Italian multi-hyphenate Nicolò Bassetti is an urban planner and director, whose doc “Into My Name,” screening in Berlin’s Panorama Documentary section, provides an eye-opening look at the universal challenges of gender transition.
The doc features Nico, Leo, Andrea, and Raff, whose ages span from their mid-20s to mid-30s, and come from different parts of Italy. They start their gender transition at different times in their lives within a tight-knit group of friends in the central Italian city of Bologna.
“Into My Name,” which is being supported by Elliot Page, stems from Bassetti’s personal experience with the gender transition of his child, Matteo. Bassetti spoke to Variety about how he was able to delve so deep into his doc’s subject matter. Edited excerpts from the conversation follow.
What was the starting point for “Into My Name”?
It all started four years ago, the night I received a letter from my son. The fact that he emailed to me in the dead of night meant there had been some deliberation. It was an extraordinary coming out in which my son expressed himself partly as a male and partly as a female and announced that he had decided to leave the shore of female identity for a journey of which he indicated the first stops. He told me: “Don’t be afraid, trust me and stay close to me.” Then, later, I got the idea to make a film, as a way to stay close to him. It took me a while to get the nerve to tell him my idea. When I finally did, I said: “I don’t think you should be in the film; but you could help me, and it could perhaps also help other people.”
What was the next step?
Matteo introduced me to a small trans community in Bologna, I spent four months going to their meetings and trying to understand who might be interested. I found these wonderful four friends and I asked them to get involved at various levels and they said yes, not without some hesitation because it was a very big commitment. Of course, Matteo was my “insurance.”
Once you had the protagonists, how did you figure out how to tell their stories?
In terms of structure the main challenge was to avoid all stereotypes and avoid voyeurism. This is clear in the scene involving a testosterone shot. I wanted to show the shot because most people don’t know anything about this. But they said: “No, that’s bullshit.” And I realized they were right. So we found a way to show it without showing it. And this is a novelty as a director for me. All the scenes in the doc we decided together. And I actually shot as little as possible, only roughly 60 hours of footage. They were relaxed because they knew they were in their comfort zone and I wasn’t stealing absolutely anything from them.
How did you decide the multi-strand narrative structure?
I asked them to come up with a project they could bring into the film, through which I could tell their stories. And I also told them that this project, if they wanted it to, could coincide with an obsession of theirs. Or not. By obsession, I mean something to which each one of us clings on to. We all have obsessions, which is what keeps us alive, but they are also something that we are beholden to. I did this in order to make the film universal. If possible I’d like this film to be seen by everyone, I don’t want it to be a niche work that just speaks to the LGBTQ+ community.