Luis De Filippis • Director of Something You Said Last Night
“To me, this is the power of cinema – to transmute another’s experiences and see yourself in their struggles and victories”
- The Canadian-Italian filmmaker spoke to us about her fight for a more inclusive world and the potential ability of cinema to change social stereotypes
Canadian-Italian filmmaker Luis De Filippis spoke passionately about her first feature, Something You Said Last Night [+see also:
interview: Luis De Filippis
film profile] – which was was selected at Toronto, where it won the Changemaker Award (see the news), and is now screening in New Directors at San Sebastián – her fight for a more inclusive world, and her love for edgy characters who have the right to make mistakes and be whatever they want to be.
Cineuropa: What does it mean to you to tell stories related to trans identity from a personal point of view? Stories that bring a lightness and poetry to characters that are too often marginalised or considered as “different” or dysfunctional? What does the statement “the personal is political” mean to you?
Luis De Filippis:In using the film medium, I see an opportunity to pull “trans characters” off of the pedestal that renders them inaccessible. In the past, we’ve seen many depictions of trans people where they are vilified or sensationalised, and now there's almost been an overcorrection, where we see trans characters as the beacon of morality – they can do no wrong. To me, bringing lightness and poetry into the stories of trans characters means telling stories where trans people are making mistakes or being selfish. When we portray trans characters, or any marginalised character, as fully fleshed out, we’re able to see our own humanity in them; it’s hard to deny rights when you see your own humanity staring back at you. To me, this is the power of cinema – to transmute another’s experiences and see yourself in their struggles and victories. This also sums up the idea of “the personal being political” in my work.
Concerning the creative process, how do you succeed in accurately and powerfully combining fictional elements and those linked to your own experience, assuming that Something You Said Last Night is partly autobiographical?
I wouldn’t say Something You Said Last Night is purely autobiographical; there are elements that are pulled from my own life, for sure, and emotionally, I have been on the same journey as Renata, but the details are embellished or pulled from the stories and experiences of people around me. I think of the film as a collage of experience. By nature, I’m a people watcher, and my grandparents, on both sides of my family, instilled a love of storytelling in me from a young age. I grew up being told family stories that I always assumed were fact, but now, looking back, I see that they were partly myth and fable. Storytelling to me isn’t just reciting facts; instead, they're lessons in empathy, maybe?
From a stylistic point of view, your movie brings to mind the everyday poetry of Philippe Garrel and the emotional power of Andrea Arnold. Which directors or artists do you most admire?
I’m so honoured to be compared to Andrea Arnold, as she is a huge inspiration to me and was a big reference for this film. I’m also really inspired by the work of Céline Sciamma, Naomi Kawase, Sofia Coppola, and Lucrecia Martel – I could go on and on, really.
Your cast is terrific, and Carmen Madonia in particular is breathtaking. How did you find your actors, and how did you work with them?
Carmen is wonderful, and with no prior acting experience, too. I like to say that Carmen found us. A friend of mine told me about her one day after she came home from work: Carmen walked into my friend’s store, and my friend was convinced that this was the girl I was looking for. A week later, I met up with Carmen and had her read a scene with no context about the film, and she knocked it out of the park. From there, we worked together with an acting coach, Vivien Endicott-Douglas, and workshopped various scenes. Having that time with Carmen was invaluable; I was able to go back and re-work some of her “isms” into the script.
Ramona Milano [Mona], Joey Parro [Guido] and Paige Evans [Siena] were found through a traditional audition process. They all brought something special to the table, and when we put them all in a Zoom room together, because of COVID, it was so obvious that there was something incredible happening between them. From day one, the four of them were simply at ease with one another. We went up to the shooting location a couple of days before the crew did and spent time together, playing cards, drinking tequila and building up the family’s history. The time we spent together shines through in their performances. I also think they truly grew to be a little family, in the way they both love each other and are annoyed by each other. It’s all there when you watch them; it’s very special.
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