Godfathers Of Mondo The 2003
Can a reporter be objective, be it in film or in print?
I say, no.
Pure objectivity doesn't exist in a documentary.
I totally agree.
Even if you're intimately, sincerely objective,
the very moment you choose the framing of a shot
automatically, your personal point of view comes out.
Certainly, absolute objectivity is impossible.
But honesty exists and is essential.
Italian neorealism never convinced me, quite frankly.
As a documentarist, as a lover of documentaries,
I saw neorealism as fictionalized documentary.
It always gave me that impression.
''Let's pretend it's true.''
This always bothered me.
I don't mean to put down the big directors of the past.
This is my opinion.
As a documentarist I saw neorealism as artificial.
I was a professionaljournalist, I still am.
For me the transition from, say,
written journalism to visual or filmed journalism
was an evolution of my trade,
a development in the ability to express and narrate
what I saw and wanted to tell the public.
when I realized, and it didn't take long,
that cinema provided me an immense wealth of photos, of frames,
and at the same time a sound track to transfer my text into spoken words,
I realized that this was the perfect medium
to tell the facts oflife.
My background is that of a naturalist.
I graduated in natural science and biology
and further specialized in theology.
We started shooting some documentaries and realized that
they were much more lucrative than scientific studies.
For us Europeanjournalists,
going out into the streets in search of footage is a nearly suicidal endeavor.
In movie theaters, newsreels with the events of the week
always preceded the feature film.
I was a commentator, and from that I got my interest in filmmaking,
for the visual elements of storytelling.
So I began shooting short documentaries.
When Blasetti asked me if I would do WORLD BY NIGHT,
he sent me location scouting all over the world in search of shows.
He had given me some suggestions;
he was looking for shows like cabarets, or theaters,
not things from real life, but rather fiction.
I researched thoroughly.
Travel wasn't as easy then as it is today,
but I noticed that the most interesting were not the theatrical shows
but the show ofhumanity itself.
I met Gualtiero through a mutual friend, Carlo Gregoretti.
I proposed the idea of a film to Gualtiero: ''Love of the World.''
I wanted to show different aspects oflove in the world,
ofhumans, and of animals.
He replied that we should do an ''anti-documentary'' instead.
So farwe had done documentaries
that just hail the places you're seeing.
They're flattering, overpolished.
''Let's show the real world.''
My curiosity was such that I decided I would do a very long newsreel.
A long document of actualities that I would title MONDO CANE,
an ironic, mocking, even cynical title to narrate these events oflife.
I loved the idea.
I chose events that caught my attention.
First of all, research varies.
You get it from the press,
collecting news, collecting stories, collecting articles.
But you must assess if they are cinematographically reproducible
in terms of narration, if they are for real.
When it's certain and you have a list of events,
you prepare a summary based on geographical location.
For instance, film two scenes in the Far East making just one trip.
The fact is, we took advantage of the little knowledge
the public had of the world at large back then.
Shooting MONDO CANE today would be very difficult.
For instance, we could go with a camera to an erotic club in Hamburg
and they would easily let us in.
If we attempted to do this today we would have to pay, maybe.
It would not be a surprise to them.
Back then the whole world was unprepared
for our shooting strategy:
slip in, ask, never pay, never reenact,
and get everything right there.
I was ignorant until I saw things around the world.
And what I witnessed always surprised me and caught me unaware.
There were no preparations. There were no suggestions from anybody.
They were casual finds.
It wasn't difficult.
All we had to do was face reality.
Because all that we filmed was true, real.
There's a restaurant... if I'm not mistaken called ''Four Seasons.''
Anyway, it's a famous restaurant. All Americans know about it.
It serves canned ants, lizards, all sorts of delicacies, snake blood.
It was entertaining.
It was also an exclusive restaurant for a rich clientele.
I found it amusing not so much forwhat they ate,
but for their ulterior reasons for doing it:
how they wanted to be filmed to seem like extraordinary people,
courageous, nonconformists, experimental.
So it was interesting. A point of view on humanity.
This issue of death being shown on film was something rare then.
Today it is overinflated.
It was pure actuality, and it happened to us by chance.
Obviously,you cannot rehearse someone's death.
