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19th ÉCU Film Festival, Paris

"We did not shoot the film following a script; the process of making the film is at the centre of the documentary itself."

Festival Screening:


April 18, 2024  

The fortuitous discovery of box of photographs taken in Italian East Africa in the 1930s by a distant relative, prompts more general considerations about the colonial gaze and its legacy. In a narrative that interweaves personal reflections and collective history - shared by both colonisers and colonised - this film invites us to look what is left "beyond the frame" from colonial photography.


Hi Simone, thank you for taking the time to talk with The New Current. Are you looking forward to screening Beyond the Frame at ÉCU this year?


Absolutely, we're thrilled to be part of ÉCU this year. It's always exciting to share our work with diverse audiences, and the opportunity to screen Beyond the Frame at ÉCU is truly an honour.


You’ve already had am amazing reaction to Beyond the Frame picking up an award at the 2023 Virginia Dares Cinematic Arts Award for Decolonizing/Re-indigenizing Media, what has it meant to you to get this type of recognition for your film?


Winning the Virginia Dares Cinematic Arts Award was a humbling experience. It reinforced the importance of telling stories that challenge dominant narratives about colonialism. This recognition reaffirms our commitment to creating impactful cinema that sparks meaningful conversations.


Will there be any nerves ahead of your screening in Paris?


We're filled with anticipation and excitement to share Beyond the Frame with the audience in Paris. It's an opportunity we cherish and embrace wholeheartedly.


How important are festivals like ÉCU in continuing to champion and supporting independent films and filmmakers?


Festivals like ÉCU play a crucial role in the independent film landscape. They provide a platform for filmmakers to showcase their work, connect with industry professionals, and engage with diverse audiences. Additionally, festivals foster a sense of community and support, encouraging artistic innovation and collaboration.


Can you tell me a little bit about how Beyond the Frame came about, what inspired you to make this powerful film?


Beyond the Frame was inspired by a desire to explore Italy's colonial past and its lingering impact on contemporary society. Beyond the Frame is a sort of auto-ethnographic essay film. I wasn’t looking for a new story to tell when I found a box of colonial photographs. This discovery haunted me, I started talking to people from my village whose relatives went to invade Eastern Africa in the 1930s. I read books about the history of my city, Brescia, tracing back the origins of streets and places whose names celebrate colonialism. Sharing ideas with Matteo Sandrini on a regular basis was key in giving a visual shape to my reflections. And these thoughts were also shaped by the dialogue with Ubah Cristina Ali Farah. The legacy of colonialism and the presence of racism in contemporary Italy are themes that have been often overlooked or misrepresented in mainstream media and public discourse in Italy.


Did you have any apprehensions about making a film that would take a deep look at the Italy’s colonial past? 


Absolutely, tackling such a sensitive and complex subject matter came with its own set of apprehensions. However, we recognised the importance of confronting uncomfortable truths and challenging historical amnesia. 


During the research for Beyond the Frame what was the most surprising thing you discovered about Italy’s colonial legacy?


One of the most surprising aspects of our research was uncovering the extent to which Italy's colonial legacy has been overlooked and downplayed in mainstream discourse. We were struck by the depth of historical erasure and the urgent need to confront and reckon with this neglected chapter of Italian history. For instance, we did not know about the Libyans who were deported to Brescia to work in local factories at the beginning of the 20th century. The mobility of foreign workers was encouraged by Northern Italian companies before mass immigration to Italy began in the late 1970s.


Do you think there are more lessons societies across the UK, France, Spain, Portugal, Brazil etc can learn from taking time to reexamine their colonial past?  


Absolutely, the process of reckoning with colonial legacies globally is essential for fostering a more just and inclusive society. This is probably why the film was selected at film festival in several different countries including Croatia, Japan, South Korea, Hungary, Portugal, Germany, and Sweden. Since we believe it is important to confront uncomfortable truths and acknowledge historical injustices within and beyond national borders, we decided to continue our collaboration with the distributor OpenDDB, ensuring the film can be accessed easily and free of charge worldwide.


