Friday, September 30, 2022


 Archivio Siciliano del Cinema

By Manuela Maria Giordano

July 7, 2022

MMG: Of the many actors with whom you shared the set, even Sicilians – such as Franco and Ciccio, Lando BuzzancaTano Cimarosa – with whom did you feel you had more affinity? In these long 42 years of absence from the film industry, have you maintained contact with anyone?

DG: Speaking of affinity I can tell you that I had a wonderful understanding with the two interpreters of the film La cameriera (1974, by Roberto Bianchi Montero) the multifaceted and prolific actress from Palermo Carla Calò, and Mario Colli, Roman actor, dubber and director of Italian dubbing, known above all for having given the voice to Raymond Burr in the mysteries of Perry Mason. These are names that probably most people have no memory of, but they were two of the very good ones. Of course, there is also Lando Buzzanca, understanding between us was a normal thing, but I also had an excellent understanding with Francesco Mulé, whose acting career he had joined that of voice actor and his voice remained linked to the character of the Yogi Bear. Unforgettable for me also Marisa Merlini and Tuccio Musumeci. With them the work was always a laugh. And, first of allNino Manfredi. The agreement was immediate. So immediate that Risi made a single ciak with our scenes. There was a harmony as if we had always acted together. Another actor with whom there was a good professional understanding was Raf Vallone in The House of Fear (1974) a thriller by William Rose also distributed in the United States. How nice it is to understand each other on the fly! Feel the realization of your work when you find the recitative embrace of the other. These are magical moments. It is as if suddenly a bundle of energy is formed that envelops the scene. I can't forget even Elio Pandolfi with whom I did a six-month theatrical season with debut at the Teatro Sistina, in Rome. It was called Che Brutta Epoque, directed by Mario Landi. The two sacred monsters were Antonella Steni and Elio Pandolfi. Then there was only us: five guys, including Massimo Dapporto and myself. Without Pandolfi who understood me, comforted me and made me laugh I would not have endured six months around the stages of Italian theaters. I would have fled even at the cost of breaking the contract. However, I must confess that I found the understandings and affinities more easily with American actors. It was much more congenial to me to support their acting rhythms and their times. It's true I'm a bit of an extrophile. When I decided to stop making films I left Rome and returned to Palermo. And from that moment on, contacts were interrupted. If I had any rare friendship left, it was still overseas. I have never developed social relationships within my profession. I didn't go to the events or parties that were occasionally organized by big names. I was afraid of getting caught up in situations I didn't feel confident I could solve. So I preferred not to go anywhere. I went out with friends who had little or nothing to do with cinema.

MMG: At a certain point you understood that Italian cinema was changing direction after the glories of the 60s and 70s and that the time had come for you to abandon the scenes. What led you to this decision?

DG: It was a very painful but necessary decision. I had several years of cinema on my shoulders and I loved my work, but I realized that the direction it had taken was not congenial to me and was not in my ropes. I was not interested in maintaining beauty with botulinums or small interventions. In addition, a frightening crisis had arrived. It was the 80s and there was no longer, as before, enough work for everyone. It was a crisis that has been getting worse over the years and of which we still pay the consequences today. My agent, the last in order of time, son of the producer of the famous Scalera Film, told me that after 40 years of cinema he had found work as a representative of a famous company in Umbria of articles for babies. I felt professionally abandoned. But he was still right. What else can be done when there is no more work? I was approaching the age of 40 and did not foresee a very bright future. Not just for me, but for everyone. I was at the limit of the time I had left to change my life and find a more stable and peaceful job. I had a delicate health and the excesses of cinema, such as taking a bath in a reservoir in the wrong season, or wearing clothes not appropriate to the real season, led me to often have fever or bronchitis. In addition, every time I went abroad I had food problems. In short, it was necessary to change the regime.

MMG: After your leave from the cinema you decided to return to Palermo and get married. How did you experience this transition to a more "normal" life? What did you miss the most while you were away from Sicily?