And as for the principle of not showing human death on screen,
to be honest, we ignored it.
There is a death scene in MONDO CANE where people are ready to die
and we showed the so-called ''House of Death'' in Singapore
where old people were taken, waiting for them to die.
Not killed, but left there to languish until their death came.
It was a normally accepted custom there.
There was no hatred or ill feelings involved.
Dying people didn't remain at home. They awaited death in this place
specifically conceived to house them in their last hours.
This was a discovery, and we filmed it.
Something rather sensational, especially in those times.
We were aware that we were shooting documentaries
in a totally different manner.
The cuts were quick, lively and concise.
Making a synthesis of a scene and showing it.
And also, it has to be said, we wanted to shock the audience.
Shocking and alternating emotions.
Inserting soft scenes
to allow digestion of the violent scenes.
To keep the audience's interest alive,
there needs to be a contrast of images.
I paid close attention to the openings, contrapositions, everything,
so as to give the narration a sense of unity,
the film being a collection of distinct events.
Three minutes of this, three minutes of that, etc.
Of course it was very energetic and the scenes time consuming.
The pig slaughter in Goroca, for instance,
would cost us a trip to get a six or seven minute scene,
whereas others would get material for a two hour documentary.
For us it was costly in both time and exertion.
In fact our films would take two or three years to make.
The editing of my films I do personally,
even though they don't write it in the credits.
It's not important.
I insist on doing the editing myself.
I have a passion for editing.
I spend hours at the Moviola without realizing it.
But it takes time, the first cut and so on.
As you well know, this is the nature of our craft.
So you cannot delegate the editing. An author cannot delegate,
maybe only in the case of a well-defined film,
with precise sequences and takes, etc.,
born from a well defined script that only needs to be sewn together.
A documentary has no script. It is imagined, created on the spot.
You can't do the same.
It would be like a novel written on loose sheets,
shuffled together and given to the public.
No,you're narrating, and narration calls for delicate editing,
and that's a task for the author, as is the copy,
the spoken commentary.
Then there is the voice of music which has to be descriptive, functional.
Music tells a story. It is not filler.
I detest the kind of films where two people kiss each other
and there goes the violins. That's horrendous.
Music as a language deserves the utmost respect.
When music is playing, all othervoices and effects should be silent.
I was called.
I showed up and I met Jacopetti and Prosperi and also Cavara.
Cavara was the third director for a while,
but moved on and busied himself with other movies.
We looked at each other and we sniffed each other like dogs,
they asked questions,
and it was immediately clear that there was a good feeling between us
and so that is how we started our collaboration.
I worked very closely with them.
They were very hard workers.
They would go in the editing room at around 8:00, 9:00 in the morning
and leave at midnight, 1 a.m.,
without a moment's rest.
They were so full of enthusiasm
and desire to work on these scenes
and I lived with them the whole time.
I followed them, maturing the musical pieces.
a scene in MONDO CANE of the chicks being dyed for Easter.
Ortolani asked what kind of music I was looking for.
''Come on, improvise,'' he says.
''What do you mean improvise?''
''Just sit at the piano and play something.''
I did the most obvious thing.
I said, ''I can play a music box style piece.''
He replied, ''OK. Let me hear it.''
He would play a few notes, this short motif.
He said, ''What is this?'' I said, ''I don't know.''
He told me, ''What do mean you don't know?''
''Write this down quickly right now! This will be the theme of the movie!''
This is how ''More'' was born.
Katyna Ranieri, my wife,
was singing at the Plaza in New York.
At the time, Katyna appeared frequently on television
as a guest on theJohnny Carson show,
and she started singing the song ''More.''
In a matter of a week, there were seven American versions of the song.
In two weeks there were versions by
Nat King Cole,
so many recordings, so many American versions
from the best American artists of the time.
The song was a hit everywhere.
And it even became a classic,
still played at wedding ceremonies today.
I often happen to hear it as background music in hotels.
''More'' got an Oscar nomination.
Everyone thought the song ''More'' would win the Oscar,
but as usual the American song won.
When MONDO CANE was first released in Italy, it was very well received,
and it was the top movie at the box office.
It played for a long period of time.
People would line up to see it.
Some of the critics were against it, some for it.
The critics were not kind to them.
