FULVIO RISULEO: the Italian director awarded at Cannes for telling the “chicken pox”

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Fulvio Risuleo and Edoardo Pesce

A gamble paid off! The Critics week section (Semaine de la critique) at the 2015 Cannes Festival awarded an Italian short film: Varicella (Chicken Pox). Written and directed by young filmmaker Fulvio Risuleo (24) starring Giordana Morandino, Edoardo Pesce and Enea De Angelis, the short film was awarded the Prix Découverte Sony CineAlta. We met Fulvio in Rome to congratulate him and hear about his work.

Fulvio, first off with Cannes and your “best short film” award for Varicella. Can you sum up the story for me?

It is a very simple story which takes place entirely in a kitchen between a wife and husband. They talk about their son and chicken pox, but not because he has it, in fact, he hasn’t got it yet. They’re concerned for the effects it can have on an adult and the mom is convinced her son should be exposed to it so he can have it while he’s still young. The two have an intense fight over it, with an unexpected ending.

How did you come up with such an original idea?

I’d been hearing about chicken pox for a while and thinking of how weird it is for such a common disease to affect the body in such an evident way. So sipping coffee one morning I thought should write a dialogue between two symmetrically different characters, bringing on the table topics like the deep-rooted fear of diseases, friends’ arguments and selfishness. What I like about short films is that unlike a full-length movie, you can deal with small, even irrelevant things, as in this case.

“Varicella” – photo set

Did you expect to win this prize?

Not this very prize perhaps, but last year in Cannes with another short film, Lievito madre (Yeast base) I won a prize of € 3.750. My idea was to reinvest the prize money into a new project and take it to the festival as well. With the same production company Revok, we started working on Varicella just in time for the festival selections, in hopes for some recognition, counting on the fact that France and the festival have always appreciated my work.

What do you think about the media’s tendency to focus solely on our three big directors competiting but just few have mentioned your victory

We must make a distinction between full-length feature films and short films. Feature films have large productions, distribution and wide audience which bring them popularity, whereas shorts are tougher to distribute. It’s not hard to believe that these three great Italian directors are getting so much attention. But I do want to stress on the fact that cinema is treated almost as a sport by the media, applauding or criticizing as if that could change the story, while the work itself should be discussed in its artistic form.

semaine-de-la-critique-de-cannes-2001How was the atmosphere in Cannes?

Mainly business-like. The audience is all people who work in the cinema industry, so when the films are shown you really don’t get that contact with the audience as you would in a normal theater. It’s an actual festival so what makes it interesting is that after watching your film interested agents or producers may come up to you with offers. That’s the goal of it all, showing, selling, creating films. The atmosphere is a stimulating starting point for things to start rolling. Take Varicella, International production companies became interested in it, so we will see what happens.

Let’s take a step back. How did you start and get to where you’re at now?

I started making short videos and comics as a kid, then soon after high school I enrolled in school of cinema with the goal of going abroad, but then I decided to give it a shot in Italy and got into Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia (Cinematography Center) in Rome where I grew and got to meet my trusted coworkers. With them I made my first short “Lievito Madre” (Sourdough) which received third prize at the Cine Fondatiòn in Cannes last year, for the schools of cinema section.

What’s your favorite genre?

As a spectator I don’t have a favorite one. As a director I’d say I love the “bizarre” genre, a sort of unusual view of reality.

Cool, We like that! Are you working on any new project currently?

I’ve been writing my first full-length feature film for the past couple of years, so after winning in Cannes, my producer Donatello Della Pepa and I, are really hoping to start shooting next year. It’s a road movie that takes place almost entirely on the roofs of Rome, where the main character gets to meet various people, including foreigners…

Ever thought of having some work experience abroad, in America for example?

New York is surely captivating, less so Hollywood which actually intimidates me. Either way it takes a strong shield to defend yourself and survive in those places. That’s why I have mixed emotions about trying to work abroad, from fear to excitement. Who knows…

Carlo Verdone told us in an interview that Italian cinema needs to be safeguarded abroad. What’s your view of Italian cinema now?

I’m not an enthusiast of Italian contemporary cinema, all the movies I’ve enjoyed recently were exceptions, like Garrone who found his genre. It’s unfortunate we still haven’t developed a system which allows big feature films to finance smaller ones, like in France and in the US. Lots of noise and little quality, so each time you discover something really interesting it’s not followed up on. Those who reach some success in Italy tend to keep it to themselves, so for those who are barely starting it’s extra hard to find their way.

What’s your biggest dream?

I would love to see Italian art become European art, with a network of artists supporting each other to be known and recognized, finding the right way to paint our contemporary world without the nostalgia of “the good ol’ days”, but rather an attitude of “we are finally talking about our world in the best way”.

by Marina Rispoli

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