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Bianca Palmieri Balduini Talks About 'My little shadow'

1. Please tell us a little bit about how you initially became interested in cinema and about learning the art of filmmaking.

I’ve always been driven to the arts, especially visual and narrative arts. My everlasting passion has always been writing I remember that since I was a kid I loved creating fascinating stories and building complex characters that would inhabit those fantasy universes I dreamed about. Growing up, I started developing a deep fascination for theater and cinema. Since I was really young, I consumed a great quantity of movies, and didn’t really care about the genre, theme or nationality. I started getting closer to French cinema, especially Nouvelle Vague and directors like Truffaut, Godard, and later Agnes Varda. It was while watching “Pierrot Le Fou” that I became certain that I needed to make movies. This was my path, and all I wanted. Intimate, unique movies, that express feeling and solitude. Therefore, I started cinema school. Being on a set is a very special experience, and it has made me even more secure in my choice of being a director.

2. How did the main idea of this project strike you and how did you develop it? Since you are both the writer and the director of this film, tell us what process the script of this work went through to reach the final result?

It had been a couple of years that I had been dreaming of making a very intimate, personal short movie. All of my other works had received nominations in several festivals and where very professional from an esthetic and narrative point of view. But I wanted something more. To talk about myself, and the tragedy of losing my innocence and inner child to the destructive desolation of adult life. I purposely disregarded the concept of space and time, because I wanted the short to be more of a love song, and interior dialogue between two parts of the same conscience, that live and suffer together. I wanted to represent the loss of innocence and childhood as a painful and bittersweet experience, and I thought the best way to express it was poetry and dreamlike images. The script process for “My little Shadow” was quite unusual. I had this text that I wrote some time ago, that was not really categorizable as a poem or an essay. It felt more like a l song to me, an interior monologue that I needed to get out. I erased, rewrote, and change it over and over, until it felt honest and free of unnecessary ornaments. Then I recorded my voice reading the piece, because it was important to me to place myself at the center of the short in every way possible: it had to be my voice, my face, fully me. Once I had the recording, I structured the succession of the different scenes, trying to express visually the ideas and feelings I wanted to communicate.

3. The hero of the story, Julia Badìa, is a child and we know that working with children can be very difficult at times. Please tell us about the difficulties and benefits of working with children.

It was not the first time that I worked with kids. Actually, I would say there often is at least one kid in all of my shorts, and I never had bad experiences so far. It is indeed hard to work with kids because their spontaneous ways make them almost impossible to direct. They are free, and incapable of seeing things in a complex intellectual fashion… and that is precisely why I love working with them. I topically renounce my authoritarian role; I give up control (within reasonable limits) and let them express their true and authentic self. I find that is the best way to make their acting natural and believable in front of a camera. Julia is an intelligent and creative young girl, and it was delightful to work with her. Me and my DOP Arianna Usai had the most fun guiding her through the different scenes and artistic phases; she also had a great time, and I hope she will remember this experience with joy.

4. How do you see Italian cinema today? Do you think there is a place for independent filmmakers?

I’m pretty optimistic, I believe we’re witnessing a renaissance. There are some quality independent films lately, made by young directors that are cultivating different kinds of styles and genres. I still believe we have a long way to go, because the Italian cinema industry can be quite elitist, and often doesn’t leave space to non-conforming voices. But we’re getting there.

5. Your film is far away from having temporal and spatial unity, and more emphasis is placed on the sensory unity created between the images. How did you achieve this tone? Did you exactly wish to achieve such a thing before the production, or did this sensory unity emerge after the production and at the editing desk?

It was an effect I strongly wanted to achieve. I was determined to create something that would move the viewer, make people feel nostalgic and touched. This was my primary objective while filming this short. I absolutely didn’t want to give a linear structure to the story, I wanted to let it flow freely and without limitations in time, space or sense. I didn’t want sense at all, sense is the enemy of any emotional creation. This time I really wanted to focus on the heart and the mind, and give images that would provoke an emotional reaction.

6. What has been the reaction of those who have seen My Little Shadow like about this film?

I’ve been receiving quite positive feedback. The main reaction is appreciation for the honesty and braveness that comes with putting so much of yourself in a project. I’ve been told the film grasps very intimate truths about one’s soul and sadness, and most people relate to the theme of childhood and happiness lost. I saw that the visual metaphors I had tried to make were really well received by the viewers. The footage of the little girl lost in this limbo, in this imaginary world before the agitated sea… people got exactly this feeling of loss of a part of our soul, a part of ourselves that still survives, hidden and buried, and inaccessible to us, as adults that have lost our imagination and freedom of thought.

7. What filmmakers have been influential in your life in general, and what filmmakers do you consider yourself inspired by particularly in this film?

I admire directors like Bunuel, Agnes Varda, Tarkovsky and Lanthimos, because of their unique way of creating magical and aberrant worlds, where elements that are very far from each other can interact in a sinister but exciting way. Lately I’ve been getting closer to Alice Rohwacher and Emma Dante, who I would say are the ones who most inspired this very intimate and indie tone I use in “My little shadow”, together with Agnes Varda, whose splendid ability of placing herself inside of her works always remains my main source of inspiration.

8. In your view, can today's film festivals be an opportunity for films, especially feature films, to be seen?

Absolutely. Film festivals are an essential asset for filmmakers to have a platform where their works can get the promotion and visibility the deserve. I’m always very thankful to receive nominations in festivals that are run by young, proficient people that are often also filmmakers and creators, and therefore share my same interests and are dedicated to give greater space to art and artists.

9. What element do you think is the most effective in storytelling?

I believe the most important element of storytelling is giving your character a path, and arch of development where they start from a place A and end up in a place B. Place B doesn’t have to be better or worse, it just has to be different than A. If the character doesn’t change, then it’s not real, and people can’t relate. In “My little shadow”, for example, the main character (the adult woman) starts from a place of pessimism, loss and regret. Once her young version comes visit her, she realizes that there is still hope to have that part of herself back, if only she is willing to let her acrimony go. If this change doesn’t happen, the conflict is not resolved, there is no catharsis after sufferance, and therefore it’s not a human like experience.

10. If possible, please tell us about your next film or your future projects.

I am currently working on a short movie about women and discrimination in the workplace. I will be co directing this film with Arianna Usai, who is also a talented director and has been the DOP in “My Little Shadow”. We still are in the earliest phases of the project, but I’m very excited to deal with this new adventure and focus on a topic that is so extremely important


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