They attacked them for many reasons,
said they were porn directors
because there were these black women showing their breasts.
Beautiful and real breasts,
not like the fake ones you see everywhere today.
The film was treated as a special event,
so therefore it was a success, we're not just talking about Italy here,
but it was a great success all over the world,
even in the United States, it was a huge success.
MONDO CANE did great in America.
I still rememberwhen I was in Florida,
in many ports I saw boats named ''MONDO CANE.''
So it was successful...
but you have to take the times into account.
The film was something new. Its visual style was, too.
What do I think now? I think it was a very good movie,
but it wouldn't work today, because of television.
You couldn't keep the freshness,
therefore you'd lose immediacy.
Many beautiful things die. It is normal.
Those that last are miracles ofhuman intellect, ofhuman spirit.
I know what it cost me in effort,
so I firmly believed in my work and got satisfaction from it,
as did the others.
I keep it as an event in my life,
a beloved thing in my life.
While shooting MONDO CANE,
Rizzoli proposed that we should plan to do more documentaries.
During post-production it was evident that we had so much material
from MONDO CANE that it would be a pity to waste three years' work
and hundreds of thousands of feet of film.
Anyway, we didn't want to waste the footage
so we decided to make another movie, MONDO CANE 2.
Let me tell you one thing up front: MONDO CANE 2 doesn't belong to me.
I didn't want to do it really.
I knew it was going to be old hat, a rehash.
So I didn't have the same enthusiasm that I had with MONDO CANE.
I would think, ''Look at what I've invented, how beautiful and new it is.''
These were my thoughts when I was shooting MONDO CANE.
MONDO CANE 2? Well, the spell was broken there.
It was about commerce, money.
Not about creating something.
And most directors wouldn't either.
Imagine making LA DOLCE VITA 2 or 8 and 3/ 4.
But the producers were really insistent and I had a debt of gratitude to them.
So I agreed.
Exceeding expectations for MONDO CANE 2 was difficult,
because the newness of it was gone, it had been used up already.
We had to shoot additional scenes in Africa, in America, in Europe, in India.
We shot in several parts of the world
and also acquired material that was especially interesting,
something we never did for the first MONDO CANE.
The burning monk was purchased to be used as real life footage,
then we added some scenes because we had very little.
It was simply a case of someone arriving late to film that scene.
No, it was totally fabricated.
Exactly, Rambaldi made this mannequin,
and it was taken to Bangkok where it was burned.
We were making cinema.
We didn't just do documentary:
if something was missing to make a scene work well,
we would fix it.
I only want to talk about the films I've done,
whose responsibility and merit falls on me.
I reject MONDO CANE 2, completely.
Not to save my reputation, which I don't ultimately care about,
but because MONDO CANE,
sadly, indirectly spawned a breed of dozens of titles: MONDO this, MONDO that.
Ghastly stuff, absurdities that people strangely would go to see.
This offended and damaged me because the overall perception was,
''Oh yes, MONDO CANE,
the film with the scene of the auntie with her nose cut off.''
Stuff that I never filmed.
People confused MONDO CANE with all that ugly, vulgar junk.
We didn't mind the imitations.
That was expected,
forwe had sold so many scenes to other people
who were doing the same kind of films.
I had many requests to work on this genre of movies.
But I always refused.
I didn't want to betray the original idea of the creators and directors.
I even refused to work with Gualtiero and Prosperi on MONDO CANE 2.
There were imitations, and offers were coming from everywhere.
All the Italian producers,
Cervi, Titanus, were trying to separate us,
because each of us was like a player on a soccer team
afterwinning the world cup.
Each of us had seen his value magnified.
So they tried to pull us apart.
Very interesting offers to me,
to Gualtiero and the crew to do these films.
Prosperi and I were together.
I shared with him success and failure, the good ideas and the bad.
We each had our own lives, our own tastes,
but our collaboration was always friendly and polite,
despite our completely different characters.
I'm much more extroverted,
but that didn't bear on our relationship.
Prosperi andJacopetti are both talented filmmakers.
Jacopetti is more inventive, has more imagination,
Prosperi is more rational.
But they have the same degree of influence on the direction.
We never profoundly disagreed. I want to say it again:
foryears and years, we had the deepest respect.
