By Jan Švábenický
January 22, 2024
An interview with Emiliano Ferrera, contemporary creator
of Italian westerns
Emiliano Ferrera (born 1974) is a film director, screenwriter, actor, producer and editor. In his work, he focuses exclusively on the western and its diverse genre combinations. In the westerns that he directs, He often creates the main roles, and in the external stylization of the heroes, often refers to the characters of the American actor Clint Eastwood in Sergio's films Leone. Emiliano is not only a successor and current representative of the Italian Western in its long-standing cultural tradition, but also a creator who revives this popular genre for today's audiences. We have been in contact since 2015 and since then we have had Many opportunities to exchange views on history as well as the present of this genre in Italy. Our friendship is always built on common interests and enthusiasm for everything we are dedicated doing. For a series of interviews within my blog I decided to reach out to Emiliano and talk about the past and contemporary Italian western.
Your films by other contemporary directors show that the Italian Western still exists. Why do you focus on Westerns and what opportunities does it offer you as a filmmaker?
I'm focusing on westerns. For now, I only wish to film this film genre. Ever since I was a kid, I've been excited both in film and in everything that is connected with the world of the Wild West.
The Italian Western is one of the popular genres that had international success. What is the situation of the western of the 1960s and 1970s in Italy today, and what type of audience is looking for it?
According to both me and the young audience have a great desire to go to the cinema to see some nice movies, whether it's a horror movie or a police thriller. For us authors, the desire to try our hand at film is certainly important. Genres that made Italian cinema great and international cinema. Personally, I stick to what I like the most, and that's the Italian western. My films are independent productions, also because large companies do not take risks at all to produce film genres. On the one hand, I'm sorry, but I’m sure that sooner or later this tradition will return to fashion.
In your films, you often blend westerns with other genres. What in your opinion, what genre combinations work best in a western and how do audiences like your films?
Preparing an Italian Western trilogy, which will be presented in the cinemas. I practically shot three western episodes focused on the subject of women and their difficulties that they experience in a distant Wild West era. In one of the three episodes, there’s a little bit of fantasy and horror which are also represented. Horror and mysticism are therefore what this film genre marries very we
[Emiliano Ferrera and Giuliano Gemma]
Costumes, even the overall stylization of the characters you portray are reminiscent of Clint Eastwood in the Sergio Leone's films. The extent to which it is this iconic similarity, is it about creative intent?
I love Clint Eastwood characters. Fortunately, I have only a vague resemblance to him, and that's why as an actor I like to recreate characters that resemble him as he was forty years ago. I can ride a horse well and use weapons. I've always given my best acting effort and inspiration in this type of character. In fact, I'm very different from the characters I portray in my westerns.
You're often filming your films in some authentic Italian western locations. What places did you specifically choose and to what extent are they connected to your favorite movies?
The last episode of the trilogy I just finished was filmed in Campo Secco di Camerata Nuova. This is a very important location of the Italian western where they were filmed in the 1960s and 1970s movies like “The Call Me Trinity” (Lo chiamavano Trinità..., 1970) directed by Enzo Barboni, “Keoma” (1976) by Enzo G. Castellari and about a hundred other films of this genre. Other scenes I then filmed in Campo Catino, near Campa Secca. The other two episodes of my trilogy called “Oltre il confine” (Beyond the Border, 2023) – which is a tribute to my favorite and recently deceased writer Cormac McCarthy – I shot in the Campo Imperatore area of Abruzzo. Also, this has been the location of many Italian westerns in the past. All three of the episodes are filmed between Lazio and Abruzzo just where directors like Enzo G. Castellari, Enzo Barboni, Sergio Corbucci, Ferdinando Baldi, Giuseppe Colizzi and others used at that time. Basically, my films are a great tribute to these greats and these great locations that we have in the middle of Italy.
From the silent era to the present day, hundreds of different Italian westerns were created. What kind of filmmakers and films are you from a filmmaker's point of view? Personally closest to you?
Undoubtedly, I prefer Sergio Leone and all his westerns, but I loved all of them. Especially Sergio Corbucci and all his films “The Great Silence” (Il grande silenzio (1968), Enzo G. Castellari and his “Keoma”, Duccio Tessari and his films about ‘Ringo’, Giuseppe Colizzi, Giulio Petroni, Sergio Sollima, Ferdinand Baldi or Tonino Valerii's masterpiece “My The Name is Nobody” (Il mio nome è Nessuno, 1973), to whom I pay homage in one of the episodes of my trilogy.
With Master Enzo I have the honor of being his friend. Then, in addition to the author and director, I am also editor of my films, so I have the honor of having as a friend the great editor Eugenio Alabisa, who edited Leone's films “The Good, for Bad and the Ugly” (Il buono, il brutto, il cattivo, 1966) and “Per qualche dollaro in più” (For a Few Dollars More) (1965). I hope they will be my guests in the cinema when I present the premiere of my film “Oltre Il Confine”.
In the second half of the 1960s, America they were called Spaghetti westerns. but in Italy, they are most commonly called Western or Western Italian (Western all'Italiana). Which of these terms do you prefer and why?
Spaghetti Western, because I like the way it sounds, and, because it's a term that is always resonant to a wide audience. This is despite the fact that Americans use this term to criticize us. Long live the spaghetti-western!
Italian Westerns have almost nothing to do with the real Wild West or American culture, and they are embarking on a very different route. How do you perceive the Italian western from a cultural point of view?
Personally, when I write and shoot my westerns, I am very aware and base it on historical context. I'm very meticulous in the authenticity of the expedition carried out at the Pegasus Ranch near Rome, in charge of my great friend Tiziano Carnivale. I also pay a lot of attention to costumes, horses and everything that matches the authenticity of the genre. With the exception of a few titles, Italian westerns did not pay such attention to historical details. At that time, westerns had something Salgari-esque about them, but I love these movies anyway.
These films are almost always based on elements of modern rhythm Music. What role do you think music plays in Italian westerns and what are your favorite composers?
Music represents fifty percent of the film's success. I love Ennio Morricone, but the others are also great. I was very impressed by the music from the film “Il pistolero dell'Ave Maria” (The Forgotten Pistolero) (1969) by Ferdinand Baldi, composed and conducted by Maestro Roberto Pregadio. This is truly a beautiful composition. I've got my composer which, among other things, sets music to my new film “Oltre il confine” and who is the real genius, Klaus Veri. He doesn't get inspired by anyone; he does what he is doing in an original way.
And Your films and the work of other contemporary directors demonstrate that the Italian western still exists. Why do you focus on westerns and what possibilities do they offer you as a filmmaker?
[Emiliano Ferrera and Yassmin Pucci and Fernando Di Virgilio from “Oro e piombo” (2018)]
The photos come from the private archive of Emiliano Ferrera.
Dear readers, on Jan’s blog you can read not only about his
publishing activities as a film historian and researcher, but also about
popular genres of Italian cinema and Italian popular culture.
[Pictures courtesy of Emiliano Ferrera]