YIDFF 2005 International Competition
The Virgin of Palermo
An Interview with Antonio Guidi (Director)

The Story Found Me

Q: Why did you decide to make a film about Palermo’s Santa Rosalia festival?

AG: My parents, who are eighty years old, told me lots of stories about the customs and way of life in villages long ago. As you can see in the film, Palermo doesn’t feel so contemporary, and still has the traditional atmosphere of a previous era. This image of Palermo overlapped with the world and era that my parents experienced. I went to Palermo and walked the pilgrimage from the center of town to the Santa Rosalia church, which is located in a mountain grotto. When I entered the church, I felt an urge to film Santa Rosalia. It’s like the story of the Virgin of Palermo found me, rather than me seeking it out.

Q: How did the filming take place?

AG: I filmed three times in Palermo. First, in July and September 2002. The scenes with the parade float and snail are from July, when the Rosalia festival takes place. The pilgrimage to the Santa Rosalia church happens in September. There was a problem with the film, so I shot the festival again in July 2003. The people of the town spoke very openly with me. It was wonderful for me that they treated me like a friend, someone they had known from before. From their perspective, I think maybe it felt like a small child was interested in their stories and wanted to hear what they had to say.

Q: Why did you decide to shoot in black-and-white?

AG: When I visited Palermo for pre-production and took photographs, the black-and-white photographs captured the atmosphere of a town from the 1950s and 1960s that I had in mind. They also overlapped with images from films by Pasolini at that time, during the neo-realism movement in Italy. So using black-and-white was obvious to me. Another thing is that black-and-white harmonizes the modern and traditional townscapes in Palermo. You could view the film as images from either the 1930s, or the future. The actual story of Santa Rosalia is already several hundred years old, and is already a legend. In that respect, it was important to shoot the film without the framework of “time.” In addition, I was particular about recording sound with the old-style Nagra instead of digital technology.

Q: The song “Madonna of the Sea” left a strong impression.

AG: That song happened by chance. In fact, I had asked another man to sing a song, and after the filming was finished we went to a bar together. It could be that he invited this other person, but at any rate, this other man who was there sang that song for me. Of the three pieces he sang for me, “Madonna of the Sea” resonated the most. The filming was unplanned, but I put it in during the editing.

Q: This is your first time to YIDFF, but how has it been?

AG: YIDFF is famous in Germany, and is very highly acclaimed. And I am an old friend of director German Kral, who won the Grand Prize at Yamagata in 1999. So I was very familiar with YIDFF. I felt like the audience reaction was a little bit reserved, but during the question-and-answer period I understood that people had watched the film with a very warm feeling.

Q: Do you have plans for your next work?

AG: I have a lot of different ideas. Right now I’m thinking about shooting a work on the music and religion in North Africa, and I am just starting to do research.

(Compiled by Kashiwazaki Mayumi)

Interviewers: Kashiwazaki Mayumi, Okuyama Kanako / Interpreter: Watanabe Mari
Photography: Hitachi Hitomi / Video: Kose Masanori / 2005-10-11