PerSo Cinema Italiano
By Federica Di Giacomo
Italy, Czech Republic, 2021, 100′
Sunday, Oct. 02, Méliès Cinema, Via della Viola 1, 4:45 p.m.
Original title: Il Palazzo
Director: Federica Di Giacomo
Screenplay: Andrea Zvetkov Sanguigni
Cinematography: Clarissa Cappellani
Editing: Edoardo Morabito
Original music: Giulia Tagliavia
Live sound: Danilo Romancino, Tiziana Poli
Produced by: Giulia Achilli, Marco Alessi
Co-produced by: Jam Macola
Production: DUGONG FILMS with RAI CINEMA in co-production with MIMESIS FILM
In the heart of Rome, overlooking St. Peter’s, stands a Palace. The owner, like a Renaissance patron, over the years offers asylum to an eclectic community of friends who turn every corner of it into a permanent film set. Mauro, the most charismatic of the group, directs the residents in a visionary film, gradually isolating himself from the outside world until he no longer leaves the Palazzo. At the moment of his untimely death, the group of friends reunites, called to receive as a legacy the thousands of filmed hours of the unfinished masterpiece in which they all took part. A bequest that shakes the group’s slumbering spirit and brings each person face to face with their youthful dreams, in a tragicomic coming-of-age novel out of time.
PerSo Cinema Italiano
I started to hang out at the Palace more than ten years ago, as soon as I arrived in Rome.
I was called by Mauro, a visionary director and charismatic leader of a community of friends, who was looking for a video operator for the most difficult scenes of his famous kolossal that, like everything else at the Palace, would have remained unfinished. I was intrigued by the system created by Rocco, the Palace owner, a place from which the anxiety of social inclusion, the rhetoric of ennobling work, had been banished in favor of an eccentric cultural production made by the many friends who occupied, free of charge, the apartments in the building. Like prisoners, captured by the fatal combination of beauty and comfort, they hardly ever left the Palace.
Soon I went on my own way but that place remained in my mind as a non-conformist and vital space of expression, to be kept at a safe distance and at the same time to be guarded like a small secret garden. Impossible to live in but still a candidate to become the subject of a story, up to the point that I began to film it several times. The opportunity to make this film came when Rocco and Mauro, who had not left the Palace in a long time, decided to start working again at their film, still unfinished after twenty years, thanks to the sale of an apartment. This produced an atmosphere of renewed euphoria at the Palace that converged with Mauro’s willingness to be filmed despite his precarious health. As he always used to say, illness had taken away all residue of vanity in such a way that he no longer had any fear of being represented. My film became urgent also because the contradictions of the system governing the Palace were becoming unsustainable and visually ready to explode, in Mauro’s marked and overflowing body and in Rocco’s living room filled with musical instruments. A surreal showdown with the external reality, concerning the passing of time and the confrontation with one’s own dreams, not set in a degraded social contest but in a world apart in the center of Rome and of wealth. After a few months, however, my father suddenly fell ill and I moved north to take care of him. Shortly before, Mauro had given me an archive made up of thousands of hours of film footage shot inside the Palace over a period of twenty years with all his friends. Meanwhile, his conditions rapidly deteriorated and soon after, he died. When I came back to Rome, having in turn gone through a great loss, I was invited to the Palace’s terrace for the funeral wake wanted by Mauro for his friends. I felt that I should have probably filmed that moment to pay tribute to him. It was only during that shooting that I realized why I had to wait so long to make this film. My point of view had been enriched, although due to very painful events, by a completely different understanding of the community of people who gathered on that terrace.In all their speeches about Mauro’s life and his disappearance, I felt that poignant search for a meaning that human beings can only find in events like this. I felt that each one of them, like me, was more or less secretly comparing themselves to their deceased friend, trying to understand how much they had in common with him and what could distance them from such a ferocious destiny.
This way, the mourning becomes the narrative trigger that leads the protagonists to reunite twenty years later, shaking their existences, and the time to elaborate the loss becomes the unit of measure where a flow of emotional states, rather than events, develops. The film lives on that particular energy that is released after the contact with death, which is not only the loss of a friend but also represents the end of youth and playfulness, a time to wonder about the meaning and the ability to build something that remains, in a society that tends to constantly remove death. A sort of tragicomic choral symphony on the Unfinished that was the essence of the Palace, but also a generational tale of friendship, the relationship between one’s inner time and outer time and the difficulty to change. Often we create a character for ourselves, more or less consciously, from which it’s hard to break free. The whole group of friends has already acted for Mauro and in a certain sense continues to act for me, this time without a script, in a dialogue between reality and mise-en-scene that can be read as an interesting metaphor of the relationship between our image and the one that the past gives us back, through the oral and visual memory of our friends.
In this sense the concept of character becomes pivotal to explore other linguistic possibilities in documentary cinema, through the use of the immense visual collective archive made by images of everyday life and especially of filmic self-representation, as the punctuation that moves the film and the dynamics of the group. Through a private story I also wanted to tell of a marginality not immediately visible but no less painful, that of one of the first generations who has invested in education and culture to find themselves in an endemic precariousness, a boycott at a social and economic level which often translates into self-boycott. A discomfort that remains under the skin, perhaps even a defense of one’s uniqueness, declined with self-irony as opposed to comfort.
Federica Di Giacomo
Born in La Spezia, Federica Di Giacomo graduated in anthropology in Florence, where she worked for a few years in dance-theater. She trained in Dresden with the Russian group Derevo and founded the collective Tutti theater. She attends the European Master of Documentary Creation in Barcelona, where she collaborates as assistant screenwriter in Monos como Becky by Joaquim Jordá and in En construccion by Louis José Guerin. In 2000 she shot the documentary Los colores de la trance, distributed by BTV. Since 2001 he has been making documentaries for Raisat Cinema and other television stations. She writes and directs the short films Close Up produced by the Limonaia Theater in Florence and Suicidio perfetto produced by Tiburtina Studios. She is producer, author and director of Il lato grottesco della vita (2006), awarded at the Torino Film Festival (Cipputi prize, Avanti prize), at the Etno Film Fest (best documentary), selected by numerous festivals including Premio Libero Bizzarri, San Paulo Film Festival, Uruguay Film Festival, broadcast by RAI3 and Cult. Together with Antonella Gaeta she is author and director of Housing (2009) produced by B&B film and Rai Cinema, selected at Locarno Film Festival, Torino Film Festival, CHP Rotterdam, HotDocs Toronto, Marfici Argentina, Thessaloniki film festival, DoxBox Syria, broadcast by RAI1 and RAI5. She worked for Nanni Moretti’s Sacher directing a collective documentary film. She has taught documentary filmmaking at the IED in Milan and is teaching coordinator of the Master’s program “Aesthetics and Practices of Creation Documentary” at La Sapienza University in Rome. With Andrea Zvetkov Sanguigni she won the 2014 Solinas Documentary Award for Cinema for writing Liberaci dal male. In 2016 the film Liberami was presented at the 73rd Venice International Film Festival, winning the Orizzonti Award for Best Film.
Los colores de la trance (2000)
Close Up (2001)
Suicidio perfetto (2003)
Il lato grottesco della vita (2006)
Il Palazzo (2021)