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About this film

A journey along the famous via Aurelia in Italy; a physical journey along the coast, but at the same time a journey through memories. Katia Viscoglosi and Francis Magnenot, the directors behind Cinéma Fragile, set off to retrace the life of Viscoglosi’s father, the path he had taken over 60 years ago in hope of a better life. The journey is both personal and collective; the directors trace the steps taken by a single man, a man who was part of a larger movement of people who traveled along Aurelia, a road that promised so much at the time. In dialogues that are dreamy at times, fragmented at others, Francis and Katia remember. The past is present; in the directors’ film frames, in the directors’ minds. It becomes palpable to them and demands of them to keep on traveling deeper into 1950 Italy.

Nadin Mai (tao films)

Interview with the Director
Aurelia is your first feature-length documentary. I personally know you for your cinematic haikus. What has brought you to making a feature-length work?

Aurelia is not our first feature experience so to speak. Some years ago we made feature documentaries about raw art artists, and in 2016 we also released Nouveau Noum, a feature experimental movie about Soviet nuclear activity in the 80’s, including live performances with the poet who wrote the texts: Saint-Octobre.

In fact we started the haiku series as a daily practice between two longer projects, and it was so refreshing, so nourishing, it became the series you actually know, and even the basis of a workshop we were invited to run at festivals.

Switching from short films to feature-length films can be quite difficult. It is not always difficult to keep the momentum up for, say, ninety minutes. How did the making of the film feel like? Was Aurealia difficult to make?

We never think about the length of the film when we’re writing or shooting it. It’s one of the great freedoms that comes with our very independent situation: being able to let the film reach its own length, whatever it may be. Maybe it’s something we inherited from our first experiences in the KINO movement in Montreal, and also experimental cinema. Aurelia was difficult to make because of its contemplative, poetic essay nature, some very subtle changes could have harmed the film’s pace, atmosphere, and momentum. The longer and most difficult stage of development was the editing, finding the right rhythm for each moment, and how text and images could talk together. In fact, we cut most of the text to make room for the sun.

Aurelia is a travel film. I don’t mean this in a physical way, albeit you do travel in your film. I’m thinking more of a mental journey, a journey of and through memories.

But isn’t every journey both mental and physical? We believe it has much to do with the expectations of the traveller, with the hopes, ideas and dreams s/he may have about his destination. Especially when his or her future is at stake. Also when you discover something new, to understand it better you have somehow to compare it to something you already know. So as you say, the purpose of the film has a lot to do with memory... We wanted to figure out how mental emotions would merge with the physical sensations of the travelling itself.

In effect, you’re retracing a road, going from the past to the present. What initiated this journey?

Our goal was to see if the present was poetic enough to answer to yesterday’s world. To be more specific, we wanted to see if the present environment still contained some traces of what had been part of the experience Katia’s father had, travelling along the Italian coast to find a better life in France. So the idea was to follow the exact road he followed in 1953, and film it like a child who discovers the world: in one continuous movement, improvising with what we could find when we would stop.

In many ways, Aurelia is a personal film on Katia’s father. An yet, it is also a film about a generation in a specific country, isn’t it? You combine the microcosmos with the macrocosmos. Aurelia is a more complex film than it seems at first sight.

In every Italian family, you can hear about a grandfather, an uncle, a cousin who once emigrated. And people confirmed it to us at each Italian festival Aurelia was screened. Maybe that’s why many iIalians can show empathy, and understand today’s migrants despite what the media propaganda says. In a way time answered your question: a few month after we made our last shot at the French border in Ventimille, some migrants where blocked there and started demonstrating about the inequity of their situation. That’s one thing we learned making this film: the same situations keep repeating forever, only the people are changing. And also that the hopes and dreams of a society model the landscapes we live in: we think being able to focus on details, sensations and images that reveal this, is one of the most important power of cinema. This is the main question Aurelia is about : if Franco - Katia’s father - was individually rich of his hopes and dreams travelling in 53, so as today’s migrants, what are we rich of, here and now? Collectively? What does our landscape tell us about ourselves? What do we have to make space for these dreams? And for our dreams too? It’s the everlasting, universal and exhausting question of finding a place in the world.

Your film has been made as part of Cinéma Fragile, which is a name that also stands behind your haikus. Can you tell me a little bit about Cinéma Fragile and what it stands for.

Cinéma fragile is an article of faith and a tool at the same time. As a tool, it’s the little structure we have built to work and communicate with people we work with, or with our audience. We make our films in a very independent way, some call it guerrilla cinema: most of the time people in the street don’t even realise we’re shooting, whether it’s a long project or a haiku. This almost clandestine way of doing things is one of the aspects of the «fragile» spirit...

I love the name... fragile cinema. Is cinema a fragile medium?

We aim to make films as fragile and at the same time as strong as life can be. Cinema can be a perfect medium to reveal life, in its light and subtle essence, but it’s also a perfect tool to fascinate the audience with violence and brutality. Everybody knows that the world is violent, we really don’t care about showing it once more. Maybe the will to remain fragile in this violent world is a really strong attitude. Maybe aiming to capture fragile things and thoughts in fragile films that live in a fragile economy, amongst - or more likely aside of - today’s commercial monsters promoted by armies of marketers, is a strong statement. We are convinced that, today more than ever, fragile is beautiful.

Thank you very much for this interview.