Alessandro Di Gregorio
33' Venice International Film Critics' Week
On a ferry traveling towards Lampedusa, we find a teenager on his first day of work as a gravedigger and a boy on his first mission as a diver.
They do not know each other, but when they will set foot on the island, both their lives will change forever: one has to retrieve the bodies of drowned shipwreck victims, the other one has to bury them. A sort of dance between life and death, innocence and its loss.
Hey Alessandro, thanks for talking to TNC, how is everything going?
Thank you, I’m fine and it’s a pleasure talking with you.
What does it mean for you to be screening Frontiera at the 2018 SIC@SIC?
It’s really important for me and for everyone who worked on Frontiera screening the film at SIC@SIC and after several years of hard work to realize Frontiera we couldn’t ask for more. Venice International Film Festival is one of the most important film festivals in Europe and the SIC@SIC is a prestigious showcase. I think it’s the right place to see beautiful and unexpected films, and to face with directors from all part of the world.
Your film is being shown in competition, does that add any extra pressure on you?
No pressure, but a lot of emotion.
Tell me a little bit about Frontiera, how did the film come about?
It took 4 years to make it happen. We could not find a producer and therefore the money. Me and Ezio, the screenwriter, made locations scout, met the Coast Guard’s divers, witness people in Lampedusa and read articles, saw pictures and videos about the tragedy. In the end, we met Simone Gattoni and his Kavac Film who really liked the project. So we started looking for the actors but it was not so easy because it’s a short film and it’s without dialogues. But I was lucky because of Francesca Borromeo, the casting director: we found two young and very talented actors, Bruno Orlando and Fiorenzo Madonna. In the end, we found the money but, first of all, the right people. People who believed in our project and especially in me.
What was the inspiration behind the screenplay?
My friend and writer Ezio Abbate was inspired by an article of Repubblica, an italian newspaper, that wrote about the massacre of migrants on 3th October 2013 off the coast of Lampedusa from two points of view: a Coast Guard’s diver and a mortician. The first had to recover bodies underwater and the latter had to close them in a coffin. From this, the idea to tell that story with a short film was born.
What has been the most challenging scene for you to film?
When the morticians go out by car from the ferry boat. The actor could not drive the hearse and we had one chance to shoot that scene because we were blocking the ferry boat and all the quay. We were afraid to go into the water or crashing or something happening we would have lost that scene for. But, fortunately, the first and only shot was good.
Have you always had a passion for filmmaking?
I always had a passion for filmmaking since I was a child. I inherited my father’s passion: he always had a video camera at home, since the super 8. We have a lot of photography and films about our family and in every special occasion, friends asked my father to shoot movies. My father also used to edit his movies and to insert titles with small letters in stop motion animation.
What was the first film you saw that inspired you to become a director?
As a child, I was fascinated by movies. Since the opening credits, I was so excited because I knew I was entering another world. I remember every movie that I could see at the cinema like Spielberg’s E.T. So I wanted to tell my stories with images and so on, with my father’s VHS camera, I started to shoot videos. But only when I discovered Stanley Kubrick’s movies I understood what it means to be a director. And I think it was Shining that taught me what it really meant to tell a story through images.
How much as your style and approach to your films changed since your debut short?
In a certain way this is my real short debut.
"...believe in your ideas and fight to the end to achieve them. Without compromise."
How would you describe Frontiera in three words?
A journey through hell.
Do you have any advice for any fellow directors?
Make your movies, don’t wait that someone will come to you and ask: “Hey, do you wanna make a film?” only because you are a director. And believe in your ideas and fight to the end to achieve them. Without compromise.
And finally, what do you hope people will take away from this film?
The awareness that what’s happened and is happening in the Mediterranean sea is a tragedy and that there is no migrant emergency. The only real emergency is to save those people who every day try to reach our shores.