Special little moments

Interview with Antonio Di Biase, the director of De Sancto Ambrosio movie, which has the world premiere in Opus Bonum competition at 22nd Ji.hlava International Documentary Film Festival.

Antonio Di Biase, a young Italian, spent a lot of days during several years in the tower of the Church of St. Ambrogio in Milan. In his film, De Sancto Ambrosio, Biase brings a look at ordinary events in this town from a “God´s” view from above – from the bell tower, which happened to be a witness of all Milan history and now oversees ordinary lives of ordinary people, looking for special little moments in them. 

In De Sancto Ambrosio, we are watching common people we know nothing about. We see just short pieces of their lives. What fascinates you about these short brief moments of strangers’ lives?
In the chaos of contemporary city most of the people don't look around: they are all inside their own thoughts and want to reach their destination as fast as they can. I was mostly looking for moments of break, when people are in a meditative mood and express a genuine humanity. What fascinates me is how these small moments, captured from a different perspective, can become something else. When I was shooting, I was also looking for actions that interact with the space, with the diagonals, the shadows and the colours around them. When all of these elements are combined in an “organic harmony”, it creates a cinematographic image which is also a metaphor of the existence.

Moreover, all of the shots in the film are from above, from rooftops of buildings. Why did you choose this type of camerawork?
The film is entirely shot from one single place: the top of a medieval bell tower of the “Sant'Ambrogio“ church, which is one of the main symbols of the city of Milan. Also the Latin title “De Sancto Ambrosio” means literally “from Sant'Ambrogio”. I chose to shoot entirely from there in order to identify the camera with the bell tower's eye. It is the perspective of something that is unchanging and eternal: its gaze has been witness to the entire development of the city, from the ancient times of the medieval countryside to the advent of the urban chaos. The choice of using images exclusively shot from above is connected with the medieval visual universe, where the characters were “pressed” onto the background without the Renaissance's artifice of perspective. This is a fundamental key to read the film because it marks the tension between the present and the past.

What is interesting in your film is how you treat the time. It is framed as one day, but it contains shots from the whole year. We see sunny days of summer, rains as well as snow.
Yes, the only narrative line of the film is the temporal one, punctuated by the passage of the seasons. The circularity of the time expresses the idea of something eternal that will start all over even if the film ends. In order to underline this aspect, for me was fundamental to put in all the weather conditions. In Milan it doesn't snow often and I had to wait three years until the snow finally came... It was too important; otherwise the film didn't have an ending.

What was the process of shooting the film like? How much material did you shoot and how long did it take you to edit it?
It was a very long process. These “special little moments” that I was talking about are very rare and hard to capture. I spent entire days on the bell tower without getting any good shot. It was as a matter of waiting and watching without distractions, in the heat of the summer and in the cold of the winter. Also the editing took quite a while, almost one year... and also the reconstruction of the sound was a huge work that took many months. From the first idea to the ending of postproduction it has been about four years.

