Interview with the Italian film-maker Sara Ceracchi

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Our conversation with Sara Ceracchi, author of the short movie chosen for the opening event of the third edition of Indiecinema Film Festival

The honor of opening the Short Film Competition of the Third Edition of the Indiecinema Film Festival, which will host just this year 25 works from 12 different countries, goes to a short movie with a lot of humour, originality and freshness inside: Come fossi una bambola. We will watch it on the big screen just today, we mean on Thursday 4 January, at the Circolo ARCI Arcobaleno in Rome (Via Pullino 1, in Garbatella), during an event that will see him alongside one of the most popular documentaries of the previous edition, La Signora Matilde by Marco Melluso and Diego Schiavo . Almost a bridge between two editions of our autarchic, independent cinematographic happening. But to better introduce this first short movie in competition, we thought we’d ask the author directly, Sara Ceracchi… here’s what came out of our lovely chat.

The short movie’s origin

Sara, we particularly loved this second work, Come fossi una bambola, but we know that in 2020 you had already shot L’ultimo invito. What can you tell us about this other film? And how did your love for cinema begin, more generally?

L’ultimo invito was, essentially, the resumption of a path interrupted for several years, and which in the long pause had essentially concentrated on writing: it is a 37-minute, dramatic medium-length film which tells the story of a young woman in a situation of gender violence. The most important thing about L’ultimo invito – whose title was suggested to me by Gianluca Filippi, my operator, as the only inspiration for writing a story of violence against women – was actually the formation of the team. It is for the same team that I then wrote new things, including Come fossi una bambola, started professional projects, made use of knowledge, channels, plots and everything that turns out to be magically useful when you want to produce a independent film.
My passion for cinema comes from afar, and is the result of several aptitudes, for example drawing (I particularly like cartooning), writing, love for different forms of theatre: in general love to tell stories through images. Then there was the training that led me to eat “bread and commedia all’italiana” every day, to read mostly works by great humorous authors, and all this, mixed, above all defined my inclination for comedy.
By comedy, however, I mean the real one, the bittersweet, humorous one, not the current one.

Coming again to Come fossi una bambola, this highly original idea was born with a little help of Andrea Guglielmino, a popular journalist and writer who also made a small cameo here. How did this collaboration of yours develop, both in terms of writing and subsequently on set?

In reality, the idea for Come fossi una bambola is mine, but at the time it was born I had just met Andrea Guglielmino to ask him what to study to learn how to write scripts for comics (which I never did again). He, on the contrary, wanted to try something new with cinema, and so I talked to him about this new story on which he could collaborate. So we started to rework some elements, above all that of moving the protagonist from a man to a woman (because there was already a film where more or less what happens to Susanna happened, but to a man), and keeping the twist for the ending of the film. So, based on these reworkings I rewrote the subject, or rather the story, and then the screenplay (many times!).
As for the set, I had proposed a cameo to Andrea that seemed simple enough for someone who had no experience, and above all suitable for his figure, his expressiveness, with the result that the role of the clerk was particularly successful for him. The problem with Guglielmino was keeping him a little quiet on social media, where he is very communicative, and every time he talked about the film he risked revealing the ending.

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Upon the actors and about such humour in the story

In addition to Guglielmino’s cameo and, naturally, your so cool, brilliant presence on stage, the other performers are greatly appreciated, all adhering to their respective characters and endowed with a certain verve. Starting if desired by Riccardo Frezza. So how did the casting of your short film happen? And how is it writing, directing and starring in a short film at the same time?

We have shared this same passion with Riccardo since 2020, even though he too is definitely a multifaceted artist. From L’ultimo invito onwards he has been in all my works, and now he is part of the cast of one of my theater shows under construction entitled Il nero non sfina. Let’s say that by now I like to build characters for him, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have the talent needed to transform into anything, even without saying a word. Then there is Samuel Di Clemente who has also been a collaborator for several years, although much younger than me: he is an actor, dubber, playwright, with a rare humorous sensitivity, so much so that he is always the first interpreter of my theatrical monologues (he captures the spirit instantly): even for his character I never had any doubts about the interpreter, so much so that I directly called him “Samuel”. David Lecca was found by Riccardo during a poetry slam, while I was looking for a man to play Pamela: I couldn’t start looking for an ugly woman, so I had decided that Pamela would play a man, and David was truly excellent at literally becoming a woman, with the spirit, the gestures, that evident but kind and altruistic self-love that characterizes her character.
Writing a film is not a problem, especially if you then have to direct it yourself, but directing and acting in this case often put me in difficulty, because I didn’t have an assistant director and many situations for myself (the use of the green screen on all) were completely new. If I had had a crew complete with all the necessary figures, we would have had a much more refined film, and I regret this a lot: it is no coincidence that for the next works I am trying to increase the budget significantly and be able to afford a well-structured working group .

