Andrea Segre • Director
Interview - Venice Days 2011
Shun Li and the Poet, the first fiction film by documentary-maker Andrea Segre received the longest and loudest applause attributed to a film in the 2011 Venice Days edition.
Shun Li and the Poet [+see also:
interview: Andrea Segre
interview: Andrea Segre
film profile], the first fiction film by documentary-maker Andrea Segre received the longest and loudest applause attributed to a film in the 2011 Venice Days edition
How does it feel being a finalist for the LUX Prize?
Andrea Segre: I think the LUX Prize is one of the most intelligent award you can receive in your career. It doesn’t give you money, it’s not simply a symbol, but something very practical and useful for the distribution of your film. Through the LUX Prize you can really reach an audience that you’d never imagined to reach. Before I was joking with a friend of Chioggia [a small village near Venice], the city where we shot the film, because I’m curious to see which subtitles there’ll be of the Chioggia dialect in Slovenia or in Estonia or in Lithuania [most of the characters speak the Chioggia]. At the same time, it’s a prize that focus in a very intelligent way what is the challenge for European future, finding a way not to homologate our differences but to make them dialogue with each other.
What inspired your film?
This is a film about my childhood and an homage to my mother. Chioggia is the place where my mother was born and a place where I spent time when I was a child, during summer. I grow up in Padova but every summer I was in Chioggia. I had the feeling that I had to tell a story about that place. Then I met the real Shun Li in the restaurant where we shot the film and I felt that this was the occasion to talk about my mother’s place through a stranger’s point of view. I think it’s a good challenge to talk about ourselves through the eyes of a stranger.
How did you choose the actors?
My film has several different kinds of actors: we have international actors, national and quite known actors, theatres’ and cinemas’ ones and not professional actors, like fishermen and people from Chioggia. I loved this mixed casting because the film is about dialogues between differences and also in the cast I could work with differences. We had the opportunity to make professional actors learning the way of speaking and behaving of normal people in Chioggia and make normal people in Chioggia learning the way of speaking and behaving in cinema. The relationship between international and national actors was also very interesting. I think that Shun Li and the Poet is a film about contaminations, about the courage of knowing yourself through the knowledge of other ones.
This is your first feature film after many documentaries. Do you think a feature film convey a stronger message than a documentary?
I’ve never studied cinema in my life and I’ve never studied in a school of cinema, I began to work in this art doing documentaries, travelling and keeping with me the camera because I was convinced that through the camera I could communicate to others what I found in my travels. Then, I was invited to several festivals and I was called "director". I asked myself the question: "am I a director or not?" I thought I had to work with actors, trying to be a director in the official way. So I came to the fiction, but I think that one of the most interesting fields in the new cinema is the connection between documentary and fiction and the confusion between these two genres. My documentaries include very strong political messages and I’m glad to use my cinema to give also social and political messages. Fiction is a way to reach an audience that doesn’t know that is going to watch a political message but they face this message. My real challenge is to bring fiction’s audience to watch documentaries. It happened with Mare Chiuso, the documentary I realized right after Shun Li and the Poet. I was so happy to see theatres full of people who wanted to watch the next film by Andrea Segre because they’d watched Shun Li. Being in front of a strong, political and radical documentary, they were completely surprised. So, the answer to your question is: if I could find a way to mix my language and my audience doing both documentary and fiction, I’d be glad.
Can cinema change politics?
Nowadays, media politics need to cancel individualities and the history of individual human beings, especially concerning migrations, which is one issue really interesting to me. They need to create a mass of people without caring about individuals, because in the communication system is useful to have a stereotype and not different individuals. Cinema has the capacity of focus people attention on individual lives, using these individual histories as metaphors of a bigger phenomenon. Cinema can help politics to fly away from that risk, which is not only a risk for professional politics, but for the relationship between politics, society and human beings as well.