Gianfranco Rosi is the first documentary filmmaker to win the Venice Film Festival’s Golden Lion award and the first Italian to win it since 1998. His Sacro GRA tells of the giant ring of highway, called the GRA (Grande Raccordo Anulare) and the (colorful) people who live by it.
“I’ll never make a non-documentary film”, he said. “I’d be completely bored.”
READ MY REVIEW OF SACRO GRA When I first saw Gianfranco Rosi’s ”Sacro GRA’ at the Venice Film Festival, it was with Rosi and all of the “stars” of his Golden Lion award-winning documentary in the audience, so when I sat down with him for this interview, I couldn’t wait to ask him about the affection he’d shown for them.
“You seemed happier for them than for yourself.”
“I developed a strong relationship with them first, and then I found what I was going to say about them. When I began making the film I didn’t really know what it was going to be about.”
So even though I still think it’s all thanks and to Rosi and the loving care he took in the telling of other people’s lives, Rosi showed me what he saw in them, “the generosity of sharing their lives with the world”.
“Each of them was a potential for a whole film”, Rosi told me.
And what does Rosi say when asked what it was that they had to do with each other? If there was a common thread? “Of course there is”. he said, “I found seven people who don’t complain about life”. “They are all very open, and all use a very poetic language.”
It’s been said, and Rosi confirms it, that the Venice Jury, headed by Bernardo Bertolucci, voted for Sacro GRA unanimously, and that no other nominated film was seriously considered. Rosi told me that Bertolucci had said that he loved it because “it was a film with no judgement”, a trait Rosi feels has become too rare in documentaries, particularly American ones, like Michael Moore’s.
“I don’t like this kind of filmmaking”, he said. “Everybody wants to be a small Michael Moore. I like to capture positive elements of the world.
His next project will be about the Italian island of Lampadusa, and who and what he finds there we’ll have to wait and see. “The place comes first, and then the people.”
And though some may say that Rosi has a talent for finding interesting people, I’d say he his talent is finding the interesting thing in all people. It seems unfair to call the people in Rosi’s Sacro GRA “ordinary”, but in truth, they are. We’re all ordinary and fascinating, each in our own way, and Gianfranco Rosi has made his living pointing that out to us.
His ordinary/fascinating citizens of the GRA had fun in Venice’s spotlight: “There’s a dress code for films shown after 8:00 PM and I didn’t want them to worry about clothes so I asked if ours could be screened at 5:00″, said Rosi. But when they called me on the day before the festival’s end and told me not to go home, I knew something was up and it created a problem.”
Since nobody, even Rosi, had brought their black tie attire to Venice, an exception was made, and they all wore their everyday clothes as the documentary, made for only 400,00,00 euro, won the big prize at Venice.