Fabiana Lupo: if the “great beauty” really is in Italy, why don’t we believe it?

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We are about to meet Fabiana Lupo, a very young Calabrian director, auteur of the short movie “Ballata in cinque strofe”  (“A ballad in five stanzas”), which was presented at the latest Venice Film Festival in the Light Market section.

She is also the director of the documentary “Dentro/Fuori” (2008) which won the first prize at the Bizzarri Festival in the Media and Education section and of “Distanze”, a short film with Vito Annicchiarico (the actor who played little Marcello in “Rome open city”) in its cast and which was the outright winner of the Corto Corrente Film Festival in 2010. After her participation in a number of prestigious film festivals of both national and international interest – such as the Festival de Clermont-Ferrand in 2012 (Marchédu film court),  the Milano Film Festival in 2011 (Salon des refusés) where the first national screening of her short film took place, and the Cannes Film Festival in 2012 (Short Film Corner), Fabiana Lupo has come to be regarded as one of the most promising talents of today’s Italian cinema.

Fabiana, let’s talk about your passion for cinema first. Where did it come from?

I was very young, ten years old, when I discovered cinema thanks to genre movies. Horror films were my first love. I still remember the feeling of fear and curiosity that came over me when I watched the early works of Sam Raimi and Wes Craven, which can still be considered to be landmarks of the genre (“The Evil Dead” and “Nightmare” for example, just to name two titles). My father too contributed to this passion: as soon as he noticed my interest for horror movies, he made me sit by his side on the couch and acquainted me with Dario Argento’s films, especially “Deep Red”. It wouldn’t be far-fetched to say that I consider these three movies as my pre-adolescent obsessions.

Are there any directors, whether contemporary or from the past, that you look on to as points of reference?

The history of cinema is just strewn with the names of directors who can be considered guiding lights for one reason or another. When getting down to making films, even on a subconscious level one ends up drawing inspiration from them. The first auteurs whose works I ferociously devoured, starting with the farthest and ending with the nearest in time, were Bunuel, Fellini and Lynch, three directors whose works are alike in terms of visionary power: the main characters of “Belle de jour”, “8 ½” and “Mulholland Drive” all find themselves at the threshold separating hallucinations from dreams and obsessions, which is the most peculiar characteristic in the poetics of these three authors.

“A ballad in five stanzas”. Neuroses, roots and feelings of disquietude. Would you like to talk about it?

I was keen on the idea of portraying the inner world of the female protagonist by means of a narrative level which should originate from the sense data and then stray from them. In other words, the five scenes she goes through in the film are products of her perceptive faculty but end up going beyond it, plunging into the subconscious and the realm of repressed contents. The closing metaphor of a return to the roots, in the context of a go no-go situation, is the key to her whole spectral journey.

The Festivals of Cannes and Venice. Two important experiences, one should say…

Let’s say that Cannes was a demanding test. My film had been selected for the “Short Film Corner”, a section of the festival entirely dedicated to short movies from all around the world, so I had the opportunity to meet directors , producers and distributors from abroad. They all showed to be very enthusiastic about “A ballad in five stanzas”, which got some very positive feedback. In Venice, I felt at home. I had already been there and got familiar with the setting and the rhythms of the festival. Since then, the Venice Film Festival has become a yearly appointment for me. Ten days during which I can become engrossed in the world previews of upcoming films.

Could you give a short definition of your art?

Cinema is fine dust forming an image, telling a story by virtue of its flickering in the air and aggregating on a screen. It is rarefaction, lightness in the meaning Calvino gave to the word. Understanding this means coming to grips with the essence of cinema.

What is your relationship with Calabria, your own land?

I found out I was deeply rooted in my own land right when I moved from it to study and pursue my dreams. My visual has a lot to do with Calabria. When the time came to pick a location for “A ballad in five stanzas”, I didn’t have any doubts. The mountains of Pollino, the old historic centre of Saracena (my town of origin), the monochrome expanse of the surrounding hills are like pictures that can never fade away, pictures that live on in the inward thoughts of those who have seen them.

Do you believe that art and cinema could help  our region to redeem itself and overcome its eternal difficulties?

Art in general, in all its manifestations, is one of the oldest and most effective sources of redemption. However, it is not sufficient by itself. It is necessary to invest and believe in it. I have noticed there still are a lot of Calabrian directors who insist on shooting their films in their own region, and I really look up to them, but first of all they must be aided by the Institutions and the Regional Film Commission with stronger conviction. If Calabria’s politicians – and its citizens together with them – don’t start to believe in the wonders they have at their disposal, then Carlo Levi’s Christ will remain in Eboli for ever.

Do you think of yourself as a “brain at large” or as someone who, after all, is simply taking advantage of the opportunities offered by living “away from home”?

Neither one nor the other. I have “fled” from Calabria to run after a dream. The same dream I would have been happy to pursue in my own land, avoiding this drastic decision, if only it had been possible. I am now in Rome, the capital city of cinema, at a moment when trying to say anything different from the same old story is quite a daunting task. The only alternative would be to flee even further. They say “the great beauty” is here in Italy. Why don’t we start to really believe it for a change?