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.





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starší články

F2.18DOK.REVUE
28. 10. 2018


from current issue:

New releaseShooting About KunderaDocumentarian Miloslav Šmídmajer describes the process of making a documentary about Milan Kundera with the working title “Milan Kundera: From the Joke to Insignificance.” Miloslav ŠmídmajerThemeNest in the bedroomPeter Hames, well-known British film historian and author of the book The Czechoslovak New Wave sent his remembrance to Karel Vachek to our magazine.Peter HamesThemeNever stop laughingPaolo Benzi, the Italian film producer and founder of the independent film production company Okta Film, describes for dok.revue how he met famous Czech documentary filmmaker Karel Vachek, who passed away last year. Paolo Benzi is also the main tutor of the Emerging producers in Ji.hlava IDFF.Paolo BenziThemeBehold, if the river is turbulent he is not frightenedIn this English issue of dok.revue we have collected some remembrances to Karel Vachek, the respected Czech documentarist who died in December 2020 at the age of 80. One of the contributors is Olaf Möller, a well-known film theorist and critic collaborating with many renowned film magazines (Film Comment or Sight & Sound), film museums and festivals (e.g. Il Cinema Ritrovato or International Film Festival Rotterdam).Olaf MöllerThemeEvery human being should get to wear comfy shoesThe Czech documentarist Karel Vachek was a chairperson of the jury at Yamagata international documentary film festival (YIDFF) in 2009. The board member of YIDFF and the former director of this festival, Asako Fujioka, has a remembrance of him smoking his pipe and going to the mountains with Japanese poet and filmmaker Yoshimasu Gozo to recite poetry to the skies.Asako FujiokaThemeLike the dog on the beach...American film historian Alice Lovejoy writes her remembrance of Karel Vachek, the remarkable Czech documentarist to whom we dedicate this English issue of dok.revue.Alice LovejoyInterviewThe times of lifelong careers are overAn interview with documentarian Jindřich Andrš, whose film A New Shift won the Czech competition section Czech Joy at Ji.hlava IDFF2020.Vojtěch KočárníkInterviewGoing to the Polish Turf with Our Own TeamInterview with documentary filmmakers Filip Remunda and Vít Klusák about their latest joint film project Once Upon a Time in Poland that shows how religion and faith are misused in contemporary Poland for mass manipulation and political purposes. The film‘s Czech premiere was held as part of the Ji.hlava International Documentary Film Festival 2020.Kamila BoháčkováIntroductionDok.revue 1.21This issue is dedicated to the doyen of Czech documentary filmmaking Karel VachekKamila Boháčková