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BERLINALE 2022 Panorama

Nicolò Bassetti • Director of Into My Name

“Finding four people who are willing to put themselves on the line to such an extent is a very rare thing”

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- BERLINALE 2022: The director spoke to us about Elliot Page’s involvement as executive producer and about the intensely human experience of tackling the matter of gender transition

Nicolò Bassetti  • Director of Into My Name
(© Matteo Bassetti)

We met with Nicolò Bassetti, director of the documentary Into My Name [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Nicolò Bassetti
film profile
]
, which is screening within the Berlinale’s Panorama line-up and which follows the complex road towards transition embarked upon by four Italian boys: Nico, Raffaele, Andrea and Leo.

Cineuropa: How did the project begin?
Nicolò Bassetti: I started it one night four years ago, when I received a letter from my son Matteo. He was living in Holland, and he told me that he was about to depart the shores of female identity to set sail on a journey. He tried to reassure me, asking me to stand by him, to trust him and to be with him. Obviously, it was a very deep and emotional moment. Not too long afterwards, and after going with him to get a mastectomy, I spoke to him in private and asked: “Is this a story that can be told, in your opinion?” And he replied: “Do you want to make a documentary out of it?”. I replied: “I would like us to make it together.” Soon after, a very simple structure for the film emerged. The idea was to clear aside the many prejudices in circulation and to try to tell the story I was experiencing with my son, lending him a voice. Then there was a lengthy period of in-depth research. Matteo introduced me to Bologna’s transgender community, a really progressive group who explore subjects usually discussed in northern Europe, whose LGBT and trans communities are often far more developed than those in Italy. I followed their meetings for four months in order to get to know them. Matteo was a form of insurance for us, a passepartout. I managed to integrate the community thanks to my personal involvement in the area, which guaranteed me the fundamental access I wouldn’t otherwise have been granted. Little by little, I found these four boys who, aside from being friends, accepted to lay themselves on the line.

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What kind of connection did you feel with these four boys, which ultimately led you to choose them?
What struck me was their generosity. Finding four people willing to put themselves on the line to such an extent is a very rare thing. We trusted each other. Obviously, there were some tricky moments. The film follows one of the boys, Nico, for example, throughout the entire transition process. In the end, Nico is a whole other person, he has a new identity. I was also struck by Raffaele’s generosity. As a trans person who was also gay, he put the complexity of his identity and of his sexual orientation on the line. Andrea was generous too; he’s a queer person who underwent surgery while the film was being made. As was Leo, who decided to tell his own story through a podcast exploring the relationship between childhood and adult memory for trans people. This is something my son also experienced: he has inconsistent childhood memories. This is an obsession for Andrea, he graduated in philology having written his dissertation on rhapsodies, the “conveyors” of oral memory in Ancient Greece. When we decided to make the film together, I asked the boys to incorporate their own project into the film – Leo brought his podcast, Raffaele his bike, Andrea brought his typewriter and Nico his explorations of places in transition.

One interesting aspect of the film is that it encourages reflection in a casual, everyday way. We feel like we’re there with them when they’re chatting, and one phrase or unexpected ironic idea paves the way to key questions. This aspect aside, how did Elliot Page come to be involved in the project?
It was thanks to executive producer Gaia Morrione. She said: “Why don’t we show Page this film?”. I replied: “Like he’d have the time to watch a film like ours: small, independent… He must be swimming in all types of projects!” She insisted and we gave it a go. Getting through to Page wasn’t easy. [..] One member of his staff was blown away by the film – he’s a trans person too – and he showed it to Page. One week later, Page got in touch with us to say he’d really liked it and asked how he could help us. It was totally unexpected.

Were there moments when you or the boys thought about ditching the project?
Yes, one or two: not many, but they were very difficult times. One in particular, at the beginning. We’d barely shot anything, but it was clear that I was stepping inside of their private, inner worlds. Nico wrote to me to say he didn’t know whether he could go through with it and he seemed to want to pull out. I went into meltdown and spoke about it with the other boys. Then Nico grasped the importance [of the project] and pushed past his fears. I’m very grateful to him for it. He was laying his transition, his relationship with Chiara and his identity on the line... He didn’t know where it would lead... He identified as Nicolò “Two Spirits”: he really is a non-binary person. Our other tricky moments were less significant – there was a bit of disaccord over how to interpret certain needs – and Matteo played a key mediating role in these.

Will you screen this film in schools?
That’s the one-hundred-dollar question! If I manage to, I’ll buy you a pizza (laughter)! It seems like a bit of an Everest to climb from where I’m standing, but I’ll be thrilled if we pull it off. It would be an amazing result.

How did the boys react when they saw the film?
They’ve only seen it once. Nico took me aside and said: “Thank you, it really moved me, I hadn’t been able to cry for two years.” When you transition, you have to shut yourself down and renounce your emotional side to protect yourself. Leo didn’t expect his podcast to come off so well [on screen]. Raffaele didn’t say a word. Andrea hugged me.

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(Translated from Italian)

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