Interview with Nicola Campiotti – Sara’ un Paese
“Very often getting to the real meaning of things is a journey. And it is true that what gives meaning to a journey, isn’t the destination but the journey itself, the road”.
Nicola Campiotti knows a lot about travels, having spent a whole year traveling around Italy filming for his first feature film, Sarà un Paese (It Will Be a Country), which attempts to explain Italy from the point of view of 10-year-old child Elia.
The film will be screened on Sunday, November 15 at Genesis Cinema, and the Director will be present for a debate moderated by Adele Tulli (listen to her interview on Italian Kingdom Radio).
Ahead of the screening we had a chat with Nicola for the readers of Italian Kingdom.
Where does the idea for Sarà un Paese come from?
The whole project was born in a specific context. I had just graduated in Philosophy and I didn’t have a job, but I had my camera with me since I was 18 and I’d always had this desire to tell stories. All my close friends, after college, decided to leave Italy and emigrate abroad (where most of them still live). And while all these people were leaving, in a very surprising way, life gave me two brothers, children of the second marriage of my father; mixed-race children, children of a changing country with whom I ended up spending a lot of time babysitting, taking long walks in the parks, playing games.
And that’s when you started asking yourself questions?
Yes. The film was born from the attempt to answer two questions: why were my friends so outraged and wanted to leave and then eventually left the country? And instead, how would you talk about this country and its alphabet and its language, to these children? The two things together – someone who is leaving and someone who has just arrived (and is so young) – gave me the idea for the documentary.
And so you began this journey. But where did you start?
I chose ten topics, ten themes that I think are the most representative of the idea of a civilized country. I call them the elementary things, the essentials, and are the simplest ones: trivially the air we breathe, pollution, the work we do, the rules that we share in order to coexist, the idea of a multiethnic, multicultural, multi-religious country, the love and preservation of our environment, the respect for rules, the fight against organised crime. In short, I collected all these issues, I began to identify people who, with their stories, could be witness [of these issues] and I contacted them.
Then you were on the road. In the film there are many encounters; what really hits you [watching the film] is the human aspect and the confidence with which the characters tell their stories.
Listening is essential. The first time I went to meet these people alone, to get them to know me; I ate with them, sometimes I slept at their homes, and at the beginning there were no cameras. I asked questions and listened to their answers, trying to strike a balance – in my opinion crucial – between knowing when it’s time to speak and ask [questions], and when to keep quiet.
In the first part of the documentary you focus on some strong issues, sometimes very harsh and painful, yet there’s a great strength and hope in the future.
Absolutely. First of all, these are people who have not surrendered to their pain but have transformed it, becoming somehow the witnesses to certain stories and issues. Moreover, during the part of the travel I’ve done alone, it was a bit as if I had taken the burden of their pain on me, picking the outbursts and anger of these people, shielded by the camera. Before I left those places, I told them: “If you give me permission, I will return with a 9-year-old boy, and those things that you just told me I would like you to try and explain them to him as well, in a way he could understand.”
And that’s what happened.
Yes. It has triggered a very mysterious, and in my opinion wonderful, process of transformation: speaking in a language directed to a child, they found a kinder, gentler and more careful way to tell some stories and to transform that pain and anger.
And here we see how my film that starts from the darkness then heads towards the light.
Lights and shadows. Holding together the two souls of our country, the ugliness and beauty, seems to be the way in which your work moves.
It is. Italy is full of problems and contradictions, but also treasures to be preserved and good people who dream and live to improve the country. In fact, the first part with all the issues is followed by the one dedicated to the virtuous communities and the positive examples. I think it was important to give account of both aspects, because often we focus only on the negative – saying that everything is wrong – or make these huge proclamations claiming that all is well.
To do this you also mixed different languages, in this way your documentary is a very particular.
I liked the idea of experimenting [with different languages]: some parts of Sarà un Paese are pure documentary, others are constructed more cinematically, they are more scripted – like some dreams and visions that appear in the film – and others are just theatrical. I loved the idea of trying this and I think that the attempt was successful.
The film is supported by UNICEF for the high value of its message and, since its release in Italy in 2014, it has never stopped being screened in schools and will do so again for all of 2016. Did you expect such a success?
It is certainly a great satisfaction. These screenings in schools are surprising not only for the enthusiasm shown by the students. Sometimes teachers tell me that the documentary gives them work material for a year, using it for teaching, and as a topic for debate in the classroom and with colleagues, picking certain topics rather than others, disassembling and rebuilding the film as they see fit. It makes me happy to see how this work enjoys the attention of those involved in education.
Do you think the school has a crucial role in the construction of a better, more civilized country?
Certainly. In addition to education, I believe in the value of experience. Over the years our schools have a little overlooked the importance of experience: you can talk to a child about multiculturalism all you want, but until you bring him to the home of an Arab or Muslim friend he will not understand. My teacher used to say: “No matter how much you study another culture, the important thing is how many friends you have, of that culture”. Here, the film is also an invitation to teachers to rediscover the idea of experience, because there are things – such as landscapes, silence, nature, a certain slowness, disconnecting from the virtual world – you can experience thanks to the teachers. Experiences that as a child I was lucky to have thanks to my teachers, and that somehow shaped me.
If you were to choose only one thing to say to a 10-year-old about Italy, what would you choose?
The most beautiful, the most representative thing that I would share with children are the verbs in the plural. Because inside the verbs in the plural there is everything: there is cinema, because you don’t do cinema by yourself, you do it with other people, there is the fact that each of us in life have relations (with the parents, husbands, wives, partners, children) and that the relations should be cultivated. It is much easier to work and do things on your own, it is more difficult to do them together, but as they say in Africa “Alone you go faster, together we go further”. For me the key to the film is the experience of the difference between the singular and the plural: if we all behaved considering that the result of our actions should work for others too and not only for ourselves, it would certainly be a better country.
That’s the message I would like people to take home at the end of the film.
And what about you? How would you explain Italy to a 10-year-old child? Take part in our survey by visiting our Facebook page or on Twitter via the hashtag #SaraUnPaeseInLondon.
And don’t forget to buy your tickets for the event! All proceeds of the sale will be donated to UNICEF UK.
What are you waiting for?
See you at the movies!