×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

‘Daughter of Mine’ Director Laura Bispuri on Motherhood, Modernity and #MeToo

Italian director Laura Bispuri made a splash in the 2015 Berlin Film Festival competition with her first feature, transgender-themed “Sworn Virgin.” She’s back at the Berlinale this year with “Daughter of Mine,” about a 10-year-old girl’s rapport with her adoptive and biological mothers. She spoke to Variety about tackling the theme of maternity from three different points of view.

How did “Daughter of Mine” originate? I think you’ve cited American writer A.M. Homes’ memoir “The Mistress’s Daughter” as a source of inspiration?

Several years ago, before “Sworn Virgin,” I heard a story about a 20-year-old woman – unlike the film – who felt a need to be adopted by another mother. This really struck me. I talked about it with my regular screenwriter, Francesca Manieri, and that led us to read that book.

Then “Sworn Virgin” came along. But afterwards I felt drawn back to that story; my daughter had grown, my maternity journey was further along. We started building these characters drawing from all kinds of sources including the biblical tale of King Solomon. We wanted to take an ancestral story, if you will, and ask contemporary questions. That’s what I always try to do.

With your follow-up to “Sworn Virgin” it’s become obvious that you are attracted to narratives about the feminine condition with both ancestral and contemporary aspects.

Popular on Variety

Yes. But in “Sworn Virgin” there was a clear distinction between the archaic and contemporary worlds: the mountains [of Albania] and the city [in Italy]. That film was split into two separate parts. In this case instead we took our cue from the archaic aspects of Sardinia, but we depicted a Sardinia that is of course affected by modernity. It’s as though I’ve joined the two strands of “Sworn Virgin” into a single world.

The girl who plays 10-year-old Vittoria, the daughter at the center of the film, is amazing. How did you find her?

It was more complicated than I expected. I just couldn’t find the right girl….I personally combed through parts of Sardinia, school by school, class by class. Nothing. Then we broadened the search and we found Sara [Casu]. What struck me right away was her voice, which was very mature, besides her physical aspect that, being a redhead, is far from the Sardinian stereotype. We did an audition with Sara and Alba [Rohrwacher] in which I asked Sara to express both attraction and repulsion for this woman in a dance scene with her. We ended up adding that scene to the film.

Compared with “Sworn Virgin,” the tone here is less subdued. It’s more extreme, especially the character played by Rohrwacher.

The film is basically a melodrama. I wanted to depict three characters who are all placed in a conflict that, to put it simplistically, breaks their heart, for different reasons….It’s a visceral journey….I wanted to delve into the folds of a maternity that hasn’t been depicted that much. Mothers are often sanctified; my intention was to go against the perception of maternity as perfection, to be more truthful than that. So we had to get our hands dirty.

As a director who explores changing female identities in your movies, how to do feel about the #MeToo movement?

I think we are at a very important time, historically. Sexual molestation [in the film world] is just one aspect of what until now has been systemic abuse towards women all over the world. It has always happened everywhere, even in so-called evolved democracies….In Italy a woman is murdered every three days [by a partner or former partner]. This is a fact, not an opinion….We are talking about a gigantic level of abuse, of which molestation is one very serious aspect.

Luckily, #MeToo is paving the way for discussion and a greater awareness of this problem. What I find upsetting is how difficult it’s been, and still is, to see it clearly….I think this American movement is hugely important, because it’s starting to shed light on this.

More Film

  • Joel Silver

    Silver Pictures Settles with Family of Assistant Who Died on Bora Bora Trip

    Silver Pictures has reached a confidential settlement with the family of Carmel Musgrove, the assistant to Joel Silver who was found dead in a Bora Bora lagoon in 2015. Musgrove’s family filed a wrongful death suit in 2017, alleging that she had been overworked and furnished with drugs and alcohol during the trip. The family [...]

  • David O. Russell

    David O. Russell Looks at 'Three Kings' 20 Years Later

    When David O. Russell made “Three Kings” in 1999, it was one of the most definitive films on the Gulf War. At the time, the director had worked on shorts “Hairway to the Stars” and “Bingo Inferno: A Parody on American Obsessions.” He had also worked on features “Spanking the Monkey” and “Flirting with Disaster.” [...]

  • Metoo Sundance The Glorias Zola On

    #MeToo Issues Continue to Make an Impact on Sundance Films

    If there were any doubts that the impact of sexual-harassment exposés­­ and backlash against them had died down, Oprah Winfrey put them to rest when she withdrew her name (and Apple’s distribution) from “On The Record,” a film about allegations against music execs Russell Simmons and L.A. Reid — just two weeks before its Sundance Film Festival premiere. Variety reached out to Winfrey and the [...]

  • Harvey Weinstein arrives at a Manhattan

    Harvey Weinstein's Request to Move Trial Out of NYC Is Denied (Again)

    An appeals court denied the second request from Harvey Weinstein’s legal team to move his trial out of New York City on Tuesday. Weinstein’s attorneys asked the Appellate Division last week to move the trial to Albany or Suffolk County, arguing it is impossible for him to get a fair trial due to the “carnival-like [...]

  • Adrian Rossi appears in Summer White

    Visit Films to Sell Sundance Player ‘Summer White’ (EXCLUSIVE)

    New York-based sales company Visit Films has acquired worldwide rights for Mexican feature “Summer White,” world premiering in Sundance’s World Cinema Dramatic Competition on Sunday Jan. 26. Visit will also be screening the film at Berlinale’s European Film, Market. Now a key North American sales company for Latin American films, Visit’s catalog includes other major [...]

  • Avengers Endgame

    4DX High-Tech Cinemas Break Box Office Records in 2019

    CJ 4DPLEX, the company behind multi-sensory 4DX cinema technology, has announced that it had a record-breaking 2019, grossing more than £246 million ($320 million) for 4DX worldwide. It was the best year yet for the groundbreaking format, marking a 12% increase from 2018’s record $286 million. The uptick is partly credited to booming revenues in [...]

  • Endeavor Content Studio Logo

    Endeavor Content, Exile Strike First-Look Deal With Mexican Producer Subtrama (EXCLUSIVE)

    Endeavor Content is upping its local-language game, signing a significant first look deal with Mexico City-based producer Subtrama. Endeavor enters the deal with Exile Content Studio, a long-form English and Spanish content maker. Subtrama is behind films like Gael García Bernal’s “Museo.” Mauricio Katz, Manuel Alcalá, and Panorama Global’s Gerardo Gatica and Alberto Muffelmann run [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content