more articles from a section:  Interview

1.20None of the big streaming platforms are buying documentaries now because people are so scared in their personal lives Challenges for the film industry and festivals in the age of the coronavirusRadim Procházka
1.20We have to start with ourselves, or nothing will changeAn interview with Macedonian documentarians Ljubomir Stefanov and Tamara Kotevská, creators of the film Honeyland.Vojtěch Kočárník
1+2.19Karel Vachek: Films Just Have to Make You Laugh!One of the most original Czech filmmakers Karel Vachek made his ninth film novel called Communism and the Net or the End of Representative Democracy. Fifty years after Prague Spring and thirty years after the Velvet Revolution, Karel Vachek “with his inner laughter” looks back on the evolution of our society and predicts a transformation to direct democracy based on the possibilities of the internet that will allow for the engagement of the whole mankind without the need of representatives. His film Communism will be screened at the beginning of next year at the International Film festival Rotterdam.Kamila Boháčková
1+2.19To Surprise MyselfWhile the main competition at the International Karlovy Vary Film Festival does not feature any Czech title, the festival’s documentary section has one Czech film to offer: A documentary road movie by Martin Mareček entitled Over the Hills exploring the relationship between a father and a son, as well as the distance that separates us from others. Unlike his previous socially engaged films, the latest title provides a personal and intimate insight. But as Martin Mareček put it in his interview for dok.revue – what is intimate is universal. Marek Hovorka, Petr Kubica, Kamila Boháčková
1+2.19Greta Stoklassa: I Read Rather than Preach the RealityAn interview with the director Greta StoklassaKamila Boháčková
F2.18Are we experiencing dystopia today?Interview with Frédérick Cousseau, the director of the poetic documentary called NU, which has the premiere in Opus Bonum competition at 22nd Ji.hlava IDFF.Tomáš Poštulka
F2.18Freedom of ChoiceInterview with Jacky Goldberg, the director of Flesh Memory, which will have its international premiere in Opus Bonum competition
F1.18I like to find other ways to tell a storyInterview with Jorge Pelicano, the director of the Until Porn Do Us Part, which has the premiere in Opus Bonum competition at 22nd Ji.hlava IDFF.Eliška Charvátová
F1.18Wim Wenders on Pope Francis: Courageous, Fearless, Extremely HonestMicro-interview with Wim Wenders about his film Pope Francis: A Man of His Word
F1.18‘My Unknown Soldier’ Director’s Family Secret: ‘There Was a Hole…’Interview with Anna Kryvenko, the director of My Unknown Soldier

starší články

28. 10. 2018

from current issue:

Situational reviewCaught in the Net should really be on the net if it’s going to change anythingDiscussion about the new film by Vít Klusák a Barbora Chalupová Caught in the NetKamila BoháčkováSituational reviewWill our civilisation negotiate this turn?American documentarian Jeff Gibbs’ activist film Planet of the Humans, which criticises the way we treat renewable energy sources, has evoked numerous controversial reactions. It’s no surprise that the producer is well-known filmmaker Michael Moore, who released the film freely on YouTube on Earth Day, when the worldwide corona virus pandemic was at its peak.Kamila BoháčkováNew releaseFREMWhat is it like to shoot a film in Antarctica? Is it possible to get into the head of artificial intelligence? And what is GAI? All this is described by the documentarist Viera Čákanyová in the text she wrote about her new film FREM in dok.revue.Viera ČákanyováNew releaseSun of the Living DeadAnna Kryvenko on the loss of compassion in the post-factual age, the battle with the chaos and hostility of the universe, and how to create a documentary essay from archive materials.Anna KryvenkoNew releaseThe story of a small provincial townNovice Russian director Dmitrij Bogoljubov tells dok.revue about the circumstances surrounding the origin of his new film Town of Glory, a co-production with Czech production company Hypermarket Film and Czech Television. The film uncovers the mentality of Yelnya, a provincial Russian town that is one of the most depressing in the country and where the legacy of the Great Patriotic War still lingers – something Putin’s establishment has successfully exploited to gain the support of the local citizens. The film was available to stream for a short time in March on the portal DAFilms as a part of the festival One World Online. This fall it will be shown on Czech Television and possibly in cinemas as well.Dmitrij BogoljubovThemeThere’s more than one feminismA reflection on women documentarians inspired by Barbora Baronová’s book Women on WomenMartin ŠrajerTheoryBiopics and the Trembling Ethics of the Real We publish here the essay by one of the most prominent minds in film today, Timothy Corrigan, who presented his essay “Biopics and the Trembling Ethics of the Real” at the Ji.hlava International Documentary Film Festival in fall 2019 as a part of his lecture for students in the festival’s educational module Media and Documentary.Tereza Hadravová, Timothy CorriganInterviewWe have to start with ourselves, or nothing will changeAn interview with Macedonian documentarians Ljubomir Stefanov and Tamara Kotevská, creators of the film Honeyland.Vojtěch KočárníkInterviewNone of the big streaming platforms are buying documentaries now because people are so scared in their personal lives Challenges for the film industry and festivals in the age of the coronavirusRadim ProcházkaIntroductionWhen local is universaldok.revue 1.20Kamila Boháčková