''Good morning. Good night. How are you?''
The films were often credited toJacopetti and not me.
They would say, ''This movie is byJacopetti.''
He was the man of scandal.
He had been in a scandal,
had a relationship with a very young girl,
a sixteen year old.
He was almost put in jail, but married her to avoid imprisonment.
The story was in every newspaper.
The man of scandal.
So he was obviously better-known than I was.
I had a background as a naturalist.
I abstained from notoriety
and didn't have a history of scandals behind me.
There was no jealousy
because after doing films with him,
I did other films that had enormous financial success.
Like THIS VIOLENTWORLD and
SAVAGE MAN, SAVAGE BEAST, produced by Titanus.
Films that I never put my name on
because I resented always doing the same kind of films.
I'm telling this as proof that I didn't really care about the credit.
If I had to put the different roles in the crew on a scale of importance
I could only tell you this:
What really mattered was the team spirit, our mutual cooperation,
our mutual dedication.
Not one of us was ever more important than the others.
While we were shooting MONDO CANE 2,
we began shooting for WOMEN OFTHE WORLD also.
Rizzoli had proposed the project during MONDO CANE 2
so that is why the two productions overlapped.
WOMEN OFTHE WORLD, honestly, the idea for it was Oriana Fallaci's.
So Rizzoli invited Oriana Fallaci
onto his yacht in Cannes.
Fallaci went and Rizzoli proposed a collaboration with us.
When I said to Rizzoli, ''Let's do a film about women in the world,''
Oriana claimed copyright on the title.
Now, Gualtiero and Oriana Fallaci were both strong characters,
so they immediately clashed,
because Fallaci wanted to be in charge.
She said that WOMEN OFTHE WORLD was her idea and work,
so she wanted to direct everything, and the rest should follow.
Gualtiero, as you can imagine, replied,
''No. I've done other films so I have to direct.''
This fight got so out of control that at one point
Gualtiero grabbed Fallaci and wanted to throw her overboard.
I had to intervene to calm them down.
Oriana Fallaci is admirable,
as long as she is in New York and you're in Beijing.
You can't deal with her.
She's too lively. I don't know how else to put it.
Anyway, Rizzoli calmed her down,
you can always find a way to settle these things.
And so we used the title and did WOMEN OFTHE WORLD.
We just wanted to discuss the subject of women,
very much explored in cinema,
and that somehow was in keeping with my old idea about love in the world.
So it was very interesting to me.
The subject was strictly about women, nothing else.
We salvaged many unused scenes from MONDO CANE.
This reserve footage is normally called ''the rushes,''
miles of film with complete events,
excess material that we had discarded in favor ofbetter footage.
We had all sorts of problems during the shoot.
Obviously not the same problems we'd face today.
For instance we had to film the life of prostitutes
in the streets of Hamburg,
on that dead-end street of prostitutes in Hamburg.
There were pimps behind these women, so it was forbidden to shoot,
because of the pimps and because of the authorities.
We had to be on the lookout, what to shoot and how.
And poor Cavara,
he had to covertly pass the exposed film
to a fellow technician who waited in a nearby street,
who was pursued by a pimp wanting to stab him with a knife.
He made it by sheer luck.
Again, it was the impact of newness.
A lesbian was a scandal then, unlike today.
It was something exceptional,
especially because people didn't admit it.
So it was something new, something deserving prominence.
Scandals were taken advantage of,
until it became acceptable
and normal as they are today.
The world was different then.
At the time, to show exposed breasts, a topless girl,
was a matter for the censors.
And so we really got into trouble.
However the documentary evolved to completion
and was also a success with the public.
Something in particular interested me:
a topic both journalistically and politically relevant,
a spectacular political subject.
Gualtiero received a letter from a friend.
She wrote, ''I'm in Africa, and Africa is changing.''
Africa as portrayed and idealized by Europeans,
is changing and is about to disappear.
It might seem incredible that a simple letter from a young woman
would affect me so much, but it was then that I envisioned AFRICAADDIO.
I remember him saying at the spur of the moment:
''Why don't we document this change in Africa?''
Obviously, I agreed enthusiastically.
As usual, I paid Rizzoli a visit.
You can imagine proposing a film about Africa at the time.