What where the biggest challenges you faced bringing this film to life?


One of the biggest challenges we faced was navigating the complexities of the subject matter while maintaining sensitivity and respect towards all stakeholders involved. Additionally, securing funding and resources for an independent project of this nature posed logistical and creative challenges. However, our passion and dedication to the story propelled us forward, despite the obstacles.


When working on a project like this how much flexibility do you allow yourself?


Flexibility is essential when working on a project of this nature. We did not shoot the film following a script; the process of making the film is at the centre of the documentary itself. Because of this, we had to change the treatment several times. The physical pictures were very small, and once we digitised them, we could see the details. Moreover, the idea of presenting two different perspectives on colonial photography was at the center of the film from the beginning. However, it was a fortunate opportunity to collaborate with Ubah Cristina while she was in Italy, as she lives in Belgium.


You co-directed Beyond the Frame with Matteo Sandrini, how important was the creative collaboration between you both?


I have known Matteo since we were kids. We are both from Borgosatollo, and we even had a band together in our teenage years. One of his photographs is on the cover of my first book. It was great to have the opportunity to continue our dialogue and collaboration, and to discover together the colonial history of our village and our city. 


Looking back is there anything you would have done differently on this film?


While hindsight always offers new insights, we're incredibly proud of the journey we embarked on with Beyond the Frame. Every decision, challenge, and triumph contributed to the rich tapestry of the film's narrative. However, like any creative endeavour, there are always lessons to be learned and areas for growth. Ultimately, we approach each project as an opportunity for learning and evolution.


What would you say has been the most valuable lesson you’ve taken from making Beyond the Frame?


Never think that the place you call home is truly familiar; there are so many things you may discover. Family archives can include surprising stories, which need to be rediscovered and retold. They contain crucial memories that help us comprehend our personal narratives and their relevance in the present day.


Where did your passion for filmmaking and history come from?


Our passion for filmmaking and history stems from a deep-seated desire to uncover untold stories. I decided to make documentaries when I came across stories that needed to be told and shared. Writer Kaha Mohamed Aden inspired me. Her oral tale “The Fourth Road” presents the history of Somalia, yet it is so relevant to understand contemporary Italy. I could have never done this documentary without co-directors and producers Graziano Chiscuzzu and Ermanno Guida.


Was there any one film that you saw growing up that sparked the filmmaker inside you?

For both of us, there wasn't necessarily one specific film that sparked our passion for filmmaking. Chris Marker’s films, in particular La jetée (1962) and Les statues meurent aussi (1953) inspired the making of Beyond the Frame. Indeed, these films both talk about the persistence of the past in the present using a voice-over. I was also inspired by Eléonore Weber’s reflections about the elevated vision in Il n’y aura plus de nuit (2020). I wish I watched Loredana Bianconi’s Oltremare (2017) and Sabrina Varani’s Pagine Nascoste (2017) before writing and shooting Beyond the Frame. I really admired these two films, their thoughtful use of archival sources and their insightful investigation of the Italian colonial legacy – I would have loved to create a dialogue with them.


Is there any advice you would offer a fellow filmmaker?


Our advice to fellow filmmakers is to stay true to your vision, persevere in the face of adversity, and never underestimate the power of collaboration. Filmmaking is a collaborative art form, and surrounding yourself with talented collaborators who share your passion and vision is essential. Additionally, don't be afraid to take risks, challenge conventions, and tell stories that matter to you on a personal and profound level.


And finally, what is the message you would like your audiences to take from Beyond the Frame?


Above all, we hope that Beyond the Frame inspires audiences to question dominant narratives, confront historical injustices, and engage in meaningful dialogue about the legacies of colonialism. By shedding light on forgotten histories, we aspire to foster empathy, understanding, and ultimately, collective action towards a more just and equitable future.

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