Italian twins Damiano and Fabio D’Innocenzo, who made a splash in Berlin last year with “Bad Tales,” in which Elio Germano played the sadistic father in a dysfunctional suburban family, are now in the Venice competition with “America Latina,” in which Germano plays a more tender character.
He’s a morally upright dentist named Massimo Sisti who lives with his wife and beloved daughters in a tranquil, albeit a bit eerie, suburban home. Massimo’s life seems peaceful until one night he goes down to the cellar and something unforeseen takes over.
Ahead of the film’s Venice premiere the directors spoke to Variety about why “it was important to make a warmer, more compassionate film” than “Bad Tales” while continuing to explore the dark side of the human psyche. Edited excerpts.
How did the project originate?
Fabio: We were in Berlin with “Bad Tales” and to ease the pressure of the festival we started thinking about our next movie. We always want to be creative and try new things outside the box. So we decided we wanted to tell a tale about the dark side of contemporary existence. At a time when we are all trapped in very specific constraints we wanted to investigate something much deeper, more internal. We wanted to dig deeper into our being fathers, our being sons, our social role, our identity. All the things we take for granted. Also for us it was important to make a warmer, more compassionate film than “Bad Tales.”
Tell me about the title
Damiano: It’s a strange mix of the city of Latina, a grey city rooted in Italy’s infamous Fascist past, which is reflected everywhere there. We wanted to juxtapose Latina, with all it’s terrible connotations, with America, with the American dream.
How did you get Elio Germano on board again to play such a different character than the one he played in “Bad Tales”?
Fabio: We called Elio after Berlin and we told him: “We’ve written this story.” Then we gave him the script, and after that it was actually him who gave us indications [as to who Massimo was]. His take on the character was really very simple. It’s a classic situation where the protagonist has plenty of depth. We had to make sure that, as directors, we weren’t ticking off boxes of other roles that Elio had already played. Not merely to be different, but to dig deep. The work we did with Elio was to not relegate or constrict the character, to not make him banal. We wanted him to represent our weaknesses, our mysteries, and ultimately our need to be loved. What we were striving for was his humanity, his “pietas”.
Elio is of course a well-known talent. How did you pick the much lesser known actor who plays his wife?
Damiano: It was very important for this film to have a strong feminine side, including the feminine side of the male lead, who is not the alpha male of “Bad Tales.” We wanted strong female characters and came across this theater actress, Astrid Casali, who is at her debut in a feature film. She lit up the screen. Her face reminded us of 19th century paintings. She’s very un-contemporary. For this story it was very important to have faces that eluded contemporary canons of beauty.
“America Latina” is edited by Walter Fasano, who is Luca Guadagnino’s regular editor. How did this collaboration come about?
Fabio: We had been chasing Fasano even for “Bad Tales” –– on which [editor] Esmeralda Calabria did a great job –– but he was on another film. Then Guadagnino himself called us, while we were casting “America Latina,” and told us that Fasano was free. So after he tipped us off, Walter read the screenplay and we immediately hit it off.