Dive into the complex issue of migrant exploitation trough a story inside the lamp. Read about the aim and background from Francesca Fini, the creator of the short animation Mediterraneo, that will be screened tomorrow (Wednesday) at 22:00 at Gala Hala (AKC Metelkova City)
How did you get familiar with this topic?
I live in a country that is the destination of landings. In most cases these are refugees coming from North Africa. Landings have intensified recently during the war in Libya and many of these trips ended in tragedy. Those who manage to arrive alive are segregated in Lampedusa, in reception centers that look like prisons. Unfortunately my country is unable or unwilling to handle this phenomenon, which becomes the field of indecent political skirmishes. It’s an open wound that I live like a personal shame.
Why did you decide to show this issue?
I was really inspired by a book I read called: “I fantasmi di Portopalo” (The ghosts of Portopalo), by Giovanni Maria Bellu, an Italian journalist who investigated this story.
How did you prepare yourself to show the tragedy of Portopalo?
I read articles, essays, books, everything I found online and in bookstores. But then I put aside the media information, all the data, the statistics, the anecdotes, and tried to imagine that deep blue sea, the weight of those lifeless bodies in the water, the fishing nets, the noise of innocent life on the surface of the sea. Here, the sea becomes a metaphor for a place where shameful secrets are hidden, while on the surface everything seems to go on as normal.
Looking through your previous work you have produced mostly filmed performances. Why did you decide to show this issue through animation?
I decided to use animation precisely because I’m a performance artist. I never ever act what I can’t live directly on my skin. So any other way to perform this tragedy, using the language I’m used to, would have had a taste of “theatre”. To get close emotionally to the depth of this tragedy, to grasp the truth of it, I felt the need to use a completely abstract language.
Did you consider showing this idea using any other form of expression?
No, I have found in computer animation the ideal language to tell this story.
Narrative language is very simple: it reminds us about stories for children. Why did you decide to show a serious topic using this particular kind of aesthetic?
In Sicily the deeds of ancient heroes and epic cycles, as the cycle of Orlando, have been transformed by popular culture in tales that are represented through illustrations similar to those of children (the old hand-painted carts of “Cavalleria Rusticana”, for example), or in very popular puppet shows called “Pupi”. “Mediterraneo” is a Sicilian tragedy, first of all, so I told this story evoking, through modern technology, a tradition as deep as time.
In the movie we can see some kind of a lamp, which you used to show the story. What is “the role” of the lamp?
The lamp is an innocuous, colored object. I found it in a Chinese discount shop. In the video this little lamp becomes the metaphor for the world as a large, globalized discount shop that consumes without distinction people and merchandise. Even my beautiful Chinese lamp, with its pretty false aquarium, is made of bodies and exploitation. The routes of the merchandise and of the bodies are the same and the blood is the same. The ghosts of Portopalo came from India and Pakistan; from the fabled Orient of which the cheap industrialized little toy is only a pale evocation. The Mediterranean Sea is the theatre of a new slave trade. It is a market where bodies and merchandise are cheated, deceived, consumed and then thrown back into the water.
Can you shortly describe the process of making “Mediterraneo”?
As soon as I saw the Chinese lamp in the store I thought that the serene landscape, flowing always the same, should and could change, and that I could change it thanks to computer graphics. The first thing I did was filming the landscape flowing in the lamp. Then I found photos of landings of immigrants and I extrapolated the image of a boat. I then reconstructed the bodies maintaining the style of the printed illustrations in the lamp. I then superimposed these images to those that I had filmed.
Francesca Fini, Director of Mediterraneo
Is it any special kind of animation?
I used a software that allows you to put a virtual 3D skeleton in 2D images. In this way I could give some sort of animation to the 2D characters of the story.
How much time did you spend making this animation”?
Two months, working full time.
What was the biggest challenge when creating this movie and in showing this specific topic?
In my work, when I do video art or a performance, I generally deal with universal themes: love, the problem of identity, violence, gender issues… I have never dealt before with a specific story related to current events. The challenge was to try to start from this event to find a universal significance.
Do you have any additional stories connected with working on the “Mediterraneo”?
In a live performance that I did recently I broke the Chinese lamp, the same one used in “Mediterraneo”, with a big hammer. In the performance I used the lamp, and its looped landscape, to represent the alienating fixity of television (and this is another subtext of the lamp in “Mediterraneo”). When I came back to the Chinese discount store, to look for another lamp, they told me that the object is no longer available, it is no longer “fashionable”.
Interview: Anika Dziewior