In the Italian foothills, summer is almost over. Mirko and Max meet in the forest and wander in abandoned places, trying to imagine a possible future, while Giorgia and Lorenzo live timid moments of intimacy. In the background, a daily life of a community of teenagers with ASD, who manage to live in balance between real and fantastic, physical and metaphysical, fear and pleasure of getting lost. They somehow live outside time, a condition that allows them to experience an ephemeral present made of discoveries, rituals and relationships. Marana is a journey into the world of autism, where the desires of youth are recorded in their simple becoming.
Original title: Marana
International title: Marana
Shooting format: FullHD
Screening format: DCP, Apple ProRes HQ
Aspect ratio: 1:1:85
Color / bw: Colore
Runtime: 64 min
Language: Italian, English
Subtitles: Italian, English
Production: Puma Punka + Ezme Film
Co-production: Diplomart, Club Ambassador With the support of: MeA - Mosaicoeaias Soc. Coop, A.I.A.S. Valdagno Onlus, APS Famiglie Mosaico
Directors and cinematographers: Giovanni Benini, Davide Provolo
Sound recordists: Giovanni Benini, Davide Provolo, Matias Campaci
Editor: Pierpaolo Filomeno
Original soundtrack: Lite Orchestra (Matias Campaci, Thomas Pizzini)
Sound designer: Ludovic Van Pachterbeke
Colorist: Stefano Bellamoli
Sound mix: Samuele Tezza
Executive producer: Ginevra Gadioli
Festivals: 13th Beldocs (International Competition) WP, 8th AegeanDocs (International Competition), 14th Corsica.Doc (Nouveaux Talents), 45th Laceno d'Oro (Doc Competition), 5th Ibiza CineFest (Panorama), 15th Ethnocineca (Cinema-programme), Freiburger Film Forum 2021
How did you get an idea to make this documentary?
The project started in 2015, when our friends Matias Campaci and Thomas Pizzini (aka Lite Orchestra duo, composers and performers of Marana soundtrack) started an experimental electro-music lab with the teenagers living in Marana, a residential care center for minors with ASD. We began shooting their performances in the center but soon we fell in love with the place and its residents and we decided to develop a film project. We were not, and still aren’t, experts on ASD topics, but we felt an immediate connection with the protagonists and we felt the need to paint a picture of the intense and hypnotic atmosphere of Marana.
This movie is about the teenagers with autism. How much the film, as an art form, is challenging for the topics like human interest and social issues?
The topic of autism has gained relevance in our societies because of the exponential growth of the reported cases and we think that it is important to describe this varied world through different and new lenses. The narrative has to shift from one focused only on the condition of the people affected by ASD to a storytelling that revolves around the person in his or her complexity. The representations of autism has the tendency to clean and cut out the challenging and hard aspects of the daily life of ASD affected people, their families and the professionals involved; the risk may be to create a representation that seems too fictional and detached from the reality. We decided for a non-narrative approach, and our documentary became a ritualized journey into the autism world, where the desires of youth are recorded in their simple becoming.
Did the work with these people change your perspective on autistic people and how? What did you see that couldn’t be seen until we spend more time with them and come closer to the people with mental disability?
In the past both Davide and I have lived some private and familiar relations with people affected by mental illness, but the production of the film has given us a more comprehensive idea of this universe. Our protagonists have a tough life and it is very hard for them to find their place in the world. They have an unlimited potential and a lot of creativity, even if from the outside it looks like they don’t know their direction in life. They somehow live in purity and innocence, a condition that allows them to experience an “eternal present”, embodying a mix of feelings and obsessions, which have almost a mystic meaning. The film gives back the immersion and mimetic identification we lived during our stay in the center. Marana is our debut film as directors and we feel that this experience has helped us to enrich our way of being: we must say a huge thanks to them.
How did they react to idea of participating in the film?
