As Black Souls makes its way across the country, I sat down with Luigi, his co-producer Olivia Musini, and cinematographer Vladan Radovic, in New York to promote the film that they so passionately believe in.
And when did they know that it was a film worthy of believing in? When did they realize, “This is going to be big.”?
“After the first rough cut”, said Olivia. “We knew after the first 7 weeks”. That’s why we hurried to get it ready for last year’s Venice Film Festival, wrapping it up the very end of June.
Wait, what? I was confused. “But the film festival is at the end of August!” Perhaps I had misunderstood. “Is this the way it usually happens?”
All three faces gave me looks that said, “We know! Crazy, right?”, and then Olivia explained that, knowing they had something very special, they had to get it ready for Venice.
But of course they had complete faith in the project from the beginning, because of their faith in the director, Francesco Munzi.
Cinematographer Vladan Radovic, originally from Sarajevo and from the same film school as Munzi, told me about making Munzi’s vision a reality. “He wanted one part of the actors faces always in a shadow, like a Caravaggio painting.”
“He wanted it to look like a Van Gogh painting. (It does!) and that requires totally different filters and light than other films that Vlad has worked on, like Laura Bispuri’s Vergine Giurata (Sworn Virgin) and Sydney Sibilia’s Smetto Quando Voglio (I Can Quit When I Want).
Praising Munzi, Luigi told me, “There is a great maturity in choosing the story”, and Olivia talked of the importance to them all of the universality, that the film could be seen and understood in every part of the world.
The film’s gorgeous look isn’t the only magical thing about Black Souls, and I was fascinated to hear about the charm added by the many non-professional actors in the film, people who lived in Africo, the film’s location. “The first few days were difficult”, says Vlad,”but after that they got it.”
“They really enriched the film”, added Olivia. “They were very passionate about it.”
“They took their work very seriously, learning how to act from the professional actors, but also teaching the professional actors about the reality of the location.”
Making a film in a location like Africo, deep in Calabrian ‘Ndrangheta country (organized crime similar to the Mafia), provided its own special challenges. “When we first arrived and went into a bar for a coffee, even though the bar was full of people drinking coffee, we were told the coffee machine was broken. We asked for water, and were told they were out, even though we could see it behind the bar.”
But as they got to know the townspeople things changed quickly. “By the time we were finished shooting, no one in the bars would let us pay for anything. They were at first suspicious, but we became friends.”
Were there any bumps in the road, any downright disasters? Any times when they thought, “Oh no,no,no, this can’t happen!”?
As Olivia shook her head “no”, Luigi blurted out, “Many! Every day!”
“Problems would come up but we resolved them quickly”, said Vlad.
And thanks to the non-professional actors, there was plenty of laughter on the set. “They were laughing all the time”, said Vlad. They just weren’t used to being on the set and all the equipment.
All three were very proud of the film’s reality, and emphasize that the way it is on the screen, that’s the way it really is for the people of Calabria.
Check your local theatre’s website for showtimes and more information.
4/10 : NEW YORK, NY : Angelika Film Center : City Cinemas 123
4/17 : SAN FRANCISCO, CA : Opera Plaza
4/17 : BERKELEY, CA : Landmark Shattuck Berkeley
4/17 : SAN RAFAEL, CA : Christopher B Smith San Rafael Film Center
4/17 : PHILADELPHIA, PA : Landmark Ritz at the Bourse
4/17 : WASHINGTON DC : Angelika Film Center Pop Up
4/17 : FAIRFAX, VA : Angelika Film Center Mosiac
4/24 : LOS ANGELES, CA : Landmark’s Nuart Theatre
4/24 : AUSTIN, TX : Theatre TBD
4/24 : SEATTLE, WA : Sundance Cinemas Seattle
4/24 : SACRAMENTO, CA : Reading Tower Theatre Sacramento
5/1 : PORTLAND, OR : Cinema 21
5/1 : DALLAS, TX : Angelika Film Center
5/1 : PLANO, TX. : Angelika Film Center
5/8 : CHICAGO, IL : Facets Cinémathèque
5/8 : SAN DIEGO, CA : Reading San Diego Town Center 14 : Gas Lamp 15
5/8 : MIAMI , FL : Mos’ Art Theatre
5/8 : HONOLULU, HI : Kahala 8
5/22 : BOSTON, MA : Landmark’s Kendall Square Cinema
5/22 : GENEVA, NY : Smith Opera House
5/22 : LINCOLN, NE : Mary Riepma Ross Media Arts Center
Other cities are pending confirmation. Check back for updates.