In Come fossi una bambola we captured a very recognizable “local” imprint, combined, however, with a humor that seems to look outside the constraints of our cinema, giving surreal and paradoxical situations perhaps more common in other cinemas. What can you tell us about it?

There is a book by John Vorhaus entitled “Scrivere il comico“, which defines well what “substantial” comedy is, the kind that really makes you laugh, perhaps out loud, one step away from cardiac arrest, but while you feel that point of contradiction that makes you feel ashamed for the fact that you’re laughing: comedy, he says, is “truth and pain”. When this is present, when the characters and therefore the story told have these two characteristics, we have films that can also explode at the box office. The problem with current comedy cinema is that before aiming for the box office, it doesn’t go through this consideration: in Italy comedies are continually churned out, but they are always the same stuff (as well as the same directors, the same actors and the same stories, which by now I think they laugh at each other and compliment each other). This is because we choose to work at zero risk, therefore proposing situations, characters and stories that go beyond the truth, proposing ideal worlds and stereotyped narratives where there is really nothing to laugh about, where there is no painful truth. This is to always be “politically correct”, therefore access funds, not have distribution problems etc.: which are excellent reasons, because cinema costs money and therefore if it is not done as a hobby it must make money, but in the long run all this is becoming counterproductive, yes it is killing a branch of our production, jeopardizing the national and international market. As far as I’m concerned, I try to save myself from all this (I don’t know if at the price of never working at the top), never feeling obliged to conform to common feeling; not even the opposite, in the sense that I don’t necessarily feel obliged to disagree so as not to conform, and this is always the starting point for everything I write. Thus, even moving away from the large centers (geographical and cinematographic, in the broad sense), as well as being a practical choice, in Come fossi una bambola in particular it helped me to “limit” situations and characters, which precisely in order not to want to be universal at all costs, they may end up becoming so.

The soundtrack’s big importance

Photography and music also seem to contribute to this more international appeal. The soundtrack, personally, also reminded me a little of the atmospheres of Woody Allen‘s movies… is there anything you would like to point out here too?

The bad news is that there is no photography, the film is so poor that a d.o.p. I couldn’t afford it. The only color correction intervention that “can be seen” intentionally is the one on Susanna’s flashback, but it is obviously carried out afterwards with the editing program.
The music is a separate chapter, which fills me with pride, because it is the only perfect thing in the whole film (in fact I didn’t compose it!): the composers are Andrea Pace and Michele Di Filippo, two great names of the guitar classical, even if it is a musical sector that is a little out of the way compared to the mainstream one. Andrea and Michele are also two very dear friends of mine, who immediately responded enthusiastically to the proposal to compose the soundtrack, even solving considerable copyright problems for me: for example, I was unable to use the song “La bambola” by Patty Pravo, which they replaced with the song that plays while Susanna shaves her beard; they composed the musical carpet of the fake fiction that I had to prepare so as not to be able to put the Amadeus broadcast in the background while Susanna dines alone, again due to copyright problems. They did a crazy job, the songs are all wonderful, and they can also be listened to on any music streaming platform. Furthermore, we performed the dubbing (because I didn’t have a sound engineer) in Andrea Pace’s Assolo Produzioni Musicali studios, completely free of charge.

Finally, what do you think of the spaces reserved for independent cinema and short movies in our country? And apart from circulating this new work of yours, are you already following any other projects?

With the democratization of audiovisual production tools, if we think about it, independent works have increased incalculably, consequently there are thousands and thousands of short film festivals all over the world that try to exploit this phenomenon and even keep up with it a little, but the difficulty is to emerge, when there are so many materials and showcases: by emerging I mean advancing professionally once you have managed to get your own independent work going. It is true that if a production is valid it certainly manages to make some headway and be seen: the real scourge are the recommendations, which I discovered to be a column that is not at all marginal in this field of cinema as in that at the top, but also Here, luckily, if you have nothing to say, you can also see if they recommend you.
I have many new projects. At the moment I’m actually working on two theater shows, but at the same time I’m trying to find a production for a new short film, ready to shoot but without funds. Then there are, in line, a feature film, an animated series, the production of three pilot episodes of a web series (spin off, among other things, of Come fossi una bambola), and the idea for a short historical plot that has been buzzing around in my head for a handful of days.
In short, at the moment I still have something to say.

Stefano Coccia

Stefano Coccia

Stefano Coccia

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