France, Italy 2019
While I was telling him about my project, Alessandro, the bar’s waiter, came over to us carrying a couple of coffees. A teenager with a thin adolescent face, he was in a hurry because he had to get ready for the celebrations for the Madonna dell’Arco. I asked him if he was interested in filming the ceremony with the smartphone I gave him, requesting that he always keep himself in the frame. He accepted, and the result made an impression on me, because during the procession he was moved to tears but didn’t stop shooting himself, with the statue of the Virgin behind him. The next day, back at the Cocco Bar, a chubby kid with a moustache walked up to me and introduced himself as Alessandro’s best friend. This was Pietro. He looked much older, but he swore that he too was 16. I asked both of them to ‘shoot themselves’ with my iPhone as part of an audition, at a school that had just been renovated but was already run-down. I’d asked a few other kids from the area to come to the auditions as well, mostly Davide’s close friends, along with a few girls and a couple of kids. But things were already clear to me: the two of them, Alessandro and Pietro, were going to be the film’s protagonists.
What I was trying to do was give a voice to some kids who normally aren’t able to speak out, inviting them to film themselves with the technological prosthesis they were most comfortable with, a smartphone. So my idea was to delegate the shooting to them, and to think of the phone as a mirror that doesn’t only reflect themselves, as is the case with the millions of ‘selfies’ now found on social networks, but to look at the image in the display – which then turns into the cinema screen – in order to see (and let us see) themselves reflected and also the reality behind them: their social and human context, their world, their life.
So I didn’t want to entrust them with directing the film. What interested me, rather, was conveying the look in these kids' eyes, concentrating not so much on what they see (which, by now, we all know perfectly well) but on their way of looking. What comes through in Alessandro and Pietro’s eyes is their desire for a normal life, and consequently their conflict with the world they live in, where normality almost always consists in being enrolled in criminal groups and almost being considered a deserter if you try to find a way out.
The neighbourhood, seen subjectively by the two youths who tell us about it, becomes both a safe haven where they can feel at home and the place where they play out their emotions, between fear and naivety, resignation and desire. This neighbourhood, like many others, has no theatres, cinemas or libraries, and the few parents that actually find a job don’t have the means with which to help the teenagers who drop out of school. Here, all kids have scooters and billiard halls, like the one in front of which Davide was killed, and the few volunteer associations that try to change things, like the one now dedicated to Davide Bifolco, are never given enough credit by local institutions.
I cannot forget that the story that sparked off my project, the tragedy of Davide’s death, is all about injustice and the pain and marginalisation felt by a boy, his family, his friends and their neighbourhood.
In 2001, collaborating with ten accomplices, he founded the group "Apollo 11" in Rome, which saved the historical Apollo cinema theatre from becoming a bingo hall. By promoting film, music and writing,
the group turned it into one of the liveliest cultural centres in Italy’s capital city, the first with an ongoing program dedicated to cinema of the real.
He is currently working on his first non-documentary feature film.
2019 SELFIE, doc.
2013 LE COSE BELLE, 88 min, doc, with Giovanni Piperno
2006 L’ORCHESTRA DI PIAZZA VITTORIO, 93 min, doc
2004 SCUSI, DOV’È IL DOCUMENTARIO?, doc, collective
2000 INTERVISTA A MIA MADRE, 52 min, doc, with Giovanni Piperno
1999 IL FILM DI MARIO, 45 min, doc, with Giovanni Piperno
1994 OPINIONI DI UN PIRLA, short film
1993 POCO PIÙ DELLA METÀ DI ZERO, short doc
Cast & Crew
Directed by: Agostino Ferrente
Written by: Agostino Ferrente
Produced by: Barbara Conforti, Gianfilippo Pedote, Marc Berdugo
Cinematography: Alessandro Antonelli, Pietro Orlando
Editing: Letitzia Caudullo, Chiara Russo
Original Score: Andrea Pesce
Sound: Benni Atria, Cristiano Defabriitis
Nominations and Awards
- EFA Documentary Selection 2019