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Locarno: Emerging Director Michele Pennetta on His Work, Festivals, Opportunities for Young Filmmakers

Pennetta announces he will complete a trilogy on clandestine practices in Sicily

Michele Pennetta, Locarno 2016
Copyright: Festival del film Locarno/Marco Abram

Born in Varese in Italy in 1984, Michele Pennetta studied at the École Cantonale d’Art de Lausanne (ECAL) and graduated with a Master’s in film directing. His graduation film “I cani abbaiano” (2010) was selected for several festivals including Cinéma du Réel in Paris and Torino, while “’The Bet” (2013)  screened at Locarno in the Swiss section of the festival’s Pardi di domani, a new talent showcase. “Pescatori di corpi,” his first feature film, premiered at the 2016 69th Locarno Festival in the Cinema of the Present competition strand, Cineasti del Presente, focusing on rising talent.

What does Locarno Film Festival represent for you?

It was a turning point of my career as a filmmaker: Having won the award for best Swiss short film there three years earlier, Locarno was my first choice when I finished my feature film. It’s a festival I am sentimentally attached to, as it launched me and it allowed me to produce my first feature film. I think that each festival has its own identity, and I think that Locarno is affirming itself as a festival of discovery, which looks for new auteurs and new languages of cinema. Nowadays cinema is changing, and in my opinion the traditional way of making films does not succeed in reaching and touching as many people as in the past. In Locarno, on the other hand, also as a viewer you have the opportunity to see different films that you usually cannot see elsewhere. In this sense, the festival is doing a very nice job in presenting, not without any risks, very radical and interesting films.

Did winning the award for best short film in Locarno in 2013 have an influence on your career as a filmmaker?

Certainly winning at a festival opens a whole set of new opportunities. It means that your next applications will be read more attentively, and people will generally be more interested in your work. However, people in the film industry see many films from many different authors, so you really have to work in the following two or three years after you won the award, otherwise people will forget about you as fast as they discovered you.

The film you’re presenting this year addresses the issue of migrants travelling to Europe. Why did you decide to focus on Sicily in particular?

With my previous film, I had been in contact with clandestine [immigrants], people living in Sicily, and this is what pushed me to focus on this topic for my feature film. Moreover, the media were all talking about Lampedusa, and I found it ridiculous because obviously it wasn’t happening only there, and I couldn’t understand why they weren’t focusing on the universality of the emergency instead of only on a single island.

Do you have any projects for the future?

We’re currently producing another project which will be the last part of a trilogy focused on illegality in Sicily, such as illicit horse racing in “The Bet” and illegal migration in “Pescatori di corpi.” The shoot will begin in Spring 2017 in Sicily. It will once again be a film with multiple points of view.