Les États généraux du film documentaire 2010 Fragment of a filmmaker's work: Stefano Savona

Fragment of a filmmaker's work: Stefano Savona


In January 2009, the Sicilian film-maker Stefano Savona managed to enter the Gaza Strip during the Israeli offensive "Cast Lead". Moving to the other side, viewing from the inside, these are the stated goals of this film-maker attempting to counteract the flood of news images and giving another vision of the war, less spectacular but above all less ephemeral. In the streets of the bombarded city he films the daily scenes of survival: recuperating debris from the rubble, pushing and shoving around the food aid distribution areas, a population waiting and wandering, including himself as he follows a child in the street and meets the family, who greets him at first with suspicion. The film advances through encounters and situations which radiate palpable tension and testify to a growing radicalism born of despair. In Notes from a Kurdish Rebel, he obtains the authorisation to accompany over one month a group of combatants joining the front line. Difficult to foresee what he will be able to film under the constant surveillance of his interpreter. But during the long march, tongues untie, language becomes freer - not because of any apparent trust but in a shared reflection made up of doubts and convictions, fears and beliefs. Here again, the film is not the story of a military confrontation but the portrait of a situation, in words, of a fight for liberty. In Sicily, he films at night the arrest of migrants by the coast guard and waits with them, seated on the docks, examining their faces, grave with their uncertainty and their willpower.
If the manifest desire of Stefano Savona is to film accounts of human resistance, this desire becomes a true commitment when he pushes it to the point of risking his own life where men are struggling, for their survival, against an injustice, for their freedom. In other words, where "The Earth Trembles" to cite the title of Luchino Visconti's 1948 film which he considers one of his inspirations. The resonance with Visconti's work becomes especially troubling when we think that Antonio, the young Sicilian fisherman of Visconti's film, could very well sit alongside Giacomo or Vito in Oranges and Oil. These elderly Sicilians speak to us of their past in stories that are extremely dense and astonishingly precise: their immense poverty in the thirties, their revolts, the occupation of lands or of the prefecture, and then, after the war, the massacres of communist villages by the fascists. Luchino Visconti got the inhabitants of the village of Acitrezza to act out the revolt by young fishermen against the oppression of the wholesalers, led by the rebel Antonio with his communist ideas. Solidarity does not play out to the end in Visconti's feature and Savona's most recent film, being edited, seems based on the same scenario. He spent one month alongside homeless families occupying the Palerma town hall to obtain decent housing. In a space marked by promiscuity and dead time waiting, solidarity undergoes serious stress: the struggle of a poor minority against a cynical regime.
"My fear, said this Kurdish combatant, is that I won't be able to express myself, I won't have the strength to resist [...] of being politically dead." What fear do we have that pushes us to, or prevents us from, fighting? Through this question, from film to film, Stefano Savona is constructing a political memoir.

Christophe Postic

Debates after the screenings in the presence of Stefano Savona.