While I was writing this article, I received the sad news that my professor, Umberto Eco, passed away. This story is dedicated to him, the one who taught me how powerful words are and for whom life was made of infinite chances.
One of the things I love most, along with books and rom-coms, are documentaries. That’s the reason why I’ve been instantly captivated by “Waiting”, the story of three Italian men and the second chance they found in New York that filmmaker Cristian Piazza gathered together.
Cristian, you are an Italian writer and filmmaker living in New York. You had the chance to see the best and the worst of both worlds. Where does “Waiting” come from?
Waiting is a film about “second chances”. It took me some time to understand it was the main theme of the film. I came here looking for a second chance: Same thing for my subjects. I had found a job at RAI in New York but it lasted only a few months and I found myself in a crossroad. I always wanted to have a career in film and I thought it was the right moment to come up with something entirely mine. I have worked in restaurants in here and I happened to meet other people with the same dreams and hopes. It seemed a great story to tell. It was supposed to last not more than six months, it ended up lasting five years and I’m very grateful for that because it allowed me to get to know my subjects and give the film something more personal.
I knew two of them: The opera singer and the wannabe entrepreneur. Years ago, on my first experience in a restaurant, I worked with one of them. He was a very funny character during working hours and I heard this internal voice saying: “someone should make a film about this guy”. A couple of years later it was a starting point .We made a list of people we knew and who were a fit. We were looking for middle class, no privileges, young Italian immigrants in New York with a restaurant job and a career purpose or a specific goal beyond the job. I wanted the Opera Singer and the guy who wanted to open a restaurant. The boxer was heaven sent.
“Waiting” is the story of three lives seen through your eyes but told by the subjects’ own voices. How did you manage to put together three very different experiences?
The perspective goes beyond my eyes. I allowed the camera and the voices to speak for themselves. I merely organized the footage into a narrative structure. It was quite clear from the beginning that I wanted to explore a specific group of people: middle class, young Italian immigrants, working in restaurants with the desire to accomplish something or at least the willing to try. I wanted to humanize immigrants, show their vulnerable and also their resilient side. They’re not a statistic or an easy to tag group. Movement is natural, in every sphere. I followed them so I wanted to trust their feelings and stories.
A tenor, a boxer, an entrepreneur wannabe. They all arrived to New York looking for a second chance. What is New York for Cristian?
There is a fundamental question in my life which is where is “Home”. Is it the place you were born? The place you grew up, your heritage or the place you choose to be? Maybe for me is a combination of all four. Italy is in my blood. How can you get rid of your DNA? I lived many years in South America, I have family and friends and precious memories. I’m definitely an outsider. I’m convinced that I was born very far from where I’m supposed to be, and so, quoting Bob Dylan, I’m (always) on my way home.
The film was finished in the summer after 25 editing versions. It’s an “Opera Prima” and after only a few months we could say we have been well received. Both festivals were astounding experiences. We received awards in both of them and the audiences responded very well. People wanted to talk to us at the end of the screenings; they wanted to share their feelings and how they have connected with the stories and the subjects. I enjoyed it because it came from people I didn’t know and many of them , especially in New York, weren’t even Italians.
The topic of “Waiting” is very actual especially in our country. Why do you think a lot of us are seeking luck elsewhere?
I doubt there’s one answer for that. There are collective circumstances. One of them is the lack of opportunity and trust in a younger generation. It is said that Italy is “un paese di vecchi”, quite conservative and with fear of change. In my movie each case is different and the motivations to leave has to do with an intimate quest. They could have stay if they wanted to. They could have go for a second chance in Italy but they didn’t. They embraced the challenge and put up with sacrifices. 100 years ago many Italians left because they couldn’t feed their families. The new Italians abroad have a different sense of risk and adventure. They’re putting into test their beliefs and traditions and some are even willing to change them. My subjects were motivated for a very intrinsic quest. The boxer was looking for self-validation, the tenor needed recognition and approval and the aspiring entrepreneur was looking for his identity.
What’s the “ X-Factor” that one should have to successful in your field?
Success is a very tricky word. What do we mean by success? I think there are many elements to stay afloat in this field. I’m going to name a few: Craft, persistence, vision, the willingness to learn and a second skin to deal with rejection and at least one espresso a day!
“Waiting” is the story of many, it’s probably a mirror of our own journey. Second chances are hard to take and hard to recognize too, but as Cristian says “ … starting all over again is already a victory”.
Curious about it? The New York Independent Film Festival had chosen “Waiting” and you can watch it from April 27 to May 1.
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