Filming people is always a deep and fragile matter. We think that sensibility and awareness are the fundamental tools for every author. Somehow in Marana it was easy to get in contact with the protagonists since the communication with them was mostly based on body language and facial expressions and not on words. This resulted in a transparent and very direct relationship between the crew and them. They had a great and natural cinematic response, they enjoyed being filmed and were really curious about our technical equipment (some cables and a monitor were destroyed!). We had fun together playing music, creating and exploring sets. The caregivers trusted us and we were allowed to have a high level of freedom in the interaction.
What was your experience in work with them? What did you learn from these teenagers?
Our filmic work lies in underscoring the affinities between us and the people we filmed. The idea was to narrate the phenomenon of autism in a way that could also evoke the strength, the freedom, the visionary power of the young characters. We think we were able to share moments where the real and the fantastic, the physical and the metaphysical, the fear and the pleasure of getting lost are well integrated. They showed us the determination, constancy, dedication and the ability to pursue our desires despite the stiffness of our society.
The teenagers from the film hang out, they find their way to play and have fun. As other teenagers, they have their idols, desires, the way to love etc. How this film can help in overcoming the prejudice and stereotypes about people like them?
The film is made with the purpose of overcoming the prejudices about people with ASD. There is no “us and them”, we are all human beings and we all have the right to live with dignity. The laws of each nation present huge gaps, for example the Italian law states very clear dispositions about adults with ADS but it’s lacking when it comes to teenagers, who are in custody of the families until they turn 18. This grey area created by a lack of legislation translates into situations of discriminations and disadvantages that contribute to the rise of stereotypes in our societies. The role of the art and filmmaking is to shed a light where law and politics don’t arrive and made all of us aware.
How do the people react on the movie? What was the most interesting for them?
Marana will premiere at Beldocs and we are looking forward to hearing the audience’s opinion! We had some private screenings with the families and they surprised us with their positive feedbacks and reactions. For many parents the film worked as a cathartic experience, because it gave them the possibility to share their responsibilities and worries with all the people watching the film, even if only for an hour. They told us they believed the film was a moment of transfiguration of the daily reality of their sons and daughters into universal thematics.
Verona (Italy), 08.08.2020
Giovanni Benini, Davide Provolo
Different people, different perceptions of the world around them. Some are privileged to be considered mentally healthy, the others are not. In their documentary Marana, the Italian first-time filmmaking duo Giovanni Benini and Davide Provolo take us on a journey to the worlds that are not theirs. The film had its world (physical) premiere at the recently wrapped Beldocs in Belgrade, Serbia.
Opening with a teen boy in a slightly mischievous mood who’s trying to draw on a rusty barrel with a piece of brick, it isn’t easy to pinpoint what the film is about straight away. When the boy is joined by another one about the same age as him, as they begin to wander through the forest, we can’t help but asking ourselves what are they actually doing apart from idling in that late-summer landscape. The games they play might seem a bit aggressive or infantile for their age, and their plans for revitalizing the crumbling and at least temporarily abandoned touristic complex, are somewhat delusional. In that unique moment in the film with its context-free observational mode, and which could pass as an interview, the bigger lad says he wants to become a famous singer although his singing and rapping skills are not exactly stellar. He even has a name for his future stardom ready: Max Divine.
The two free-wheeling guys serve as the protagonists of the film’s first of three chapters. In the first chapter’s finale, we learn about other boys of their age living in the same place as they do, but also that the place might be some sort of a closed institution for teens with special needs. As the observations move to the other characters, some of them forlorn and uncommunicative, the nature of the institution and the world(s) they all live in becomes more clear. It is a facility for teens with autism. Since it is a spectral disease, its manifestations vary greatly.
Benini and Provolo succeed in their intentions and Marana never feels staged, manipulative or exploitative. The absence of those who take care of the young patients is a bit surprising and can lead to an illusion that they are simply left there to take care of themselves and provide therapy for one another. The filmmakers use that kind of setting in order to explore the nature of the desease, but also to examine genuine interactions among the youth and their reactions to different stimuli from the outside world.
