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Barbara Wurm: Costanza, your film IL CASSETTO SEGRETO is certainly one of the most personal films we have this year in the program. And at the same time, it is its quality to be so much more than a personal film. When did you begin to film your father? And when did you actually start to make this film, at once about your father and about the well-known Sicilian journalist and writer Giuseppe Quatriglio?

Costanza Quatriglio: I started to film my father during my visits to my parents in 2010, 2011. He was almost 90 and I decided to film him, to be with him in his space, in his rooms, in his house, among his books, among his interests. I wanted him to talk to me about his work. This was like a challenge for me. So, for me, as a daughter, as a filmmaker, I wanted to capture him and was focused on his work. At the same time, I found out that it would be impossible for me to make a film with my father. I just wanted to film him, and felt while filming him, that I was building my memories of him. Thus, I kept all these images for twelve years.

In the beginning, I just wanted to testify and in an unconscious way build something for my own memories, for myself.

I decided to actually make this film while librarians and archivists were working with the archive in my house, the books and materials. It was like a process, there was not a special event, where I said, okay, I decide to make this move. It was really a process. I can say that the film asked me to be done.

Christiane Büchner: You just said that the archivists were already working there, when you decided to make this film. How did you convince them? And which were the rules of you working together?

CQ: I decided to donate my father's library to the public library. The librarians started to come to my house in the beginning of January 2022 and I really loved the way they were working with the books, their care they showed for the books. How they spoke with a low voice about the books, how they loved their design and everything. They were magic for me. But at the same time, they were invaders.

I started to film because I worked a lot together with them. And I always worked with my camera, as you can see in the images. It was strange because I worked with the book in one hand and the camera in the other.

In the beginning, I just wanted to testify and in an unconscious way build something for my own memories, for myself. Because I knew that I'm preparing myself to give up the house, memories, my previous life. And that I will have to change. When you lose your parents, you change as a person. The movie came when I found a lot of stories and events of my father's life in his photo negatives. My father's youth and a lot of other things. And I understood that I had found there a continuous dialogue between private and collective memories. And I said, okay, that's right, I can do it. I didn't want to make a movie only in an intimate way.

BW: I was intrigued by the formal choices of how you created his persona through time. You went back long before your birth. So, it's the father you did not know. What were your choices?

CQ: Different phases of his life corresponded with the 20th century. I decided to split the century. In the beginning we see Europe with the wounds of the war. At the same time young people wanted to be happy. And my father was like that. In the 1940s we travel with him through Europe. In the 1950s the film focuses on the Cold War, but in a very deep, imaginary way. And then I focus on his roots in Sicily. He looked at the world with the eyes of a Mediterranean man – full of cultures, stories, languages. With curiosity. This is a key for understanding my father, I think. And at this point it was natural for me to go back to my childhood, because I was working and filming in the house where I was born and where I spent all my life until I was 23.

CB: I like this first scene when you bring this tape recorder, unpack it, and then we hear you cry as a baby. And we hear your father soothing you with a song. I enjoyed the way you put this technical object on the table, and let it develop its poetry. How did you invent scenes like this?

CQ: I didn't write anything – I just lived them. On the 9th of January in 2022 I came to my house to take care of my tree. It was exactly like it is shown in the film. I came to my house, and Claudia, one of the two archivists found the audio tapes. And for the first time, I saw the tape with my name on it. Oh, my god! It was too much. These were the very first scenes of the film. The one in the garden, and then the one with the tape was the first scene filmed inside the house. So, I waited until I had bought a new device, because I didn't want to use one of my father's old tape recorders. The moment you see in the film is when I heard my voice as a child for the first time. Maybe you felt this. For months I asked myself, whether to use this scene or not. It seemed too private, too intimate. FinalIy, I decided, no, this is my beginning. I have to complete my beginning. Maybe this journey is to say: okay, now you can start again. It's a sort of new birth.

CB: Throughout the film I felt respect for the way you treat your father in relation to yourself. Even though you are now in a mighty position as a director of all this material, you keep a very good distance to him. How did you develop this fair distance to your protagonist?

