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‘Ordinary Justice’ Director Chiara Bellosi on Fascination With Courthouses

Young Italian director Chiara Bellosi is at the Berlinale with “Ordinary Justice” which examines the lives of two families on opposite sides of a murder case who intersect on the benches outside the room where the case is being tried. This first work, screening in Generation14Plus, is produced by Carlo Cresto-Dina’s Tempesta which discovered Alice Rohrwacher (“The Wonders,” “Happy as Lazzaro”) and is known for nurturing the cream of Italy’s new cinematic crop. Vision Distribution is selling internationally. Bellosi spoke to Variety about her interest in the microcosm of courthouses.

What drew you to the subject matter?

I’ve always been fascinated by courthouses. And I’ve done social work for years, so I’ve come across plenty of stories. Courthouses are like a funnel into which all aspects of life flow…Initially I wanted to make a doc about the courthouse as a mirror of the outside world and I proposed it to Carlo. He told me he liked the idea of looking at this world, but to try to think of it as a feature film. It’s been a long process because first I had to find the right story. So for almost a year I went to the [Milan] court every day, and I would either sit on the benches in the hallways or inside the courtrooms just taking notes.

 

So how did you find the right story? 

One day, I was in this huge atrium and there was this girl sitting at a table with her mother — they were a Roma family — chatting and singing. I took that as my initial story thread, then added other chapters and characters. From then onwards one of my concerns was to juxtapose the interior and the exterior of the courtroom, so as to make the outside world – people’s life stories –  more powerful.

A bit simplistically I would say the ‘theme’ of the film is female bonding.

Yes, it came from the characters of Luce [a little girl] and Domenica [a young woman on the opposite side of the murder case] and their encounter, which is something that saves them.

The women in this story are the ones who more than anyone else will be affected by the consequences of the verdict. So they are united by this huge unknown [outcome] that they have in common. Bur no matter what the verdict will be they will get out and will experience personal growth.

Another thing that struck me is the dichotomy between the law with a capital L and the law of nature. The Law involves men inside the courtroom while natural law are the women sitting outside…So while inside there is a clash of positions, perhaps on the outside there is another route that things can take.

Talk to me about working with ace cinematographer Maurizio Calvesi (“The Confessions”) who has lensed something like 60 movies.

It was great. He was really involved and very passionate. We both agreed that the film should be shot in a straightforward manner. No shots from weird angles or a weird aesthetic. At the end of the day what was most important was to make the characters stand out. That was the path we took. I really learned a lot from him. He helped me understand what I was looking for and what I really wanted.

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