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VENICE 2022 Orizzonti

Roberto De Paolis • Director of Princess

“My film is a look at a reality present everywhere in Europe”

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- VENICE 2022: We talked to the Italian director about the extraordinary character played by Glory Kevin and how he conceived the film together with her

Roberto De Paolis • Director of Princess
Roberto De Paolis (right) with actress Glory Kevin (© La Biennale di Venezia/Foto ASAC Giorgio Zucchiatti)

Princess [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Roberto De Paolis
film profile
]
is the second feature film by Roman director Roberto De Paolis, which opened the competition of the Orizzonti section of the 79th Venice Film Festival. Princess confronts the theme of the illegal exploitation in the prostitution of Nigerian women. We spoke with him about the extraordinary protagonist Glory Kevin and how he conceived the film with her.

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Cineuropa: What distinguishes Princess from other films that address the theme of immigration?
Roberto De Paolis:
I said to myself that Italy lacked a film that presented the country through the eyes of an illegal immigrant/clandestine, reversing the point of view. I started hanging out with immigrants, and the theme of prostitution emerged, which is the synthesis of all problems: poverty, illegality, marginality. I discovered a forest near Rome, which is a place of prostitution where Nigerian girls work, which seemed to me metaphorically perfect to talk about marginality. As we westerners move and meet in squares, in city centres, in palaces, in restaurants, these girls instead stay on the fringes, even in the woods, where they make huts where they sleep in the summer so as not to have to make long journeys home, like a primordial reality, a return to nature, which I found interesting.

In the film, you see the car of an organisation helping these women, just before the policemen arrive on horseback and the girls run to hide.

It’s one of these organisations that helped me with the film, even though they had some reservations since they thought that it would be traumatising for the girls. The latter instead were very happy to take part, to get paid for a job that didn’t involve sexual relations. It seemed fair to me that the police should break into that scene, to tell them how in reality those girls are not helped either by the organisations or by the state.

Tell us who Glory Kevin is.
She’s a girl who came from Nigeria because she wanted to find a better life. As she herself repeatedly told me, the life she’s made on the street is still better than the one she had in Africa. She’s lived through jails in Libya, where she was treated with cruelty, she’s had the horrible experience of crossing by boat, and here she paid the debt she incurred with a so-called madam in Nigeria by working on the street. Like many others she was never able to find an alternative to prostitution because she had no documents and did not know where to turn, she didn’t speak Italian and remained on the street. She suffered an assault and stopped working shortly before we met and she started making this film with me. She gave me a lot of information, things I didn't know, and ideas on which I built a story, I looked for a basic feeling, characters, a place. But the heart, she put hers into it, and also the unpredictability, which is the thing I like most about her and the film. Glory is free, often improvises, has a thousand intuitions and goes through a thousand different emotions. I'm glad I let her do it. The professional actors adapted, favouring improvisation and listening.

According to you, could the film be appreciated in other countries?
It is not a film that will appeal to a large audience, but the ambition is to distribute it in as many countries as possible so as to reach a certain number of viewers, because it is a look at a reality that is present everywhere. The drama of the prostitution of Nigerian women is huge in Europe, and their stories are told very rarely – even less so from their point of view.

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(Translated from Italian)

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