If you have recently questioned the true meaning of the famous expression il bel paese, you should definitely take 75 minutes to watch the documentary Italy: Love It or Leave It? As the title suggests, there is no grey area when it comes to the Boot: either you love this country, with all of its contradictions, or it’s time for you to leave and start a new life … in Berlin, Melbourne, Wellington or wherever.
At least that is what the two 30-something directors and leads of the film, Luca and Gustav, pondered. Like many Italian youth who are confronted with the possibility of moving to another country for a better life, Luca and Gustav decided to set off on a journey up and down the peninsula to weigh the good and bad of life in the bel paese.
Constantly oscillating between fiction and reality, the film has often been called a docu-film. Not everything is based on fact, but what counts is that it is minutely and objectively documented. On board a Fiat 500 (that changes colour throughout the movie), an icon of the Italian lifestyle and the economic boom of the late-1950s, Luca and Gustav explore Italy in the search of some valid reasons to stay. The movie is an accurate but delicate collection of the lights and shadows of modern day Italy, loved across the world by those who do not live here while often criticised by its natives.
So, did they love it or leave it? The viewer has no idea until the final minutes of the docu-film unfold in a room with a view. Whether it is a view of the Brandenburger Tor in Berlin or the Altare della Patria in Rome, we can’t say.
But we can tell you that Luca and Gustav will be in Tuscany in September, as presidents of the jury of this year’s Videominuto, the international festival of one-minute films held by the Pecci Contemporary Art Centre in Prato. To find upcoming screenings in Italy or elsewhere internationally, see the official website of the film or buy or rent the film on iTunes.
And we can share here a recent conversation with them.
When and why did you decide to set off on this journey?
Back in 2008 our first film, Suddenly, Last Winter, premiered at the Berlin Film Festival, where it was honoured with a Special Mention. From that moment, we went travelling around the world from festival to festival. Wherever we went, we met young Italians of our generation who had moved away from Italy to find opportunities they did not find back home. We also realized that the view foreigners had of Italy was rather outdated. Foreigners are either too romantic in their notion of Italy or limit their view to Silvio Berlusconi. So, we thought we should find a way to update the country’s image and tell the story of our generation, which is struggling to find reasons to still live here.
You have often stated that leaving Italy was a real option, but how did you come up with the idea of travelling around it as a way to make your decision?
We wanted to give Italy one last chance. Often, we stick to our own little world and thus miss the chance to go out and see what’s going on with our own eyes. Italians often forget that despite all the problems that do exist, Italy is still an incredible country. It has an engaging and committed civil society that not many other countries have, and there are resources that make Italy a better place in which to live and work. We believe that strongly.
The film was supposed to be divided, roughly, into two parts: the first part focusing on the negative aspects of Italy and the second part on the positive. It seems throughout the movie, however, that legality and correctness are more niche values than common ones. What was your idea of the ‘Italian way of living’ and how did it change in the process of travelling and making the movie?
The film is a discovery, and the audience should come on this emotional journey with us. During the first half of the film, most will probably be on Gustav’s side, as he is the ‘German’ (an Italian from Alto Adige) illustrating many of Italy’s ills. But, little by little, Luca makes him understand that, yes, Italy has problems but there are also aspects that can give us hope. In the film, we meet 12 people during our trip, all of whom, in one way or another, went from complaining to becoming active.
Italians are world champions of complaining, but they are relatively inert when it comes to acting on what they criticize. With the film, we wanted to inspire our compatriots to change that attitude.
How did you choose the stories for the movie?
It was a hard choice. We did lots of research to find the right stories. We even travelled around the country before shooting in order to find them. Unfortunately, not all of the stories we explored or shot found space in the film. We wanted to present a kaleidoscope of people of different ages, gender and backgrounds; some famous people and others completely unknown.
Were there any turning points while shooting that made you both want to stay … or leave?
There were two special moments: One was the meeting with Ignazio Cutrò, an entrepreneur from Sicily who is fighting the mafia and who was isolated from his community for it. He was so proud, brave and determined to continue his fight, regardless of the difficulties of own situation; it was enlightening for both of us. Then, there was the meeting with writer Andrea Camilleri, an incredibly generous, wise man, that was a real eyeopener. Only a writer could find such clear words for what is at stake.
Working and living together always seems like a rather difficult and precarious combination. How is it for you?
It doesn’t feel like work and actually it is great fun for us. Of course, we both have strong opinions and they often differ. The result is long and passionate discussions, but by the end of the day, we always find a way that satisfies both of us and it gives us the chance to spend lots of time together.