Ettore Scola is one of Italy’s best known film directors of the past 50 years. Much of the 78-year-old’s work reflects life in post-war Italy and during the economic boom of the 60s and 70s. He is a two-times prize winner at Cannes and has received Oscar nominations. He spoke to euronews about the state of European cinema and European politics.
Giovanni Magi, euronews: “A lot of your films tell stories based on important historic events — “A Special Day” and “Unfair Competition”. If you were to write a screenplay today, what contemporary event would be the subject? Scola: “Well, Italy, above all, has never been stingy to its authors. It’s always been a rich source of inspiration, stories and subjects. It’s far from being an unremarkable, neutral society. There are a lot of imperfections, negative values. I think, today, I would make a film about the economic crisis and also the recent earthquake, which wasn’t just about an event of nature, but also concerned bad public managament, unscrupulous builders and inspectors. So there are interesting subjects to make films about.” euronews: “Recently you said “While Berlusconi’s in power I won’t make films…. Scola: “In fact… euronews: …but wouldn’t the opposite view be better, to express your ideas when you can’t share in the culture of the ruling class.?” Scola: “Unfortunately, cinema is not like the work of a writer or painter, who can say what he likes without worrying about external financial support. All they need is a canvass or a blank page. Cinema is also an industrial endeavour. Among other things, Berlusconi controls the press and TV, even cinema, to a large extent, depends on him. Now, bear in mind I’m not so presumptuous as to think: ‘Ah, my voice must continue to cry out because it is necessary and indispensible. I prefer to let young people do it. They will do it; they’ve already started doing it. I’m keeping an eye on a lot of young people, my former assistants. It’s up to them now.” euronews: “You’ve spoken several times about a film on the drawing board, called, if I remember correctly, ‘A dragon-shaped cloud’. Gerard Depardieu was reportedly interested. Will we see this film? Scola: “No. It was just a film that we planned to do with Gerard Depardieu. Everything was agreed, the screenplay was done, it was beautiful. Everything was in place, but the financing would have come from Berlusconi and so… I think to be able to work, in whatever job…even a carpenter must have a rapport with his client. He needs to feel part of a creative family. So to work with someone you’re against, I didn’t think it would go very well, in the end. euronews: “You’ve always been involved in politics. You were culture minister in a communists’ shadow cabinet. Do you believe in European integration, have you always believed, do you still have faith in Europe?” Scola: “What would our continent be today without the EU? Even if there are contrasts, I think that without the European links, without the single currency, there would be an end to Europe. The countries would pay the highest price. And in fact the European Union is in the process of growing because countries still believe that to advance, we have to go forward together.” euronews: “Can cinema influence politics? I’m thinking for example of the film ‘The Caiman’ by Nanni Moretti, but also ‘Welcome’, which recently sparked a big debate in France.” Scola: “I don’t think cinema can transform reality or modify what takes place. I don’t think, either, that it can easily influence politics. However, cinema really can be — and this is an important tool — a stimulator in the minds of those watching films. I mean, film can pose questions to the public that they would not otherwise ask themselves. Film can instill doubts that the public would not otherwise have. So, this function of cinema, which I know all too well, can modify mindsets.” euronews: “What’s doing most harm to cinema today? TV, video piracy, or just bad films?” Scola: “There are alway bad films which have done nothing for cinema. Maybe also the reluctance of young directors to make films about their own country. They focus rather on autobiography, or the imitation of other cultures and languages. And so they try to make films that will work for television because TV helps to produce films. But, it has to be said, things have turned around a bit in recent years, especially in Italy. I think directors have rediscovered a desire to reflect Italy. In films like “Il Divo” and Gomorra”, and others, the face of Italy is coming through in cinema.” euronews: “In the last Oscars ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ was a big hit. It could, perhaps, be defined as a new generation of film. It was produced by Europeans but was an Indian story. It was, perhaps, a case of the globalisation of cinema or filmmaking culture. Do you think there are risks involved in this phenomonen?” Scola: “There are inherent risks in globalisation. Globalisation could have noble and useful objectives; a better distribution of wealth and responsibilities. On the other hand, it could reinforce a standardisation, or maintain certain differences in the distribution of wealth from one country to another. It would be difficult to call ‘Slumdog’ a real Indian film. It’s a film which tells an Indian story, with Indian characters but with a European, anglosaxon culture. In this case, I think this kind of operation worked well. But I don’t believe it’s a mirror of a specific culture.” euronews: “Have you seen any films recently that you would recommend, that you like a lot?” Scola: “Unfortunately it was an American film. The films of Clint Eastwood get better all the time. At least the last four which were really well directed” euronews: “So, it was ‘Gran Torino?” Scola “Grand Torino, more for the interpretation of the theme, because as an actor he is a bit wooden. He has a natural authority as a director — the atmosphere he creates, the ambiance, the use of light for psychological effect. In that respect he’s top rate, he’s great.”