CINÉFONDATION | 2019
Antonio Messana: "...it took a long time for me to stop lying to myself and believe that this form of expression was the one which best suited my ambitions."
ROSSO: LA VERA STORIA FALSA DEL PESCATORE CLEMENTE
(ROSSO: A TRUE LIE ABOUT A FISHERMAN) France 28’
Clemente is an old Sicilian fisherman who goes on working in spite of his late age. His life is disrupted the day he finds a young refugee's dead body stuck in the fishnets.
Hi Antonio, it's great to talk to you again, how's everything going?
Hey! Nice to talk to you, likewise. Everything is good, I am travelling in the Middle East for some cinema festivals and some hiking.
What does it mean to be at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival with Rosso: La Vera storia falsa del pescatore Clemente?
Well, it's unexpected for sure. The phone call arrived kind of out the blue. I'm proud and joyful, for me but for my team as well and most of all for the actors. I'm happy to represent my country and my island, Sicily, in such a great venue. My parents were almost in tears when they ear that.
Rosso: La Vera storia falsa del pescatore Clemente is part of the Cinéfondation, will you get any nerves ahead of the festival or are you just taking it all in your stride?
I'm not nervous at all. I take this as a chance and I always try to deal with things in the most honest, sincere and open-minded way. What really stresses me out is all the bling bling tuxedo stuff. I'm not used to that but I guess it's a part of it.
Can you tell me a little bit about Rosso: La Vera storia falsa del pescatore Clemente, what was the inspiration behind this film?
Two sources of inspiration are at the origin of Rosso. One is of course Clemente. I met him while working on the trial exam to enter La Fémis Film School in Paris. I was tracing the origins of the traditional tuna fishing method of my region and while talking to him, I felt that soon or later I had to film him. Four years later, we were on the set together for my final project. The circle was closed I guess.
The second inspiration comes from a joke, made by Nobraino, an Italian music band, on their Twitter page (or Facebook, I can't recall now). It was some years ago after a massive amount of boats wrecking in the Mediterranean. They shared the news and they were saying that our sea was particularly full of fishes that year. Suddenly the image of fishermen founding bodies in the nets came to my mind. I discovered after my researches that this is sadly common among fishing boats in Sicily. Anyway, I found that joke as a brilliant example of black humour. Italian press started a "politically correct" crusade against Nobraino (I believe that even facebook removed the post or something like that).
"...because it's the funniest: every time we work on music, I don't feel like we're working."
What was the most challenging part of bringing Rosso: La Vera storia falsa del pescatore Clemente to life?
I hate rhetorical statements, I can't stand that type of doing-good consensual way of thinking. So I tried likewise to make a political film that was not rhetorical. I didn't want to make a pro-UNICEF video, for sure. The bet was to make a hybrid movie, between a fiction and a documentary.
And with that objective in mind, the writing of the script was a real challenge. Rosso has almost no professional actors in it. We had to find dialogues and a dramaturgy which can be flexible and fit with the natural behaviour of common fishermen and with a real refugee coming from Nigeria. Only the character of Rosario, the son of Clemente, is played by Fabrizio Ferracane, an outstanding Sicilian actor. Putting a professional actor at the side of Clemente was a strong solution that helped a lot. Fabrizio was able to react perfectly with Clemente's freestyle acting.
For what concerns Harry, the refugee, I found him while doing castings in some refugee helping centres around my hometown. We had a really good connection at our first meeting and he was the only one who wasn't trying to perform like an actor. He was really shy but I felt a natural sensibility in him and a sincere desire to be part of the project. Working with actors coming from "the street" was pure joy. The alchemy between Clemente and Harry was magical, they overwhelmed my expectations and they were constantly giving new inputs to the plot. That was heart-warming. That's why at the end, the screenplay was just a piece of paper with some indications on it. We had a plan before the shooting and at the end, we were just freestyling. But it's always like that and I like it a lot.
You also composed the music for Rosso: La Vera storia falsa del pescatore Clemente is this something you enjoy doing?
I'm not the only one composing the music. We are actually a creative collective called Oni Vox. I work with Clément Ghirardi, the sound engineer of the movie, and Pierre Fau, the music mixer. Both are way better musicians than me for sure. Anyways, we are friends before everything. That allows thinking about music since the birth of the idea. During the entire production time of the short movie, really since the first words were on the paper, we started listening to references, searching for sounds, playing a lot together with those feelings in mind.
That is a wonderful way of working. First of all, because it's the funniest: every time we work on music, I don't feel like we're working. We really enjoy playing together and creating together on the same level. Second, I always feel like in this way I have strong control over the feelings I want to deliver with the movie. Even during the shooting with Clément at my side, we were constantly discussing new ideas. That's how we came out with the rap/football scene. In the original script, the scene was meant to happen with the two actors sitting in the football field and Harry talking about his dream to come in Italy to become a football player (fun fact: even if we thought about it with my co-writer Mauricio Carrasco, Harry actually dreamt that. Magic coincidence).
With Clément we discovered that Harry likes to rap in his free time. So I asked him to write his story in rhymes. We made him rapping during the scene on some fixed bpm and then we worked with our outstanding jazz drummer Maxime Mary which was playing and following his flow in post-production. That was incredible to witness.
What was the most valuable lesson you've taken from making this film?
The most valuable lesson and the advice I can give is: be honest to your dreams, even if they are completely absurd and they seem impossible or ridiculous. Fight for them to become real. This is the only way you can be honest about your work and be proud of it at the end.
Have you always had a passion for filmmaking?
I was studying philosophy before cinema, and it took a long time for me to stop lying to myself and believe that this form of expression was the one which best suited my ambitions.
And finally, what do you hope people will take away from Rosso: La Vera storia falsa del pescatore Clemente?
People will take whatever they are ready to take. I made a film to give birth to questions and not to give answers. As Frederick Wiseman said once during a masterclass I had the chance to attend: "If I wanted to send a message, I would have sent a telegram".