Filmmaker Interview

POV: What is your motivation as filmmakers? Why did you choose documentary in this case?

Lazzaretti, Vendemmiati and Petitto: Some stories ought to be told. The media often neglect them, or just witness them with a journalistic approach that can't sense their inner humanity. Documentary films and filmmakers pay more attention to the personal perspective of stories and characters. We prefer documentaries closer to feature films rather than TV journalism pieces. We prefer those focusing on emotions rather than information.

POV: What generally inspires your interest?

Lazzaretti, Vendemmiati and Petitto: There isn't a precise rule. Marginality, pain, discomfort are subjects of great interest for being often censored by the media. They're often treated in a way that betrays their nature. Those are subjects that really matter, that really deserve to be treated. They often become personal and professional challenges. Sometimes they lead to an improvement of the reality you're dealing with, as it happened with our former film Jung: War in the Land of the Mujaheddin. In those cases, your choice makes even more sense.

POV: What inspired you to make Afghanistan Year 1380?

Lazzaretti, Vendemmiati and Petitto: It is a sort of second act of a former film started in February 1999, and completed in Summer 2000: Jung: War in the Land of the Mujaheddin. The film tells the story of the construction of a surgical center for civilian war victims by the NGO Emergency. Started as a report of the situation in Afghanistan, we realized very soon that the hospital construction had to be the thin red line to be followed, though until September 1999 nobody really believed it could happen except us and the Emergency crew.

Through that story, we tried to take a close look to the real conditions in which the Afghan people were living. A people devastated by twenty years of war, and completely neglected by the international community. The two projects, the film and the hospital joined very soon. After the first three months of shoots in February to April 1999, we edited a first version of Jung, broadcast in Italy on June 17, 1999. After that broadcast, Italian viewers donated about 200,000 US$ for the hospital. It was built in the town of Anabah in December 1999. Then we filmed the realization of the hospital on the background of the raising conflict. In April 1999 Petitto joined the directors with a computer based editing station which allowed us to edit a rough-cut while still shooting. After September 11th we had no choice but going back shooting. The decision was taken in a few hours: Lazzaretti and Vendemmiati left along with the Emergency crew, while producer Petitto was frantically collecting funds for the new production both by distributing to European broadcasters raw MPEG video feeds coming from the crew in Afghanistan over a satellite phone, and by dealing with co-producers, such as POV, that might be part of the project.

POV: What were your goals in making Afghanistan Year 1380? And what would you like to see happen with it?

Lazzaretti, Vendemmiati and Petitto: The main goal was that of narrating the war from the victims' point of view. The media too often deal with wars without focusing on their real consequences. They focus on the political-military aspects, neglecting social and humanitarian issues. The price imposed by any war is too high, and always paid by the same: innocent and unprotected civilians. That's unacceptable. We hope our films can contribute to giving this statement a louder voice. When you find yourself in front of such incredible violation of any basic human right, you realize that the only way for having other people in the West feel a bit of that tragedy is putting it on film. And it seemed necessary to us to do it in a very gripping way, using the rules and the suggestions of the feature film-making. That helped a lot in getting a bigger audience.

POV: What are you currently working on or what would you like to be working on?

Lazzaretti, Vendemmiati and Petitto: We're developing some feature film projects, along with documentaries:

Alberto Vendemmiati is working on Sex of the Soul. It is a portrait of Nicole, a 42-year-old man who decided to change sex within the next two years. Nicole is living in Venice and works in a Carnival costume shop. She's facing the change in the hostile environment of Catholic and conservative Italy, and trying to fight her mother's decision not to see her anymore if the change happens. The film is following her during the next two years, inquiring about the inner reasons for her decision and the way she will carry on her project. Alberto is also collecting information for a feature film dealing with the new wave of irregular immigrants, those deprived of any rights in Europe and particularly in Italy.

Fabrizio Lazzaretti as producer and director and Giuseppe Petitto as producer and editor have just completed A Danger to Society. It is a documentary about the criminal mental hospital of Aversa near Naples. In fact, this is the last Italian concentration camp, where prisoners-patients are treated as 'almost human' beings. Fabrizio Lazzaretti is also working on A Fight for Justice, a portrait of actual Colombia through the trial for the murder of a young Italian poet.

Giuseppe Petitto has just completed Sanpeet - Poison. It is a portrait of a six-year-old boxer living in North-Eastern Thailand. Sanpeet fights on improvised rings in the forests between Thailand and Laos, surrounded by people betting on the fights. The lower the weight of a boxer, the higher the stakes; this makes Sanpeet, with his sixteen kilos, an interesting opponent. Giuseppe Petitto is also working on Rooms Are Never Finished. Kashmiri people's grief, struggle, and expectations in these days of escalating violence seen through the magnifying lens of a great Kashmiri-American poet. He's also working on Shelter Europe, a survey in Southern Italy, the open doors of Europe for the thousands of immigrants that reach the shores of Calabria, Sicily and Puglia every summer and autumn.