Italian star author Robert Saviano, whose mob exposé “Gomorrah” spawned both Matteo Garrone’s eponymous prizewinning movie and the groundbreaking crime series that plays stateside on HBO, is making his directorial debut.
Saviano will direct “I’m Still Alive,” an animation adaptation of his graphic novel illustrated by Israeli artist Asaf Hanuka (“Waltz With Bashir”). “Still Alive” examines the anti-mob activist’s life under armed guard since being forced to live with police protection shortly after 2006 when Saviano’s account of the inner workings of the Neapolitan Camorra crime syndicate was published.
Just like Saviano’s graphic novel, “I’m Still Alive” will feature illustration’s by Hanuka, an Eisner-winning cartoonist who is known, besides “Bashir,” for his autobiographical strips “The Realist” and for graphic novel “The Divine.”
“I’m Still Alive” is being mounted as an international co-production between Naples-based Mad Entertainment and Lucky Red in Italy, GapBusters for Belgium, and Tel Aviv-based studio Sipur, formerly known as Tadmor Entertainment.
Saviano has penned the “Still Alive” screenplay in tandem with Neapolitan animation director Alessandro Rak, whose “Cinderella the Cat,” also comprised Naples’ Camorra gangs as a theme, and with writers Filippo Bologna and Stefano Piedimonte.
“My film is the story of a 26-year-old boy sentenced to death by a criminal organization – a boy who grew up in a land where, in just a handful of years, the Camorra killed 4,000 people,” Saviano said in a statement for Variety. “The sentence comes to that boy because he has decided to write what he sees around him. There you are. That boy is me. ‘I’m Still Alive’ is the film with which I decided to bring back to the screen what I have experienced up to now,” he added.
In the graphic novel Saviano recalls witnessing Camorra assassinations in the street in broad daylight and how his book’s huge success has impacted his personal freedom, forcing him at one point to wind up on a desert island when threats against him intensified, and another time to live under a false identity in New York. All while continuing to call attention to Italy’s deeply rooted crime and corruption in various forms.
“Still Alive” will be unveiled this week at the Cartoon Movie co-production forum in Bordeaux, France, where the project is one of nine candidates for the Eurimages Co-Production Development Award.
“We immediately fell in love with Roberto Saviano’s graphic novel ‘I’m Still Alive,’ grasping the strength in the story of his tragic, powerful and exceptional life,” said Mad Entertainment chief Luciano Stella in a statement. Mad is the shingle behind high-profile European animation titles such as Rak’s “Cinderella The Cat” and “The Walking Liberty.” Stella added that the “Goal is to make an animated film with a style capable of captivating the general public while also of realizing a great artistic vision.” He further noted that the “Still Alive” project is being lead produced for Mad by Italian 3D animation pioneer Ivan Cappiello and animation director and illustrator Mario Addis.
Said Lucky Red founder Andrea Occhipinti: “We are thrilled to be able to work together with the talented team of Mad Entertainment on this animated film where Roberto Saviano tells his life story for the first time. Saviano is literally a hero of our times and his tale is incredible.”
Sipur CEO Emilio Schenker stated: “It is an honor to work with a writer as significant as Roberto to realize his first animated feature film as director, and to see Asaf’s illustrations take life for the first time.” Schenker went on to note that this is Sipur’s foray into animation. “If there was ever a project worth jumping into new waters for, this is it,” he said.
The graphic novel “I’m Still Alive” is published by BAO Publishing in Italy and by Boom! Studios and Simon & Schuster in the United States.