DG: More than a transition, I would call it an epochal chaos. The man I then married was my partner since 1975 and, when I started to go up and down from Palermo to find a home and work, he felt the ground under my feet was missing. He thought that by settling somewhere else sooner or later I would leave him. So after a while, having solved the problems with my family, I dragged him to Palermo and finally married him (how things went I told them in my autobiographical book with more details)! "Normal" work was a 'mystical' experience for me. It's an understatement, in the sense that it was tough. I had to give up my work creativity to face the classic 'office' relationships that were completely unknown to me. It was very difficult. Above all, try to change my way of being, so as not to be accused of self-centeredness or anything else. After so many years, having regained possession of my sea and this particular Sicilian blue sky made me very happy. They were the things I missed the most.

MMG: For many years you have been dealing with studies in the field of the paranormal and psychic phenomena, you also talked about it in your latest book, Three Lives in One (Enigma Edizioni, 2020), which recently has also been translated into English for the foreign market. How was this singular passion of yours born and where did your research take you today?

DG: The passion was born when I saw in 1973-74, a broadcast on national TV on these topics with the intervention of Uri Geller, an Israeli psychic discovered by an American scientist. The controversy aroused by this broadcast in the scientific community, subsequently published in various national newspapers, had tickled my curiosity and I decided to find out if all this was a soap bubble or if there was something true. So, I set off to meet Geller, who in the meantime had moved to Geneva, Switzerland, and we had dinner together at the end of his show. Sitting at the table, together with her old friends, I was able to personally verify her abilities and observe her potential mechanisms. Following the aforementioned transmission, some children in Italy also found themselves with the same abilities. At that point, a set of circumstances meant that I had the opportunity to test these abilities of some of them. Then, realizing that there was a lack of information on these topics in Italy, I started writing for some newspapers. From there to do research on my own the step was short. I had the satisfaction of being invited to give a lecture in London and Paris, not for the public but for the scientific researchers who dealt with these topics. That was a great emotion. I would have known only much later, like so many, that in those years the American government was training military personnel in a top secret intelligence program to learn to use the psychic abilities that, without knowing it, every man possesses in natural form. In 2009 a film was released in Italy entitled The Man Who Stares at the Goats, directed by Grant Heslov, with actors such as George Clooney, Jeff Bridges and Kevin Spacey. The film is based on the book of the same name, written by reporter Jon Ronson, who left for Iraq and accidentally discovers that a secret department of the US army aims to use paranormal faculties in the field of war. The meeting with the commander, a member of the department for over 20 years, will open the doors to new realities. The film is based on a true story and is a heavy satire against the American military establishment that, without understanding much, tries to teach its soldiers how to use psychic powers against the enemy. The film didn't go very well in America but it was a colossal flop in Italy. There were 8 of us at the cinema that year, including my husband and I. And surely they will have taken us for crazy because we were the only ones who, having followed over the years the research and development of these ESP (Extra Sensory Perceptions) abilities in man, laughed out loud at the gags and attempts of the soldiers to replace or add to conventional military training new knowledge that originates in the field of subtle energies.

MMG: Who is Daniela Giordano today? Do you ever want to go back to making movies and, if you could choose, who would you like to work with?

DG: This is a question that is difficult to answer. I am always very curious and are therefore a mix of many things that can sometimes seem very distant from each other. But among these there is always a common thread, even if it is not seen immediately. In the last three years I have cultivated "the author". In fact, I have now finished another book, always autobiographical, which will soon see the light in the United States. I don't know if I will find the publisher in Italy. The topics I write about are always very controversial and not many Italian publishers are aware of certain issues. Anyway, I can honestly say that I still feel like an actress, even if I hid that part of me in a corner. Of course, every now and then I get the desire to go back to making movies, especially when I see movies and characters that I like. Being able to choose, who would I like to work with? What a wonderful game you prospect me! Unfortunately, those I would have liked to work with are no longer there – like Rutger Hauer, Charlton Heston, Katharine Hepburn, Kirk Douglas, James Coburn, Yul Brinner... If we move into the present and forget the regrets, the first one that comes to mind is Judi Dench and then Maggie Smith, followed by Kevin Costner and Jim Caviezel. I'd like to be directed by Kathryn BigelowDavid Twohy or Clint Eastwood. And then steven spielberg and George Lucas. I would also love to direct with Chloé Zhao (Nomadland). With her a film about the awakening of man's consciousness would be beautiful. And the Italians? Well, someone good is there, but he can't excite me. And the genres that are acclaimed in this period are not the ones I like. I am aware: my tastes are quite 'primitive'. I didn't follow television much, but with everything that has happened to us nationally (read Covid), sometimes I happen to appreciate film products passed on TV that I consider remarkable – such as Yellowstone or Game of Thrones or at least even Vera, with the British Brenda Blethyn . Other times it happens instead that, passing from one channel to another, you accidentally find a good director in some Italian fiction on TV. I never thought this could happen!

