L'Alternativa, 25 Festival de Cine Independiente de Barcelona
LE CASE CHE ERAVAMO
(The Houses We Were)
SHORTS 2 (85')
TUES 13, 21.00 H & THUR 15, 17.30 H @ AUDITORI CCCB
A journey through archive material to tell the story of the impossible transformations of Rome’s suburbs between 1948 and 2018. It weaves multiple voices, from official newsreels to militant cinema, into a political discourse on Italy's past and present.
You can find out more about Arianna's work on her website ariannalodeserto.com.
Hi Arianna thanks for talking to TNC. Your short film Le case che eravamo / The House We Were will be screened at L'Alternativa Fest this November, what does it mean for you to be at the festival?
I was thrilled to be selected at L’Alternativa. I’ve heard great things about it, and the past selections were always very refined (A Fábrica de Nada, Leviathan, Une jeunesse allemande… regarding feature films). This year they will also celebrate the 25th edition by showing 25 short movies of the past editions, which is also “una celebración del corto como formato imprescindible y versátil para los autores, el festival y el público”.
Also, I have to say that the festival team welcomed me already so well, and I haven’t been there yet!
But most of all, since my short is about the lack and disappearing of social housing… it’s very important to me to screen it in the city of Barcelona, where these topics are a major theme of discussion, and where the struggles for a home were (and are) equally intense.
Tell me a little bit about Le case che eravamo / The House We Were, how did this film come about?
For a long time I have dreamt of a photographic project to depict the history of XX century Roman architecture through the visual story of public housing, that hides here some architectural jewels. Then, thanks to the first phase of the UnArchive-Premio Zavattini Contest, I had the chance to discover and study the audiovisual fund of The Audiovisual Archive of the Democratic and Labour Movement (AAMOD), a Roman Foundation established in 1979 that also made available a consistent part of their collections on YouTube…
I spent some precious time in the Archives, scrutinizing Betacam and analogue materials, falling in love with the images of the Roman fight from the sixties to now… I thought they had a very cinematographic and powerful impact, and that they could synthesise the genesis of a struggle that is becoming more and more urgent nowadays when gentrification is overwhelming and a regular flat became a luxury item.
Since this endless fight is therefore long to be accomplished, the short movie displays a choral demonstration using both the ancient and the present archival images, which means not only found footage but also silent reportages, propaganda films, anonymous movies, simple dailies, unfinished films, documentaries, films de parole and even three experimental arthouse movies.
What was it about Rome's suburbs that interested you so much as a filmmaker?
Ah! Unfortunately, Rome is a never-ending cinematographic topos (civitas cinematografia) for both it's central and glorious “sweet life” and its "miserable suburbs"… In the last ten year, a sort of new cinematographic gender came out, that use the Rome’s suburbs as a dark location and geographical excuse to portray hopeless fiction characters: natural born young criminals (always male) and hyper naïve teenagers (always female). Far far away from these reactionary artistic operations, Rome’s suburbs are not just “locations” for sad destinies and bad intentions: they were, and they can always be again, the maze of proud neighborhoods where private suffering (for decent affordable and permanent housing) became collective awareness and attempts of reappropriation of the city, where the mere individual need of owning a property (inhabiting) become an emancipatory struggle for decent affordable and permanent housing for all and for a better city in general (right to the city), and finally where, if we can say that the fight has been very avant-gardists (especially in the ’60 and the ’70).
In the perpetual kingdom of uncontrolled building speculation (Rome), the struggle for home was a point of attack on the whole system (for better working condition, for welfare and education, for healthy neighborhoods and for the right to healthcare, questioning both internal and foreign policy) not just the attempt to fulfill the inevitable and inextinguishable individual need of a home.
When you started going through the archives did you discover anything that really surprised you about the changes/evolution of the suburbs?
What (somehow) surprised me was that, especially in the roaring ’70, the 'convergence of struggles' was not just a slogan but a fact (as you can see in some militant collective documentaries from Videobase, by instance, shot in Magliana, Primavalle, Ostia, etc…). By others (like the touching and forgot masterpiece Lunario d’Inverno) I learnt that even in the difficult years of the "reflux" (the early ’80), in a very popular district like San Basilio (of which even today we always try to speak badly), the low-income inhabitants were not at all victims but proud (proud of NOT being part of the dominant culture, because “the bourgeois culture should not even be considered "culture", but subjugation”, they said).
