At 23, 24, I was starting to make films. I knew someone who knew [sculptor Louise Bourgeois] very well, and he invited me to visit her studio. It was this huge, huge loft in Brooklyn, and she talked about every single sculpture, every single thing. She has a huge table, full of objects — things she collects, books stacked. She grabs a piece of clay and she says, “I tell you everything started from here, from this piece of clay. Hold it in your hands.” I was like, “It’s a piece of clay.” And then she said, “See, when I started becoming a sculptor, I said, ‘I want to do clay work,’ but I didn’t know what to do or how to transform this clay into something. So I kept this for days in my hand. Then, I finally had some images and something came out. All the emotion was in this piece. My identity of a sculpture is all here.”
For me, that was a lesson, because every time I start a project, I have to metaphorically find this little piece of clay. I spend three months before taking out my camera and trying to understand the place, trying to meet the people.”
Filmmaker Gianfranco Rosi
Filmmaker Magazine article by Roberto Minervini
Last night I watched Gianfranco Rosi’s Sacro GRA which a few years ago was the first documentary film to win Best Picture in the 70 year history of the Venice Film Festival. And while I talk a lot about traditional arch-plot movies on this blog (because movies with an active protagonist with a goal—and a beginning, middle, and end—are the most accessible for audiences) there are other types of storytelling I enjoy.
One of my favorite films of all time Tender Mercies could be considered mini-plot (as could the recent Academy Award winning best film Moonlight). But the hardest sell for audiences is the anti-plot film. Sacro GRA falls into that category.
Yet, it’s a documentary that is quite compelling and beautifully shot. (Actually using the Panasonic AF101 with Zeiss Compact Primes. A camera, by the way, looked down upon by one well-known camera guru here in the States. But in the hands of an artist it’s just a tool to help carve the sculpture.)
Sacro GRA just made me think of the possibilities in filmmaking. If you need a purging of superhero movies from your system, then I recommend a good Italian film like Sacro GRA. It may not have a plot, but it’ll be good for your soul. (As of this writing you can find it on Netflix.)
I look forward to seeing next Rosi’s 2017 Oscar-nominated doc Fire at Sea.