NRFF Interviews Director of La Slitta
La Slitta (The Sled)
Movie • 19 min • Drama, Family, Youth
DIRECTED BY Emanuela Ponzano *OSCAR 2018 Qualifying short film
A sled brings together two boys from different countries and cultures and carries them through the winter woods of the Italian mountains, far away from their parents’ prejudices and isolation. Two children, one sled and a lasting friendship.
1. Congratulations Emanuela on winning the New Renaissance Award for Best Female Filmmaker? How does it feel to be recognised for the wonderful work you have accomplished as a woman working in the industry?
Thank you for this important award, it means so much to me. I’m always surprised when I win an award and it feels amazing. Recognition is so important for a filmmaker because it takes such a long time to make a film. When you finally get to the end of the process, after all the difficulties and obstacles, you feel delighted, free and proud of the result. Most of all if the result is shared and gets recognised by others, it feels even better. People are emotionally affected by the messages and artistic vibrations from a film and this is what I work towards. As a woman working in the industry, the recognition is even more special because there’s still a long way to go, in some countries more than others, to persuade the industry to take female film directors seriously.
What is the story behind LA SLITTA and the message you are trying to communicate through this film?
This film carries a social message about freedom, equality and acceptance from an emotional standpoint, as seen through the eyes of a child whose reality comes alive in the woods, when he is playing alone.
The metaphoric component of the film is in the form of the “Sled” (La Slitta). As well as being a symbol of a downhill journey and an escape, it carries the film along and allows the audience to connect to the intimate world and imagination of the central character, Alfred. The sled and its owner, an Albanian boy (with his good side and bad, as with everyone) become Alfred’s new friends and his escape from an oppressive family life. When Alfred rides the SLED, his life and his emotions run high. All his sad thoughts leave him and he can only think about the good things in his life. In the story, Alfred’s injury is a detail that becomes very important in the chain of events.
Children, in general, don’t think about issues such as diversity or race. They just want to play.
In the eyes of a child there are no barriers. You only find barriers when there is a lack of education at home when parents try to instill prejudice in their children, or things they learn at school that they are not yet able to fully understand. But sometimes, like for my principle character in LA SLITTA, there is hope that a child can learn to think with his own mind.
The film is also about solitude, about dealing with and listening to the opinions and beliefs of other people, and about dreaming of a better life.
3. Where was La Slitta filmed? How long was the shoot? What was the most challenging scene to film?
It was filmed in Basilicata on the SIRINO Mountain, which is a very high mountain in the southern central part of Italy. It’s incredibly beautiful and I recommend it to film directors. The shoot took one week (6 days) because with children and snow, you absolutely need more time to get things right, and it can be dangerous.
The most challenging scene was of course the decent of the sled on the top of the hill. We invented a “camera sled car” to go down with the real sled and the two boys.This was an amazing moment full of cinematic quality and a range of emotions for me. It’s something I will never forget.
4.Your film has been selected as an Oscar qualifying short film. How did this happen?
According to the Oscar rules, a short film is eligible when it wins a major Festival on the Oscar list or when it is screened in Los Angeles for one week, having also a great credit listing of festivals. Only 10 short films will eventually get selected for the Oscars. LA SLITTA has been screened at more than 100 International film festivals including Oscar affiliated festivals such as Rhode island last year. It competed in the TIFF Toronto international film festival kids section, and the Brest European competition. When it was selected into the Newfilmakers Los Angeles IFF, we decided then to show it for one week in L.A. It was a great opportunity for the film to be seen and its strong message to be heard. Things have taken off from there.
5. Have you always wanted to be a filmmaker? What films / filmmakers inspire you?
Well I always wanted to be in film ever since I was a child. After seeing a movie I used to play all the characters, as if I had been in the film. Indeed later, I remembered that this was the reason why I became an actress in theatre and cinema. While I was training at drama school, I felt instinctively that I was also able to direct. So I started to direct theatre plays, and to teach. When Ingmar Bergman died in 2007, I decided to make my first short film (REFLECTIONS) as a tribute to Bergman and his film Persona, and this has inspired me to make more films. It’s Bergman’s fault :))) but now I realise that I like directing so much and that i will never stop.
6. Do you see the opportunities for women in film improving? What has your experience been like working in the film industry in Italy?
There are more and more women in the film industry and this is a good sign that things are improving. A film made by a woman has a completely different sensibility and we need this. There’s also a lot more women working in production, distribution and writing screenplays now, so that the dialogue with women filmmakers can be understood in a more fluent way. The film industry needs to become more feminine. However it’s still difficult to get female-led feature films made, especially in Italy. As a result, I try to travel to find opportunities with international productions.
7. How have audiences responded to LA SLITTA?
Well in one year LA SLITTA has had an amazing trip trough many different countries, cultures and continents. It has been screened at more than 100 Film festivals and won 34 Awards. It seems the film has touched upon a universal message that is understood and felt everywhere. This is so important for people to discover. You never know at the beginning of making a film what will happen to it. With LA SLITTA, it all went very quickly – the success and the beautiful reactions from the public. People have been touched and it has made them think about issues such as racism, integration, freedom of thinking and the importance of education.
8. What are you working on next?
I’m preparing two new short films and i’m working on my first feature film. The first new short will be based on what happened in Hungary last year, with the Syrian migration…