Cinema e Ambiente Avezzano wants to investigate what is the point of view of directors and filmmakers who describe the environment and its safeguard. To do this, we decided to interview the winners of the previous editions and ask them some questions.
Today we had the pleasure of digitally meeting Antonio Spanò, winner of the Best Short in the 2019 edition, and an author committed to telling the less fortunate.
Antonio is a director who mainly deals with documentaries, but his work covers almost all areas of filmmaking. We got to know him better two years ago on the occasion of our festival, where he presented his work Animal Park and made us come into contact with a reality far from what for us is the protection of the environment. The short is set in Virunga National Park, the oldest and most important African park. Inside, the priority is the protection of nature and, through the stories of those directly involved, we come into contact with a distorted reality: the park rangers, to preserve the environment, burn villages, violate the inhabitants through rape and murder.
Hi Antonio. We had the pleasure of meeting you in the 2019 edition of Cinema e Ambiente Avezzano, in which your short “Animal Park” won the award for best short.
Exploring your projects it immediately comes to mind that documentary directors like you have a great responsibility: by choosing to tell a reality so far away from us, you have the opportunity to convey and get your message to thousands of viewers.
Yes, it is a very big responsibility. Thanks to the democratization of the film medium, the quantity of products is constantly expanding, alas, however, at the same time, there is a reduction in festivals due to the lack of funds. Unfortunately it is difficult to find space in festivals nowadays, and having a showcase towards the spectators, which is the goal we have as directors, is becoming a constant battle, which on the one hand is also a stimulus to focus more on the quality and how we are telling a story. We live it in the trenches: you always have to find a new point of view and new approaches to stories. Fortunately, realities such as Cinema and Ambiente Avezzano represent a lifeline, I speak in particular of cinema truth and documentary cinema. They are realities that certainly help us reach the public.
How did you experience this lockdown period?
We are still in the middle of this period so I can’t give you a definitive answer. In December 2020 my latest film Anuka should have been released, but we decided to wait for April 2021 because personally I am a supporter of direct contact and the physical festival. For independent filmmakers like me, festivals are our cinemas. I decided not to register for online festivals, if I lose the opportunity to have contact with people, the festival itself loses meaning.
Animal Park is a documentary that portrays a difficult reality full of contradictions, as can be seen from the relationship between the park guards and the local population. The documentary tells a distorted way of safeguarding the environment, is there a possibility that things will change?
When I returned to those lands to shoot the new documentary, I realized that it has probably changed for the worse. Unfortunately, any intervention to modernize those lands is not clearly understood how much it benefits the populations who live in the park. This form of ecological colonialism, with the white man who brings the concept of ecology and environmental protection to people who have always lived immersed in it, I do not think is the right way. The violence perpetuated by park rangers is on the agenda, complaints are continually arriving. The park rangers are a real paramilitary army that is defending the park from these militias that cross it, it is difficult to take a side.
Through your documentaries we come into contact with the lifestyle of these people. After a year of pandemic, which made us open our eyes and realize how industrialized and brutally globalized our society is, can we, in your opinion, get closer to a lifestyle similar to the one we see in your films?
Surely the first step is to return to have human relationship at the center of our lives. Take care of relationships with other people and at the same time take care of the nature that surrounds us with conscious choices as regards the food we eat, differentiate waste and avoid any form of waste. Of course, let’s not forget that private pollution represents a very low percentage compared to what large industries do. Less virtual appearance and more real substance, living consciously in the reality in which each of us finds himself, whether we are Bologna, Avezzano or New York.
As a director, how important do you think cinema is for issues such as the environment and how much can it make a difference?
Cinema is a vital aspect for me. The documentary has a very important function; we authors are responsible because the medium we use is a very powerful medium, we have a very important role. Documentary cinema still has a very high depth, if treated well it is much more incisive and much more informative. It touches people’s hearts and heads, it should have a much more central role and we as authors must be very careful to be responsible for the medium.
So filmmaking is a real social commitment.
Absolutely. And I’m not the one saying it. I wouldn’t be doing cinema if I didn’t feel this great social function of my work.
Where does your interest in Congo come from?
It was actually spontaneous and accidental. My first job was “Our Sky, Our Land”, about the Kurdish genocide perpetrated by Saddam Hussein filmed in 2009. After that, I was looking for a new story and I met a Congolese priest, we became friends and he began to tell me about those distant lands . Honestly, after having been there the first time, in 2011, I thought I would never go back, I had met people and told stories, however, for one reason or another, I always went back. I can’t break away from that land, despite the fact that in the meantime we have traveled the world.
Your latest work, Anuka, will soon be presented at various festivals. Will we be able to see it at any festival near us?
I still can’t say anything but there will certainly be an opportunity. I’ll let you know.