When you're working on a film like his is it hard to balance all your creative roles?
No, it was just hard not having a budget or a production and distribution help… Nevertheless, I was very very lucky to have friends that helped me with mixing, grading, soundtrack (Enrico Tinelli, Riccardo Cocozza and Magali Marc). I also have to deeply thank the directors and DoP that allowed me to use some pieces of their amazing works (Ugo Adilardi, Nino Russo, Annalisa Gonnella, Paolo Palermo, Valerio Muscella, Margherita Pisano and Gaetano Crivaro) and the ones who are helping me in subtitling (Scott Stuart, Michela Russo and Marine De La Loge).
Unfortunately, we had to collaborate at a distance (it has been the first experiment of Magali Marc’s “étalo’mobile”, a wonderful project of nomadic colour grading support for independent films).
Besides that, multitasking is a long-time (bad) habit of mine.
What were the biggest challenges you faced making Le case che eravamo / The House We Were?
One of the challenges was persisting in using a “disjunctive editing”, creating an audio-visual collage that, in the beginning, was perceived as “indigestible” and somehow confusing. For me, the biggest challenge was to respect and return the complexity of the building speculation and the peculiarity of all the demonstrations and gestures of struggle by using only fragments (of sometimes super short, sometimes very long and intense documentaries). I didn’t always succeed in tracking down sufficient information about every “tunnelling days” and occupations… and sometimes the urbanistic essays that I started to read compulsively, conflicted with the filmic summaries I could use.
The “archival journey” can be a pure and simple storytelling tool, or an instrument to investigate the past in a different way, with the intent to show not a story but a multilayered hive of different times and different stories, narrated not by a single voice over but many, not by a single protagonist but by the mixed up generations of children, old people and young, women and construction workers all still waiting for a home.
The biggest challenge in this editing-writing attempt was accepting to sacrifice some materials and some chapters of this intricate and long story, since, for a number of reasons, it had to be a short movie. But when I figured out what to give up, I finally came to a (temporary) end.
"...filmmaking could drive you in unexpected paths, and for me, it has been an experience of pure emotions..."
Have you always been interested in filmmaking?
Not really. I didn’t grow up as a cinephile. I started with photography, and also with theatre, independent radio and philosophy.
For many years, I had been obsessed with the practice of editing, with no opportunity to study it. Now I feel that directing and editing is a rich and exciting road (even if the hardest one) because Filmmaking is a big challenge of writing. I am attracted by filmmaking as the most complex and complete form of writing. Like theatre maybe…
What inspires your work?
In this case, the beauty of the suburban roman streets and the complexity of the archives.
Their voices, their sounds, their historical and geographical and “familiar accents”.
How much has your style and approach to your films changed since you started out?
I am definitely still learning. I am not sure to have a style… Le case che eravamo, which is a film entirely constructed by editing, was my testing ground for learning, and it is still a work in progress since I am continuing in audio-editing and collecting journals and archiving materials about the struggles and the history of Roman urbanism.
Do you have any advice or tips for any fellow filmmaker?
I do not even define myself as a filmmaker, and not only because it is not a paid employment (having always carried out self-productions). In cinema, on the other hand, a production is required for everything: for pre-production scholarships, for post-production funding, for distribution, for shooting and for the production itself. Doing it without all this had led to very long time to make a very short film, in a journey often solitary, risky and expensive... and I do not know if I wish it to those who have no ready supporters neither...
But filmmaking could drive you in unexpected paths, and for me, it has been an experience of pure emotions, in a good and in a bad way.
And finally, what do you hope people will take away from Le case che eravamo / The House We Were?
I am always very surprised that they take something away, whatever it is. And yet it happens.
Taking home awareness of the possibilities of fight hidden in our history would be so much already. For example, once a spectator told me that she had begun to think of housing as a service, and she had never thought about it.
Anyway, wherever I have screened the movie thanks to independent festivals (in Minnesota, in Sardinia, in the Balkans, in Austria, in Portugal, in Southern Italy) the public has always surprised me with a generous welcome, immediate empathy and very careful observations.