News per Miccia corta

19 - 09 - 2009

A dark chapter in Italy's history


(Tandem, Canada's Cosmopolitan news)


By Paola Bernardini




It's the third of January, 1982. A few terrorists are still at large – among them Sergio Segio, a Prima Linea militant who breaks his jailed girlfriend Susanna Ronconi out from Rovigo penitentiary. A last desperate act that was to be the start of a new life abroad but that instead opened the gates to a prison from which there was no return.
La Prima Linea, by director Renato De Maria, had its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), featuring excellent performances by actors Giovanna Mezzogiorno and Riccardo Scamarcio. The film prompted the former left-wing terrorist Segio to admit to "feeling the weight of all the victims – even those I didn't directly hit. My responsibility is political, moral, and judiciary – I assume all three."
De Maria, through his use of imagery, recounts a black page in history from the Lead Years, recreating the escape of Ronconi and other detainees affiliated with the terror group, the Moro murder, that of union leader Guido Rossa, and of judge Emilio Alessandrini – "a good man because he was the first to say that the Piazza Fontana bomb was placed there by fascists and not by us," the terrorists say as they sit at the table scheming his murder.
Segio, also known as commander Sirio, often appears ready to pull out "but only in 1980 did I realize I hit rock-bottom when William Waccher was arrested and, weak-willed, became the first collaborator with the justice system."
Segio's real confrontation is with his girlfriend Ronconi – they're pictured in hiding in an ocean-side home.
"We made a bunch of errors and we lost our humanity when we first picked up weapons," he says as he tells her of his intention to leave Prima Linea. Ronconi is arrested in December, 1980. Then there's her escape from Rovigo prison and the recapture of both Ronconi and Segio. She was released in 2002, he in 2004.
Memories, terror, fate, controversy: De Maria's La Prima Linea is all this. It was created from a book he found by chance in a library. It took three years to recreate the facts that during the terrorism epic culminated in eight weeks of shooting in northern Italy and a stream of criticism and taunting. It's a hard topic. It deals with events that have marked the history of Italy and left open wounds, and that's why during scene shooting, relatives of the victims and former kidnap victims showed up to ask that the film be banned.

"My objective was to present just the facts that occurred and, through those, to try to understand, and not to pass judgement," says director De Maria who was at TIFF for the La Prima Linea debut.
Why did you decide to direct a film based on the experience and testimony of a former left-wing terrorist?
"By chance, I came across the book Miccia Corta by Sergio Segio in the library, and I read the story of the jail break to free his woman. From the cinematographic point of view, it was a very powerful idea. But clearly, in the story of the day – which we significantly amplified – I saw the possibility of telling the life story of two main characters in the history of Italian terrorism. Many of us lived through those years of terror. We're aware of the facts, of what happened to the victims – but cinematographically, the story has never been told about what was going on with those persons to lead them to become terrorists, to make certain choices, make tragic errors, and above all to lead them to decide to take the life of others."

On the big screen, a disconnected Segio tells his girlfriend that "˜we lost our humanity when we took up arms,' or other phrases like "˜I'm tired of seeing terror in the eyes of victims.' Did you want to emphasize his admission of error?
"When he was arrested, Segio was 26, which means he was 22 or 23 when he killed judge Alessandrini. We're talking about a very young generation that threw themselves headfirst into a movement without probably having the maturity or rationality to truly understand what they were doing. This aspect for me smacks of desperation because there's sorrow for the victims, but also of horror of seeing youth squandered away."

What was Segio's reaction when you told him of your intention to do a film based on his book?
"When we contacted him to ask for the film rights, we embarked on a long negotiation because he wanted to understand the type of project we had in mind, seeing that it would be about his life. I said right from the start that I didn't want to romanticize their images and that the script would mirror my conception of the reality. My film is an authentic story about the facts.Passing judgment and ideological debate that will surely be unleashed will also be a valid implication because one of the film's positive elements is exactly that – to spark discussion."


So far it has only sparked controversy.
"Yes, but I'm convinced that once the film is seen by general audiences, discussion will open up."

You have yet to answer criticisms and accusations. Only your producer Andrea Occhipinti has defended you.
"I'm convinced that the film will speak for me. I'm an artist, I have the priviledge and good fortune of having a language to express myself with: film. Before entering the debate, I want to first give audiences the opportunity to see the film. Clearly, there are certain controversies that have disturbed me because one needs to see the film before passing judgment."

They've also criticized your choice of two charismatic actors such as Scamarcio and Mezzogiorno because of the risk that they are emulated.
"That's the most bizarre thing I've heard so far. The characters in my film are very complex so I needed two good, professional actors of a certain age. I certainly could not have selected an anonymous 40-year-old. The strength of the film is also in its ability to evoke strong emotion – both positive and negative – and that is in part from the talent of the actors. Riccardo Scamarcio is one of those. Giovanna Mezzogiorno is an exceptional professional who has also worked in Hollywood and in France. But it's obvious that someone who becomes an actor is usually not ugly. He may not be good looking but he offers something special that makes him a star, otherwise he'd be a character actor. So maybe we shouldn't be doing films any more with Pitt or Clooney because they are too good looking?"

You spoke of a long negotiation with Sergio Segio over the film rights. Was there any collaboration during the creative process?
"Absolutely not because that would not be right. My scriptwriters Sandro Petraglia, Ivan Cotroneo, and Fidel Signorile never met Segio who was a source of information but was not involved in the artistic process in any way."

Have Segio and Ronconi seen the film about to be distributed?


"Only portions of it. Their reaction was one of distress in seeing the tragic events of their past. They both liked the film's context but would have preferred some scenes be told differently. But overall, the characters are not very far from the reality."

Did Giovanna Mezzogiorno and Riccardo Scamarcio meet Ronconi and Segio to prepare for their roles in the film?
"Scamarcio asked to meet him, and they saw each other twice, although the Segio he did meet was a 54- to 55-year-old man who did 22 years of jail time and not the youth we portray in the film. It wasn't a face-to-face with a personality who is identical to the role he was playing, but he did meet someone he will not forget. And the same thing happened with Giovanna Mezzogiorno and Susanna Ronconi."

In the film, you also put emphasis on the Moro tragedy and on a Segio who was trying to distance himself. Don't you think this decision could lead to further controversy?
"It was impossible not to include the Moro killing because that tragedy marked a trend to an increased ruthlessness by the terrorist movement and a further detachment from society. Until then there had been a generational rebelliousness related to Prima Linea who – although they were contrary to it – were aware that other terrorist groups came to join them. They didn't approve of one another but they didn't condemn each other either because up to that point in time they hadn't killed anyone. After the Moro tragedy – which Prima Linea first opposed then went with the flow – the detachment with society became even more pronounced. The organization became more isolated and its affiliates became feared executors of an ideology that had developed within their inner circles. They were no longer connected to reality, they were crazed, and I wanted to emphasize this process by putting into the film a fragment of archive footage."

What was the hardest part during shooting?
"We filmed in Turin and Milan, in Polesine, from Venice to Rovigo, covering the trip he made on the day of the escape attempt. The trips, especially those with the pickup van, were complicated but the main challenge was to reconstruct the Pinerolo prison by adding walls to correspond exactly to the layout of the Rovigo penitentiary. The entire film was challenging. I'd say it was an epochal effort that I was satisfied with but that also exhausted me."




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