An Italian artist looks at his native country through an animated film made with thousands of hand colored oil painted photographs.
Interview with Writer/Director/Producer Sandro Del Rosario
Congratulations! Why did you make your film?
Thank you! I’m honored to have the opportunity to introduce my film “The Italian Gaze” (Lo Sguardo Italiano) to the We Are Moving Stories community. I was born and educated in Italy, a country that is admired and visited by millions of tourists each year for its natural beauty as well as for its artistic and cultural heritage. But pervasive corruption, political instability, and economical paralysis leave many Italians without any job prospect, forcing them to emigrate to seek a better future. I am one of those.
As an artist and human being, I had to find a way to express these contrasting feelings about my native country. I began to work on the first few seconds of this film in 2005, during a fellowship at the Bogliasco Foundation, in Italy. “The Italian Gaze” portrays the intoxicating beauty of Italy that many visitors still get looking at its landscapes, at thousands of years of history, art, and architecture, as well as it denounces the disillusionment, inner conflict, and hopes of an emigrant.
Imagine I’m a member of the audience. Why should I watch this film?
Because you probably have never seen anything like it. Experimental in the technique, it unfolds like a movie, carrying both a personal and universal message that should resonate with the audience. Created as a visual poem that bridges filmmaking language and visual arts, “The Italian Gaze” uses thousands of animated hand-colored still images. The careful blending of subjective colors, movements and sound-track, will transport you in a parallel universe, in a state of quasi-reality or idealized fantasy, creating hopefully a unique moving experience.
How do personal and universal themes work in your film?
I believe they go hand-in-hand. There is something authentically personal both in the way I crafted this work and in the experience of being Italian. But I think that the underlying message of my film speaks to any human being who has been forced to leave behind the place she/he was born, family, culture, and a familiar landscape. As an Italian living in the United States, the land and identity are central to my work; places are protagonists and complex characters. There is tension between past and present, and between detachment and belonging - an experience so many immigrants have, whether returning to their native land or adjusting to a new home.
How have the script and film evolved over the course of their development?
The production of this film spanned over eleven years. At the beginning there was no script, just me working out of my head, driven by instinct, coloring still images printed out from videos shot previously. Somehow, this worked out just fine for the first three years. But, as funding the film became challenging, the production suffered a long hiatus. Coming back to it years later, I realized I had only isolated fragments that couldn’t tell the story the way I had originally envisioned.
I wrote a script in the form of a poem, in Italian. It originally served as the backbone of a story-board I created with the scenes that were completed or needed to be made. Although I usually do not work with conventional narrative and with story-boards, it became necessary to have a story-board; it helped develop those colorful fragments into the short film we see today. The poem was translated later into English, when I decided to incorporate it in the actual film as a voice over.
What type of feedback have you received so far?
For the most part I have received wonderful, sincere, and deeply moving feedback from the audience both in Italy and here in the United States. Just after my screening at the Culver City Film Festival somebody wrote me: “To make a film with no "plot", not using the conventional forms, and yet telling a story that is so very small and yet at the same time, so timeless, eternal, and big is quite an accomplishment. It was a dream, a memory, a nostalgia, a mourning, and an ending with eternal hope.” I could not honestly hope for more!
Has the feedback surprised or challenged your point of view?
No, generally it hasn’t. On the contrary it has provided quite a visible support, especially considering that, after many years working on this project, I lost touch with my feelings. Now it’s like seeing this work through the eyes of my audience. And it’s amazing!
What are you looking to achieve by having your film more visible on www.wearemovingstories.com?
I welcome this great opportunity to introduce my film to a broader community other than the niche of experimental filmmakers or animators. The film has been shown in selected festivals as well as in a gallery solo show with the original oil pastels images, and I would love to have more exposure. I’m not afraid of trying new venues, and I believe this platform has the power to connect different stories and story tellers.
Who do you need to come on board (producers, sales agents, buyers, distributors, film festival directors, journalists) to amplify this film’s message?
I would love to invite film festival directors as well as distributors, journalists or anybody who is brave enough to make room for a work that defies categories. I would like to include also gallery and museum curators in the group of welcomed supporters.
What type of impact and/or reception would you like this film to have?
Originally, I wanted to unveil Italy’s situation to a world that seemed deaf to the dramatic downfall of my country, blindfolded by the touristic appeal that the country still offers to its visitors. But also, I was drawn to continue my creative research as experimental animator artist, and wanted to create something completely new, never seen before, something that could live well both on a big screen of a dark movie theater and on the walls of a fine art gallery space. At the end “The Italian Gaze” is not a political or documentary film about Italy. It’s a slow, lyrical and poetic work of its own kind, and it offers an immersive emotional experience to a receptive audience.
What’s a key question that will help spark a debate or begin a conversation about this film?
Where do you draw the line between fine arts work and experimental film?
Would you like to add anything else?
This project was entirely independently funded. It required seven and half years of full-time work and almost seven thousand oil pastels images, completed in my studio in Los Angeles, as well as during short term residencies in non-profit foundations both in the U.S. and in Italy. The work process started with the collection of short videos and/or photographs shot on location. After isolating a few seconds of the footage, I manipulated them, for example by drawing on photocopies of printed video stills. For this film I decided to use oil pastels for their brilliance, for their color saturation, and for their ability to stick on the copy paper. As I created the work, I translated my emotions through the lens of memory into visual and acoustic metaphors, following the lines of a poem I wrote.
The original images have been shot in high definition with a DSLR and composited digitally. The film exists in two versions: in Italian and in English.
What other projects are the key creatives developing or working on now?
My work is inspired by places, memories of places, and memories of my emotions in those places. I have in development a new project focused on my experience of Los Angeles, a fascinating metropolis that I call “home” since many years. Artistically, I’m looking to push my creative research further with the use of visual arts into experimental animation film.
Interview: December 2018
We Are Moving Stories embraces new voices in drama, documentary, animation, TV, web series, music video, women's films, LGBTQIA+, POC, First Nations, scifi, supernatural, horror, world cinema. If you have just made a film - we'd love to hear from you. Or if you know a filmmaker - can you recommend us? More info: Carmela
The Italian Gaze (Lo Sguardo Italiano)
An Italian artist looks at his native country through an animated film made with thousands hand colored oil painted photographs.
Director: Sandro Del Rosario
Producer: Sandro Del Rosario
Writer: Sandro Del Rosario
About the writer, director and producer:
SANDRO DEL ROSARIO's films and installations are inspired by places, feelings, and memories of feelings, distilled through a labor-intensive animation process that transforms still images, photos, paintings, and collages in moving, imaginary spaces.
Key cast: Sandro Carotti (Voice over) Michele Di Toro (Music) Jerry Summers (Sound Mix)
Looking for: buyers, distributors, film festival directors, journalists
Facebook: Lo Sguardo Italiano
Funders: Sandro Del Rosario, Giannalberto Bendazzi, Paolo Polesello, and a crowd of 163 Kickstarter backers.
Where can I watch it next and in the coming month? It will be touring with the Black Maria Film Festival in 2019 as it won the Director's Choice Award; dates and locations will be announced soon.