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Italy / Slovenia

Davide Del Degan • Director of Paradise

“The lead character in my film is an accidental hero”

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- We spoke with Davide Del Degan who has directed his first fiction film Paradise, due for imminent release in Italy

Davide Del Degan  • Director of Paradise

52-year-old, Trieste-born Davide Del Degan is a documentary-maker and a short film director who is now making his feature film debut with Paradise [+see also:
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interview: Davide Del Degan
film profile
]
, following the success of his documentary The Last Resort [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Thanos Anastopoulos
film profile
]
in 2016, written in league with Thanos Anastopoulos. A co-production between Italy and Slovenia, Paradise is set in the mountainous region of Carnia, in Friuli, where Sicilian granita vendor and state witness Calogero is hiding. The film will hit Italian cinemas on 8 October, courtesy of Fandango, who are also helming international sales.

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Cineuropa: Paradise is a drama, a thriller and a comedy in quick succession. Was this a choice you made from the outset of the project?
Davide Del Degan:
We were already trying to identify new outlooks in the writing process. It was an attempt we also made in the production phase, which was the greatest challenge. We hinged it all on a very fine balance, from the film’s construction right on through to its editing; a balance which could radically change the film’s tone. With certain scenes we pushed in a certain direction, from the costumes through to the set design, and then worked “by subtraction” on others. The music, for example: we developed a first draft with Luca Ciut, who was looking for certain sounds, separating those which could convey irony from the more dramatic ones. Then we realised that the leap between the two was too obvious, so we looked for a light sense of balance in the notes and rhythms which would ensure we avoided any prejudice towards any of the characters and strive towards total respect of the subject we were addressing. But we also wanted to emphasise the difficulties involved in living life as a state witness by way of comedic and dramatic tones. It’s a dramatic way of life which can sometimes be bizarre and grotesque.

Did you research real-life cases of witnesses who live in such a state?
Thanks to friends who work in the legal world, I was able to carry out research, reading books and interviews, as well as watching videos of these people who are often in need of greater attention and better protection, but I never came into direct contact with any of them. Luckily, the film’s protagonist Vincenzo Nemolato managed to find a direct contact.

This brilliant, wild-eyed actor has been fundamental to the film’s success. How did you find Vincenzo?
The production company Pilgrim Film were supportive of my desire to find an actor who I believed was perfect for this role. Casting director Massimo Apolloni and I met a number of brilliant actors. I wanted the Sicilian nature of the character to be strongly felt - even though there aren’t many scenes set in Sicily - in order to create the required contrast with the northern town the protagonist is moving to. In Vincenzo, who’s Neapolitan, I found the strength and light-heartedness that I was looking for, not to mention great professionalism: he spent a year learning how to speak a Sicilian dialect perfectly, a dialect which the viewer shouldn’t be able to pin down to any specific region of the island.

The protagonist is particularly good at expressing the social conscience of everyday man in the face of “omertà” and unpunished crime.
Calogero/Alfio is an accidental hero. He’s a person with important principles and values, but he’s not someone who goes off in search of acts to be performed. There are places where there’s a grey zone which you can live in without necessarily having to side with good or bad. But in some cases, choices must be made. Calogero makes a choice, fuelled by the realisation that he’s going to become a father. On the night I discovered I was going to be a father I had this overwhelming desire to tell a story about rebirth and redemption. I realised that all my certainties had evaporated and the fears I thought I’d overcome had actually resurfaced. It’s probably something that state witnesses who have made that choice experience every day. Vincenzo wants to safeguard his daughter’s future and carries out an act intended to set a good example.

How did the co-production with Slovenia come about?
It’s definitely a by-product of filmmaking in the Friuli-Venezia Giulia region which, along with the Regional Audiovisual Fund and the FVG Film Commission, quite naturally encourages you to broaden your horizons. In Paradise, I wanted to talk about a seemingly static country which is actually very dynamic and colourful. And I wanted to do it by way of a peculiarity unique to Sauris, located as it is on the Italian border with Austria and Slovenia where three languages are spoken: Italian, Carnian (Friulian) and Saurano, which is a German language dating back to the 1300s. Embarking on a co-production offered potential access to Slovenian actors who could bring their own culture to the story. And indeed, Branko Završan and Katarina Cas soon joined the team. The set designer and costume designer are also Slovenian nationals. It’s an added bonus for the film.

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(Translated from Italian)

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