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Valentina Pedicini • Director of Faith

"My idea was to make a film without judgement but not lacking a perspective”


- Italy’s Valentina Pedicini had the chance to chat to Cinema Femme and talk through the making of her documentary Faith, now selected for DocsBarcelona

Valentina Pedicini  • Director of Faith

Apulia-born director Valentina Pedicini talks about the making of her latest documentary, entitled Faith [+see also:
film review
interview: Valentina Pedicini
film profile
. Last November, Pedicini’s feature world-premiered in the main competition at the International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam (IDFA). In Faith, Pedicini follows the life of the "Warriors of Light”, a sect founded over 20 years ago and composed of around 20 people, most of whom are former martial arts champions. After its world premiere, Faith played at Berlin, Göteborg, Vilnius and CPH:DOX, among other festivals. On 28 May, the documentary will have its Spanish premiere at DocsBarcelona.

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Cinema Femme: When did you start working on the making of Faith?
Valentina Pedicini: My path started 11 years ago, when I had the chance to make a short about the Warriors of Light. It happened by pure chance, and at the time I was studying in a film school in Bolzano. One day, I saw one of their street performances. In particular, I was struck by one of the disciple, called Laura, who later became the protagonist of my feature. I was impressed by her personality, which was so strong and ambiguous. Therefore, my initial goal was to tell a story about sport. Back then, I already had developed a strong immersive approach, so I asked to follow the group of athletes while they were training in a gym. However, I soon realised that the tale I was going to work on was far from being one about sport. Instead, my tale should have focused on something much bigger, something linked with faith and with radical life choices. But I wasn’t ready for that yet, so for eleven years I’ve been working on other projects. Next, two years ago I decided to visit the community again. I felt that there was a big story to tell, that needed to be brought to an end. Furthermore, I was very curious to see how time had changed the characters’ world after eleven years. That visit marked the beginning of my work on this feature.

Faith is undoubtedly a tale of isolation and the ongoing outbreak made it even more timely. Were you able to compare the viewers reactions before and after the beginning of the pandemic?
I can mainly talk about my personal experience. I realised that I’ve made a film that is not only timely, but somehow “prophetic”. The setting, the characters’ isolation, the outer world considered as “impure”, through their lack of social contacts. They basically live under a permanent state of quarantine, it was a strange coincidence! I’ve decided to work on “Faith” right before this huge change that is affecting the whole world. Speaking about the viewers, I can tell that the film kept on traveling all around the world, but, since the beginning of the emergency, it was only screened online, obviously. I’m sorry that I can’t see the viewers’ reactions as I’d normally do during a live screening, but I’m sure it caused some kind of response.

As of today, Faith has had a greater impact on myself and the crew making the film. Once again, we have ended up living the experience of forced isolation we had while filming it, as we’ve already experienced several quarantines [laughs]!

I can barely imagine how difficult it may have been following these type of subjects. What were the main technical and psychological challenges?
The main technical challenge was finding the right approach to be factual, while maintaining a good cinematic quality. In my film work, I’ve been always trying to combine these two aspects. Many people believe that documentary is a sort of secondary film genre, where there’s no need to develop a proper grammar or language, and you just need to turn on the camera to start unveiling reality. Therefore, I knew it was essential – and very challenging – to tell such a hostile, uncomfortable truth through a proper cinematic perspective. My idea was to make a film without judgement but not lacking a perspective or a clear stance. Certainly, it was rather difficult to find this balance. In addition, the crew was small and we were mostly shooting in small interiors with many limitations and regulations. We had to adapt ourselves to this world in order to gain full access to it. And, obviously, a great psychological challenge was experiencing this type of isolation and entering this “other” dimension, very far from our everyday life. We have been following the group for about three, four months. We have been observing them for about 16-17 hours a day in the hope of filming one or two good takes. During that period, we were staying in a small apartment where our production could continue. We could re-watch our footage, take stock of the day and try to improve our work step by step. I must thank my producer, Donatella Palermo, who allowed us to dedicate the right amount of time on the project, and the film is the final result of this patient waiting.

Read the full interview here.

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