Italy Grand Tour: the Piano Focale independent film school in Palermo

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This article is published in issue 23 of Vanity Fair on newsstands until June 8, 2021

My parents live in Palermo, a place sacred to me, where I lived for forty years and then I left. Now I am here, at their home, my home, for two months: I shoot the Netflix series of Ficarra and Picone. “What, are you going to the hotel?” My mother asked me. “No,” I replied. It’s nice to be with my parents, to find them again, especially now, at the time of the pandemic.
Rosi and Franco got scared, but Covid, let’s face it, is only the end of the world imagined.

To them I say: think if a volcano exploded or a meteorite arrives, just a second is enough, and you no longer exist. What is best? In many, the apocalypse, we have not yet really experienced it. But this time has served us to train a fundamental muscle: the imagination. The same one that has always accompanied me in my work as a director and cinematographer. A job I never dreamed of doing, it was a destiny.
I am the son of a craftsman. My father used to fix cameras. I was therefore born “inside” the mechanism of the film technique. I am not a child of art but of profession: growing up, with my father I started filming families, even funerals – I took pictures of the living and the dead, I have an anthropological mine to fish from. And then I got it
in love with cinematography, with moving images, there were film clubs, reviews were seen, there was discussion, between good, bad, European and American films. Even if mine had been the land of large production companies, in the 70s I was a prisoner of the province, there was none of this anymore, but the first private TVs were on the way. Dad has it like that
bought a net, but I went to military. I was an assault rifle, but discovering that I am a photographer, they made me work for the army press office: I filmed military ceremonies. Thanks to that work I met important people, from Claudio Gubitosi, director of the Giffoni Festival, to François Truffaut, and then Franco Maresco, with whom a partnership began that led us from Cinico Tv to Totò who lived twice. Those strange experiments in black and white were the desire to project my imagination, which I had nourished since childhood, when I went to see the puppet theater: the cunto is a character who goes on a stage and tells a story of battles, but without images, you have to imagine everything. From Orlando and Rinaldo I arrived in Cagliostro. My mother watched Cinico Tv and told me: I don’t understand your things. That was fine, because cinema doesn’t have to explain anything, it’s a work
of art without the whys and how’s. Yet I, who are against training, think instead that at this moment the school is fundamental. We should set up “cinema hour”, where we can relearn how to discuss. With the Piano Focale independent film school, here in Palermo, I worked with the kids on an episode of my film on the cinematographic imaginary: I don’t feel like a teacher but one of them, and I try to convey my former impossibilities, all the obstacles I had to overcome. I would like to make them understand – even if they are much smarter than me – that this work is artisanal, and the strongest card must be played, therefore knowing how to imagine, not caring about mathematical calculation.

(photo Mattia Galluccio)

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