer

“I’ll be presenting a feature film starring Laetitia Casta in Cannes”


- Marco Alessi of Dugong Films, who is here at the Cannes Film Festival and taking part in the Producers On the Move initiative, speaks with pride about his latest project

Marco Alessi • Producer

“We didn’t expect to be selected for a prestigious festival like Cannes, we’re over the moon about it. But for once we already knew we’d done a good job on a project; we love it and have no doubts about it”. Marco Alessi of Dugong Films, who is here at the Cannes Film Festival and taking part in the European Film Promotion’s Producers On the Move initiative, speaks with pride about Samouni Road [+see also:
film review
interview: Stefano Savona
film profile
, directed by Stefano Savona and featuring the animation of Simone Massi, and which is the Italian candidate in the Directors’ Fortnight line-up. The film is produced by Picofilms, alongside Rai Cinema and Alter Ego Production, and co-produced by ARTE France Cinéma

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Cineuropa: Was there a long process involved in making Samouni Road?
Marco Alessi: We started filming in 2009, at the end of the Gaza War or “Operation Cast Lead” as it’s otherwise known. Stefano Savona had already made a film on this topic which triumphed at the Locarno Festival and he couldn’t get that material out of his head. He talked about it a lot, so much so that we decided to dig a little deeper into the story and try to turn it into a film. It moved from being just an idea to then thinking about the type of financial strategy we’d need to make the film happen –the David di Donatello award Stefano won back in 2011 for Tahrir Liberation Square [+see also:
film profile
had already given him greater exposure, and during that awards ceremony, he met Simone Massi, which made us think: why don’t we try to bring these two elements together, the documentary world and the Massi’s world of animation, which is such a unique and dreamlike form? From the artistic point of view, it was a very fortunate meeting; from a production standpoint, we may have underestimated the craft involved in Simone’s highly extraordinary creative process, with her “scraping” technique which is used by so few others in the world. But we felt a real urgency in making this project, in telling this true story and in showing the conditions experienced by these individuals in Gaza, as witnessed first-hand and filmed by Stefano. We found many people who were willing to help us and from a financial perspective, we put the film together following the average-level industry standards for the documentary world. Public backers then got involved (CNC was first with their fund, Aide aux Cinémas du Monde, and then with other subsidies), along with television channels, Eurimages, and we were able to make the film as we originally intended it to be, with all the unique features that are so key to artistic projects. And being included in the documentary production slots of ARTE Cinema and Rai Cinema confirms just how contagious our enthusiasm is.

Do you have any other projects in the pipeline that you might share during Producers on the Move? It would be the perfect forum for it...
I’ll be presenting a project for which the Lazio International fund for co-productions has awarded us finance, an amount totalling 200,000 euros. It’s a first feature film, directed by Licia Eminenti, a Tuscan filmmaker living in Paris whose short films have been shown in the Cannes Film Festival in previous years. It’s a project focusing on young kids who are around 10-12 years old and it attempts to marry basic elements of the documentary genre with fiction. So as well as children taking part in this story, there are also professional actors. At this point, Laetitia Casta has confirmed her availabililty for the film. The setting will be Italian, in the Lazio region, around Le Grotte di Castro, because part of the story centres on Etruscan civilisation. We already have some excellent partners lined up, like Joseph Rouschop from Tarantula and Marie-Pierre Macia from MPM Film. We should start shooting towards the end of the year. This could be the first step towards greater visibility for Dugong Films on the more traditional film market, rather than that of arthouse and experimental cinema which has been our main focus up to now.

Movie-theatre distribution isn’t a staightforward process, even if things do seem to be changing...
Securing Laetitia Casta and the other actors we’re considering for the film is definitely important in this market, but what convinced me in this case was the force of the director’s motivation, his urgency to tell a story that is universal but which is also true. In the Italian market, we don’t really tap into any star-system as such, so the presence of a famous actor in an auteur film doesn’t really matter to the public. If I try to think of films that combine documentary with fiction as ours does, Forbidden Games by René Clément comes to mind, or Tabu by Murnau, Mamma Roma by Pasolini, Herzog’s early films... The presence of children in a scene can produce an incredible energy and encourage us to move away from the more traditional forms of acting.

(Translated from Italian)

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