CQ: I think that I didn't want to judge him, because it's impossible for me now to judge. I had all my life to do so. Now everything is different. Because, as I say in the film, at the moment all these people were working with the library and occupying the space. While I began to love the house and the books, all the objects, the paintings – everything. So it was impossible for me to judge. And I think that it was only possible because in the house there were these invaders. They were the medium for me. In this dialogue between presence and absence the space changed and became a protagonist as well as him. So I could take the distance, as you said – fair distance.

CB: Can you tell us something about the choice of music you used in the film?

CQ: Giovanni, who is the musician and composer – he’s very young, and it's his first film – we worked with him on the variations. For example, the first song, when my father travels all over the world, is in French. And then we talk about Paris. I said, the first travel was to Paris in '47. So French is already inside of us, when we talk about Paris. It's a journey through music, styles, ages. The only song which is not from the original soundtrack is Mala Vida by Mano Negra, which belongs to my youth in the nineties.

 My father occupied all the space in our house, so I think that my mother survived because she had her own space.

BW: So, again you combine the very personal take with something composed, structured and organized, or more collective way of making the film. It's always slightly shifting between the major narrative point of view of the objective big history and the small personal history. How did you approach your plotlines? Very spontaneously or did you create a method?

CQ: My method was to take the distance from myself at one point during the shooting. In the beginning, my body and my camera were the same. I was working with a book and at the same time filming. So I, as a daughter, as a filmmaker, occupied the same space. It's not just a matter of point of view, of course. It’s how I stayed in the space. And little by little, I understood that I should take the distance and put my body in the image and change the way to film. Because changing the way to film was like to say, okay, now I'm ready to reflect on my situation, on my condition. Filming turned into a sort of backstage situation while you are emptying the house. Emptying felt like filling. I can say that the house became filled with stories and memories. I was like an object among another objects, because I belonged to this space as a person, as you said, but also as a glass or a chair or whatever.

CB: The second half of the film revealed a world that I was not aware of – Sicily. So we leave the big history and we turn to a local history, which is also very rich. This is an important change of perspective.

CQ: It was necessary because Sicily, for my father, was a destiny. Every interest for him was a Sicilian interest. He wrote books about Sicilian history. It would have been impossible to make this film without this switch from the global to local. Also the Belice earthquake [1968] plays a very important role in the story, because you can see the book, which contains a lot of negatives about the earthquake. It was only when I first filmed my father in 2010 that I learned he had kept all these materials between the pages of the books. And I thought: oh, my god, there is a treasure inside these books.

BW: Did you ever look at the Sicily part in the film, from the perspective of the Italian audience, an Italian cultural background in which Sicily plays a specific role?

CQ: Sicily is an island, but an island situated in the heart of Mediterranean is very open. It's not closed. I like to say that Sicily in this film is really connected to the world. I wanted to connect Sicily to the world, because in my house I found proof of this connection. Even stupid things; for example, the symbol of the Isle of Man in Great Britain is the same as the symbol of Sicily. And my father in the '50s wrote books about such connections…He was searching Sicily all over the world – and he found it. That's why in the archive, there is a lot of Sicilian history all over. It's very interesting for the librarians and archivists, of course, because you can read stories of Sicilian people in Argentina, in America. Not only mafia – but culture, literature, science, the brain. He was searching for the brain.

CB: Maybe it's something you don't want to talk about…You have this fantastic scene, when your mother says that you, the daughter, have all the right to do what I have not. Was it a necessity to leave your mother mostly out of the film? Or was it also something she did when you were there? She left the scene.

CQ: Both. Me and my mother were very connected. So when I was filming my father in 2010, I remember she let us be together without interfering. Because she really cared that I had my own relationship with him. And also I thank you for what you said about the first scene, when she said that I have the right to open the secret drawer. Because that's the point. It was a necessity for me that she is in the film, very briefly, but in a deep way, because I learned from her what it means to have, what Virginia Woolf called “a room of one's own”, because my mother had her own law firm. My father occupied all the space in our house, so I think that my mother survived because she had her own space. So space is a protagonist as well as the father and everything else.

BW: I think this is a very good ending for our interview. Thank you very much Costanza for these first insights into your secret drawer. We are very much looking forward to seeing you in Berlin and opening the boxes once again – this time together with our audience.


Funded by:

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