Chiara Bellosi, whose first work, “Ordinary Justice,” launched from Berlin’s Generation 14plus section in 2020, is back with “Swing Ride” (“Calcinculo”) about an overweight 15-year-old named Benedetta pining for attention in an Italian province where she falls in love with the skinny non-binary Amanda.
A key difference between the two films is that while “Ordinary Justice,” which examined the lives of two families on opposite sides of a murder case, originated from a deeply researched screenplay that Bellosi wrote, “Swing Ride” — premiering in Panorama on Feb. 13 — stems from a prizewinning script proposed to her by Carlo Cresto Dina, her producer, who also discovered Alice Rohrwacher (“Happy as Lazzaro”) and is known for nurturing the cream of Italy’s new cinematic crop.
“It’s a very different process; it was the first time that I had to start from a world that didn’t germinate from me,” said Bellosi about working from the script penned by Maria Teresa Venditti and Luca De Bei that won Italy’s prestigious Solinas prize in 2018.
It was like moving into a new house that she had to make her own, she said.
“I worked with the writers; I wanted to make a few tweaks and we did that together,” she added, noting that initially “it was a leap into the void.” But directing from their screenplay actually ended up giving her “more freedom” than her previous pic because “the container is already there; but you can go pretty wild with the rest.”
This freedom also made it more fun. “And of course who you are seeps into the movie anyway,” she said. “It seeps into how you see the characters; how you shoot; how you tell the story. The vision is definitely your own.”
Born in 1973 in the Northern lakeside city of Como, Bellosi studied drama at Milan’s Civica Scuola di Teatro Paolo Grassi and subsequently got a master’s degree in documentary film at the Istituto Europeo di Design in Venice. In 2006 she shot a short that was a segment of omnibus doc “Checosamanca,” produced by Cresto Dina, which eventually led to him shepherding “Ordinary Justice.” In the interim, Bellosi got passionately involved in social work for several years, but continued to write.
“Swing Ride,” which was shot over a six-week period during the pandemic in the town of Guidonia, outside Rome, is a dark fable portraying the friendship between Benedetta, played by newcomer Gaia Di Pietro, and binary Amanda, played by Andrea Carpenzano (“The Champion,” “Lovely Boy”) whom Benedetta decides to follow in her “stray world,” as Bellosi put it.
To prep the inexperienced Di Pietro, she used an acting coach. But really “the main thing was to get to know Gaia as much as possible” before the shoot, she said. With Carpenzano, the only prep they did was just meeting a couple of times to talk and realizing they “shared a language.”
How significant was it that Amanda is non-binary character?
For Bellosi Amanda’s gender was never much of an issue. “The question always was: who is Amanda for Benedetta?,” she said. And the key thing there is that “she’s clearly a catalyst” to Benedetta’s empowerment.
In terms of tone what Belllosi was striving for was a film combining naturalism “with the overarching feel of a fable.”
Going forward, Bellosi doesn’t know what her next project will be. Or at least, she’s not saying. But she’s sure that so far the most important thing in her career “has been the freedom to create and experiment,” she said.
“Film is like a utopia; it’s a world that doesn’t exist, but then you build it with other people, and then it exists. That’s the journey I’m interested in.”