Benini and Provolo’s camera always stays close to the “action”, usually revolving around the protagonist of the scene, the person the directors singled out for some specific event. Thanks to Pierpaolo Filomeno’s precise editing, not a single frame outstays its welcome, and the gentleness and genuine interest never turns towards something with questionable ethics. Another component that could be singled out is the score written and performed by Matias Campaci and Thomas Pizzini of Lite Orchestra, that perfectly fits with the subjects’ preferred musical choices and the fact that music can play a great part for the rehabilitation and the inclusion of persons with some form of ASD.
Marana lets their voice, sometimes not quite understandable for the outside world, be heard in a gentle and genuine fashion.
Review (Sentieri Selvaggi) IT
Gli esordienti Benini e Provolo raccontano con attenzione e sensibilità la quotidianità di un gruppo di ragazzi affetti da disturbi dello spettro autistico, ospitati nella struttura di Villa Santa Rita, sulle Prealpi vicentine.
Un racconto che si muove in una dimensione a-spaziale e a-temporale, dove le giornate scorrono sempre uguali, lontani dalla città. Una storia di isolamento e incontro, impossibilità di comunicare e ipotesi di dialogo, con la musica a fare da comune denominatore come forma espressiva per chi non riesce a farlo in altro modo. Chi ascolta il rap dal cellulare, chi sceglie il proprio nome d’arte ispirandosi a Justin Bieber, intonando con voce rotta e sofferente note malinconiche, chi esprime la propria gioia farfugliando un motivetto o facendo risuonare un giocattolo per bambini. La musica elettronica diventa strumento di interazione tra i ragazzi, punto di contatto tra il mondo esterno e un’interiorità soffocata.
Marana è un documentario di contatti e scambi, umani e fisici: dove non arrivano le parole, intervengono i gesti, gli abbracci, le carezze, le mani tese, i baci. Max e Mirko si incontrano in una foresta, che dà il titolo al primo capitolo del documentario, la esplorano e si esplorano, lanciandosi in giochi di lotta e conversazioni intime: la famiglia, il futuro, i desideri. Insieme a loro, a Villa Santa Rita, incontriamo Federico, Giorgia, Lorenzo. Il documentario vive in un tempo incantato, un potenziale divenire che non si tramuta mai in atto, in cambiamento. Fermi immagine che trattengono comuni attimi di quotidianità. Che per i ragazzi di Marana equivalgono ad una vita intera. Ecco allora che fissare significa rendere visibile, togliere dal flusso del tempo e dal deterioramento della memoria.
Marana è un racconto di luoghi e vite sospese, dove immaginazione e desiderio creano infinite traiettorie di possibilità, le stesse che una realtà inceppata come quella dello spettro autistico sembra non poter offrire. Allo stesso tempo però non risparmia i lividi, la fatica e la frustrazione. Eppure bastano poche scene ad incanalare quel profondo senso di liberazione di una parola senza forma che trova compimento nei movimenti del corpo. Le inquadrature si stringono sui visi dei ragazzi, sempre al centro della scena, in uno scambio giocoso con la macchina da presa. Nella realtà, come nella narrazione, gioca un ruolo anche la connessione con l’ambiente circostante: il boschetto che apre il documentario, la casa in cui vivono i ragazzi, il mare e la spiaggia del capitolo finale. L’esplorazione del mondo esterno fa da scenario all’esplorazione di sé e dell’altro, attraverso il gioco, il tatto, le parole, spesso incerte, abbozzate o incomprensibili, tramite di individualità ed esperienze.
Una ricerca pura e genuina, ripresa con tenerezza, che lascia emergere il desiderio di intimità e la voglia di contatto che oltrepassa e annulla ogni difficoltà di comunicazione. In tempi di lontananza forzata, Marana amplifica le voci ingabbiate dall’autismo dei ragazzi di Villa Santa Rita, riportandoci all’essenzialità delle relazioni, al calore dei gesti d’affetto che diventano forma d’espressione cristallina.