Lampedusa: a sea of possibilities. Three questions to Philip Cartelli and Mariangela Ciccarello

Still From Lampedusa 2015 (8)Copyright Philip Cartelli e Mariangela Ciccarello

Lampedusa, competing at the 68th Locarno Film Festival, is a short film that reveals a different side of itself every time, a work poised between dream and reality in which anyone can recognize himself. Philip Cartelli and Mariangela Ciccarello, the two young directors, answered our questions.
MARIA VILLA: Lampedusa is your first project done in collaboration, how did the idea of making this short-film come to you?
MARIANGELA CICCARELLO: The movie is inspired by a story that I wrote for the catalogue-magazine Désordres, published in January 2013 (Editions B42 / Fotokino). More than just a tale this is a collection of texts: a main novel and a series of fictitious documents that trace the story of the island Ferdinandea. Appeared after a volcanic explosion in 1831 in front of the coast of Sicily, the island raised the interest of the greatest powers of the time. The Kingdom of Two Sicilies, France and England claimed their supremacy on it, but the international contest did not last long, the island disappeared, submerged by the sea, just a few months after its appearance. The idea for the film came from the desire to reach a dimension that you could not find just with words, using the images to merge the different levels of the story in a more poetic and more abstract way.
PHILIP CARTELLI: Mariangela proposed that we make this film together, building on her publication and research. My past work has rooted more towards non-fiction, though it does always look to the world of experimental film and video. From the beginning, we had a very open-ended approach to the story, meaning that we didn’t intend to simply illustrate the events. We shot and recorded sound (an integral part of the final work is Ernst Karel’s sound mix) in different locations around the Mediterranean but never on the island of Lampedusa, an intentional omission. We wanted to make a film that would exist between different geographic spaces, as well as straddling the ephemeral boundary between cinematic film and single-channel video.

M.V. The short-film was filmed part in super 8 and part in HD, two techniques that – in a certain sense –  refer one to the past and one to the present. What are the reasons behind this choice?
M.C. In the text there was the presence of fictitious documents such as letters and newspaper articles inspired by true events and referred to characters who, although really existed, have been reworked by the imagination. As soon as  the idea of  the film came out, the Super 8 seemed to us to be the best way to recreate this ambiguity, this tension. And I would say that the goal has been reached. Usually  the viewer, after watching the video, ask us where we have found the archival material. The idea was to create a story that was balancing itself between true and false, between documentary and fiction, between reality and dream. The Super 8 is black and white and refers to the past, but its undefined and evanescent images also suggest a dreamlike dimension, in  conflict with the clearness and the “objectivity” of the high-definition color. Through the film we wanted to open a dialogue between these different dimensions. However in the last part of the short-film  the story derails and this dialogue becomes more complex. So in the final scenes, the HD and Super 8 don’t follow the function that had been assigned to them anymore: the protagonist – always  filmed in high definition – appears in super 8 and the images take on a timeless value. The two levels  originally  linked, are no longer distinguishable from each other. This dialogue, this kind of visual and conceptual “give and take” that we followed becomes a single speech. Everything is mixed, the voices coming from different places  blend each other in a single sound made up by everyon’s past and present dreams, hopes and  disillusions.

M.V. One of the most investigated topics in the short-film seemed to be the inquiry around the concept of utopia. Nowadays this theme has reach new developments; inquiring about its role in history we have come to consider it as a critical tool that acts like a force and agent of reality. What is your position regarding this idea?
P.C. I’m less interested in the theoretical genealogy or actuality of the concept of utopia than in its real-world incarnations. For example, there is a tendency to characterize the masses of people traveling across the Mediterranean from the south and the east to the north and the west as ‘migrants’ or ‘refugees.’ Certainly, the current wave of Syrians fleeing their war-torn country qualify as the latter, but war and violence are not the only reasons why people leave their homelands. In Lampedusa, there is no assumption on the part of any of the narrative voices that the newly discovered island will be a promised land. Instead, an equilibrium is established among those who want to possess a new land just for the sake of possessing it, those with a kind of positivist scientific interest in discovering an unknown territory, and those with no less of a commitment to discover what they can about our world, which operates mostly at the level of desire.
M.C. Certainly in the film, the concept of utopia is intended more as a positive and contingent force  instead of an elusive illusion. The character challenges the sea and its fears to go into the unknown, motivated by the desire for discovery. What counts for him is the possibility of something different, a new island as a new life. The fact that the island disappears, or that the boat shipwrecked, is an epilogue that can be rewritten. The tragedy is a possibility that can be avoided, the character – that we imagine sucked into the sea – during the finale contemplates an European city from afar. I hope that the events of recent days signal a genuine change in direction, a moment in which European governments will resolve to change this type of ending.

Bios.

Philip Cartelli (b.1984, USA) is a filmmaker, critic, researcher, and doctoral candidate in Harvard University’s Sensory Ethnography Lab. His films and video works have been shown in international festivals, conferences, and installation settings.

After studies in Philosophy and History of Art, Mariangela Ciccarello (b.1983, Italy) pursued a career as a curator in galleries and museums between Europe and South Africa. She has made a series of video project over the past few years, most recently during a fellowship at the UnionDocs Center for Documentary Art in Brooklyn.

Still From Lampedusa 2015 (2)Copyright Philip Cartelli e Mariangela Ciccarello

Still From Lampedusa 2015, Copyright Philip Cartelli e Mariangela Ciccarello

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Still From Lampedusa 2015, Copyright Philip Cartelli e Mariangela Ciccarello

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Still From Lampedusa 2015, Copyright Philip Cartelli e Mariangela Ciccarello

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Still From Lampedusa 2015, Copyright Philip Cartelli e Mariangela Ciccarello

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Still From Lampedusa 2015, Copyright Philip Cartelli e Mariangela Ciccarello

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Still From Lampedusa 2015, Copyright Philip Cartelli e Mariangela Ciccarello

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Still From Lampedusa 2015, Copyright Philip Cartelli e Mariangela Ciccarello

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Still From Lampedusa 2015, Copyright Philip Cartelli e Mariangela Ciccarello

 

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