Lavini reflects on role in live streaming biopic

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The organizers of film festivals all over the globe have given new meaning to the phrase “the show must go on” by making their line-ups available in virtual theaters. By doing so, festival goers can stream films in the comfort and safety of their own homes. A number of Italian films have been included in these virtual platforms, including Pietro Marcello’s acclaimed “Martin Eden” and Gianfranco Rosi’s new documentary, “Notturno,” which is Italy’s Oscar submission.

The latest virtual offering of contemporary Italian cinema is a joint effort by the Seattle International Film Festival and Luce Cinecittà, which will make the annual festival, Cinema Italian Style, available to stream nationwide December 10 – 17. The line-up consists of Italy’s most talked about new releases, many of which premiered at festivals earlier in the year.

Among these new releases is Giorgio Diritti’s “Volevo nascondermi” (Hidden Away), the story of tortured artist Antonio Ligabue. The son of an emigrant Italian mother, Ligabue was deported to Italy from Switzerland where he grew up living a life of solitude. Meeting the sculptor Renato Marino Mazzacurati helped him find his passion for painting. The fateful meeting marked the beginning of a redemption story in which Ligabue feels art is the only way to form his identity.

“El Tudesc,” as people called him, was a lonely, introverted and often mocked and humiliated man. He became an imaginative artist who painted a fantasy world of tigers, gorillas and jaguars on the banks of the Po River. Ligabue’s art is a “fairy tale” from which a wealth of diversity emerges and his work over time has proved to be a gift to collective humanity.

“Volevo nascondermi” premiered in February at the Berlin Film Festival just before the world paused for the coronavirus pandemic. Since then, the film has received a whole slew of nominations and awards. The film stars Elio Germano, with Paola Lavini playing Ligabue’s love interest, Pina. Lavini is no stranger to Fra Noi. We profiled her for the magazine in 2016 and have met up with her numerous times in Rome at film festivals and cafés just to catch up over cappuccino. I asked her about her experience working on this film.

Tell me about this character Pina and her place in this story.

Pina is a beautiful woman who approaches Antonio Ligabue out of opportunism, but with sincerity and tenderness. She meets him when he is already famous.

What did you do in terms of research to prepare for the role?

I called to mind many things about my grandmother from my Emilian origins. I looked at many paintings by Ligabue and watched many of his films to understand his world.

Tell me about your collaboration with Elio Germano..

It was fantastic. He is an extraordinary actor and a genuine person. It is exciting to work with good actors. They inspire you to give your best.

..And with Giorgio Diritti. What was your experience shooting with him?

I have been following Giorgio Diritti for years. I love his filmography. I love his style of directing and the way in which he makes decisions. I love his poetics. He is attentive to everything and everyone.

During the film, did you develop an appreciation for the art and struggles of Antonio Ligabue?

Absolutely. I also started painting again. I picked up the canvas and gave free rein to my imagination. I didn’t know him very much and instead I looked at all his paintings with a keen eye, trying to emulate the desire for redemption he had through his art.

What do you feel is the importance of this film to the legacy of Ligabue?

Through this film, we discover Antonio’s real life, even before Ligabue. Of the little Antonio and then of the adult Antonio. Of his difficulties in affections, of his life that began in a ‘wrong’ way, perhaps’ wrong, and that he was able to make ‘winning’ through his painting. I believe that Antonio Ligabue is still little known as a painter and this film could be a way to make him known more, as he deserves, in Italy and in the world.

For more information about Cinema Italian Style and to stream the films in this year’s virtual program, click here.


About Jeannine Guilyard

Jeannine Guilyard is a longtime correspondent for Fra Noi and the Italian-American community newspaper in Rochester, N.Y. She has also contributed to the Italian Tribune of New Jersey, Italian Tribune of Michigan and L'Italo Americano of Southern California. Jeannine wrote and directed the short film "Gelsomina," which was selected for the Screenings Program of the 59th Venice Film Festival, and she won Emmy and Peabody awards as an editor of ABC's "Special Report" following the events of Sept. 11, 2001. Jeannine is also a writer and editor for Italian Cinema Today, a publication and blog she founded in 2005 to bridge culture between New York and Italy. Follow her on Instagram at Italianartcinema and on Twitter at @ItaloCinema2day.

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