If you listen carefully you can hear 31-year-old director Marta Savina’s Italian accent, but her time in Los Angeles has made her just a little bit of a California girl and it suits her.
But she hasn’t “gone Hollywood”. Savina’s used the last few years to study, work hard, and make a movie. The studying and working part was extra special, because she got to do it working on a project with Frances Ford Coppola.
“He’s like watching a little child who loves film”, says Marta. “For him, everything begins with the shot. Every single shot is there for a purpose.”
“Of course I knew that”, she says, “but watching Francis Ford Coppola do it was amazing. I got to watch him get frustrated, try things, and look for things that work.”
“It demystified things; the director doesn’t always know immediately what’s right.”
As for the movie making part, that would be her extraordinary 15 minute short film, Viola, Franca, the based-on-a-true-story about the circumstances around the first rape trial in Italy. In 1965 a 17-year-old Sicilian girl was raped and expected to marry her rapist. In those days, that was the deal; you could save yourself and your family the shame of pre-marital sex by agreeing to what they called a “reparation marriage”.
But Franca wasn’t having any of it. With the support of her family, she pressed charges against her attacker and he went to jail.
For Marta, though, it’s not as simple as “good guy wins/bad buy loses”, and none of the outcome is black and white. “It was important to me that the character wasn’t just some evil guy”, she explained. “He was just how some men were. It made me think about the banality of evil.”
“The scary thing about it was that everything was so normal. That’s just how you treated women, and there are so many other problems that stem from that.”
For instance, “At that time as women we were expected to be squeamish (about sex), and he never really thought he was raping her.” So in what Marta calls “a really twisted dynamic”, “no” meant “yes”, that is until 17-year-old Franca Viola stood up and said “no”, meant “no”, and took the guy to court to prove it.
“This may be controversial but in a way he’s almost like the victim,” muses Marta. “Franca is definitely NOT a victim. She falls victim to violence but she bounces back. He, on the other hand, was a product of his society.”
Marta doesn’t shy away from calling Viola, Franca a film about female identity, and talks about the need to “assert it in a way that is inclusive of all identities.”
I really do think that this is true feminism”, she says. “The enemy of feminism is discriminating against each other and pitting ourselves against each other. That’s really the death of feminism.”
“By telling stories that are diverse”, says Marta, “and portraying different kinds of femininity we open up a conversation about our system.”
“It’s like Franca, who says, ‘This is who I am and I’m not sorry.”
Mind if I steal that for myself, Marta? I think it is my new mantra.