MMG: One last question. What is your point of view on the current Italian and Sicilian film scene? Would you have any notes, even critical ones, to make about it?

DG: When I returned to Palermo, before finding a new job, I wondered what I could do on this island. I knew English, cinema and Sicily. So, in my naivety, I invented a new job: to promote Sicily abroad. It was the 80s and there was an American site in English where everyone who worked in the industry could access. Even the film companies that had some production needs used that site. If they were looking for locations for their films, I would write to them promoting Sicily and my skills as a guide. Slowly, however, I discovered all the problems related to this work. If, for example, a production company that wanted to shoot here in Sicily needed technical equipment for filming (such as a simple uninterruptible power supply) or other, it had at the time only one interlocutor – which required exorbitant and not affordable costs for medium productions from the United States or even from Rome. In addition, overlooking a balcony (perhaps for "home" reasons), he chose workers, special figures and extras that he then imposed on the production. Luckily, I found another job!

I really love creativity: the one that directors invent when they produce good films without a sufficient ceiling – like Spielberg's Duel in 1971, his first feature film. This is what I would like to see in Italian cinema: creative ideas. Instead, we are full of thrillers, violence, robberies, horror and betrayals. Unfortunately, for several years now, the ones that gross the most are films with sex and violence. Thus diverting, in my opinion, the moral growth of today's young people. And I don't consider this rhetoric. I struggle to find a film that appeals to me today. Films such as Volevo Nascondermi, by Giorgio Diritti, about the painter Antonio Ligabue, winner of the Nastro d'Argento 2020 and the David di Donatello 2021 – are not easily found in the Italian overview – even if seeing it made me suffer. These are not the emotions that I wish I had stimulated by a film. We suffer enough like that. In recent years, however, it will be age, but I suffer from envy. Yes, envy towards Puglia that has been able to combine cinema and tourism and that, with their winning strategy, are also attracting international cinema. Chapeau then to the Apulian Film Commission and its President of the Region. In Sicily, on the other hand, we are a little late. Beyond the good directors we have and who tell the story of Sicily, the historical one, that of the mafia and that of repressed aspirations, there are still not all the skills necessary to speed up "this boat" a little perforated. Very few actors, actresses, workers or directors know English and who could support foreign productions. There is a site where the Film Commissions of each Italian region require actors/actresses for films or TV dramas in production. Why is it so rare to see the requests of the Sicilian Film Commission? We have enormous potential and it is not possible to offer it competently. We tell the Sicily that we would like, not the one we had, not that of the news or the one we have. We get out of cinematic stereotypes by choosing other faces, other stories and offer different emotions! Science fiction? Maybe. We don't just need Italian productions, we also need them those in Europe and those across the ocean. Why does Germany go to shoot the exteriors of one of its films in Almeria and not in Sicily? Everything there, we have it here too! I remember that many years ago there was almost an overcrowding of foreign productions in Budapest, Hungary. What had happened? They had built mega film factories that they then offered at very low cost. This is how their fortune began with international cinema. True, times have changed, but this does not mean that we must give up the momentum that is in us.

[Daniela Giordano together with the editor of ASCinema Manuela Maria Giordano at the Hotel Zagarella in Palermo (7 July 2022) (photo by Salvatore Arcarese).]

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