A crucial historical character in the struggle for women’s self-determination in Sicily in the 1960s inspired Marta Savina’s debut Primadonna, presented at Alice nella città and now in cinemas from 8 March. The word to the director and the protagonist, Claudia Gusmano.
Courage. It is the watchword of Primadonnaat least according to the young producer, Virginia Valsecchi. He underlines this by meeting the press for the presentation of the film, in released on March 8th (certainly not a random date) distributed by Europictures. “I feel the need as a producer and a woman to carry on a story like this of female self-determination. Also because there aren’t many stories like that.” You have bet on a young director at her debut film, Marta Savinawho has been working on the story of one since 2014 woman different from the others, in Sicily in the 60salready told in a short, Viola, Frankwith the same protagonist Claudia Gusmanoof this feature film, which has won the Panorama Italia section of Alice nella cittàafter being introduced to the London Film Festival.
Primadonna starts from the real story of Franca Violathe first Italian woman to have refused shotgun marriage, which became a symbol of Italy’s civil growth after World War II and of the emancipation of Italian women. “That’s how it started,” said Savina, “but I realized how it became the story of so many women who fight for self-determination every day and from there Lia was born. I no longer know how much truth there is and how much I added, I’ve been mixing this sourdough for almost ten years, refreshed for so long that I no longer recognize its boundaries. The idea of a silent revolution, without the need to raise one’s voice, because not everyone is capable of doing it, starting from an apparently small gesture. I put something about myself and the people I met”.
We are in Sicily in the Sixties. Lia is 21 years old, she goes to work the land with her father, even though she is “female” and should stay at home to take care of the housework with her mother. Lia is beautiful, stubborn and reserved, but she knows her stuff. Her proud and elusive gaze attracts the attention of the young Lorenzo Musicò, son of the boss of the town. When she refuses him, Lorenzo’s wrath is not long in unleashing and the boy takes by force what he deems his property. But Lia does what no one would ever expect: she refuses the shotgun wedding and drags Lorenzo and his accomplices to court.
He experienced total involvement, Claudia Gusmano. “It was a huge thrill for me to play this role,” she said. “Having worked with Marta before, I knew I could never pretend. I was impressed by the eyes of some girls who stopped me after the screening in Alice in the city. One in particular, she hugged me so tight and told me she felt what I felt. I didn’t look for the character 50 years ago, but in my everyday life, and believe me I found every nuance of it among the people I met. It is very contemporary, at that point the work was a mission for me.
As the director points out, Primadonna is not a film just for women. “Let’s start from the idea that human beings make mistakes, that there are more and less empathic ones. It doesn’t depend on being a man or a woman, but on what we have inside. Fabrizio Ferracane plays Lia’s father, a very sweet and affectionate man, but also dry and with few essential words. A figure that seemed to me could support and not bully Lia. I’ve never seen Lorenzo, the boy who rapes her, as an antagonist, except from a strictly dramaturgical point of view. He is not an executioner, but his problem and today’s in general is being immersed in a wrong society, which leads him to do atrocious things nonchalantly. He is convinced that he has not done anything wrong, for me it was important that he maintain this conviction in an honest way. Only with the sentencing verdict does he begin to realize, perhaps, that he has it all wrong, which is tragic and makes him a victim. I like looking for shades of grey, telling a story. I also had great compassion for the character of Lorenzo (Dario Aita), as for everyone, perhaps excluding only the priest”.
a priest (Paolo Pierobon) really perfidious and insensitive, who is destined to suffer the insults of the spectators, but also of Gusmano herself. “I was really happy to be able to beat the priest, I couldn’t take it anymore, I wanted to do it from the first scene”, the actress said with irony, underlining how perhaps it is no coincidence that they chose her, decisive character included, to play Leah. Jokes aside, of violence in Primadonna there is some psychological, even hard, but “there was no need to show any scenes of violence or the lynching of the defense against Lia”, declared Marta Savina. I didn’t want to fall into pietism, but for Lia to challenge the viewer by pushing the boundaries of what we see shown. She’s not a traditional heroine, sometimes she’s unsympathetic, or her actions incomprehensible. At one point the judge says, ‘but did you feel at least a little pleasure?’. It was all the lynching I needed.”