''What? Farewell Africa? What does it mean?''
''Well, the changes in Africa at this precise moment in time
of abrupt, brutal transition for a whole continent.''
It was a long and hard enterprise that lasted three years.
This is the destiny ofa people who wanted to ignore the colorofskin.
This is Portugal.
White or black, we're all Portuguese.
But the rebels ofAngola don't agree.
This is Africa. Only blacks are Africans.
We were away for long periods of time,
and we were so busy working...
and had no daily newspapers,
no newspapers from Italy in Africa at the time.
In Africa at the time you didn't follow the news,
no computers, many things were different.
The politics that concerned us were of the continent
where we were working and traveling.
But we didn't have a political point of view, an opinion to follow.
The film was totally objective.
There were no guidelines, no ''this wins, that wins.''
No! We were witnesses to a tragedy,
political meaning left aside.
I love Africa deeply.
I had been dreaming of it ever since I was a child.
The first time I set foot in Africa,
you know, like the Pope does when visiting a foreign land,
we got off the ship and kissed the soil of Africa,
for our dream had come true.
We have scenes in AFRICAADDIO that, I believe,
are the only document of those dramatic events the continent lived through.
We planned to spend a lot of time, to even run fatal risks,
but without a schedule.
Suddenly the situation in East Africa became explosive, so we moved there.
Thereafter, we would shuttle to and from different countries,
South Africa, East Africa, Mozambique, all the while running after events.
Every time something happened, we would be there.
And instead of sending our material to the papers, as a reporterwould do,
we locked it in a safe, and we later assembled AFRICAADDIO.
We never abandoned our original idea for AFRICAADDIO, that is,
to bid a farewell to Africa.
At the same time, predicting what would happen in the future
and make a critical statement about those who abandoned Africa so hurriedly.
We believed the British and French made a gross mistake leaving Africa that way.
Africa wasn't ready for that independence, which was its right.
Not at that moment.
There was no political class that could replace
that kind of foreign administration, the British especially.
There was no political class prepared for this.
AFRICAADDIO prophetically foresaw all this.
Violence, too, is a form of objectivity.
Violence exists in the world,
so why not show it?
We didn't show violence for the sake of it,
but to point out that it should be fought against.
If in AFRICAADDIO we show the violence of animals being killed,
it's because it happens.
Elephants are segregated in national parks
where they are decimated yearly to keep the population within the right limits.
When these national parks were only a few,
showing the slaughter of these animals
was a way of creating an awareness in public opinion.
Now, the Safari caused a lot of debate.
I understand the reason: we showed animals being killed.
Actually, half of the total footage was cut.
I decided to cut it.
Ortolani did something extraordinary.
He composed a symphony in sync with the killing.
While I was working in the U.S.
I kept thinking of some scenes from AFRICAADDIO that I had seen.
I was thinking about it and I had always admired Walt Disney
for the way they do their musical editing,
how they synchronize everything,
every movement of a tail, of a squirrel, of a bird,
every gesture was in sync with the music.
When I was back in Italy, I saw the footage of AFRICAADDIO.
I applied the precise technique I learned from Walt Disney.
This is the famous, tragically famous male hippopotamus
that you see speared to death in AFRICAADDIO.
I think it would be very difficult
to find a beautiful hippo this size today in Mozambique,
where most animals have been killed
in the course of the war that divided Mozambique from the Portuguese.
The police discover hundreds ofcaches ofivory and furs.
The gangs ofpoachers have used grenades
to kill over300 elephants without tusks
Poachers would kill elephants ust for ivory.
We have film with tusks being confiscated, warehouses full of tusks.
Rhinos were killed for their horns. Animals were killed for food.
It was a form of anarchy.
We had access to these national parks
with the permission of the management of these parks.
This one belongs to one of the biggest elephant specimens in Mozambique.
During the time we were filming AFRICAADDIO
we had a helicopter at our disposal
so the park rangers protecting the animals
sometimes would borrow it to prosecute poachers.
On one occasion we caught a group of them
who had just killed this animal.
As a token of gratitude the government gave me this tusk.
Our biggest advantage throughout the eight months of filming AFRICAADDIO
was having this helicopter at our disposal with a pilot and mechanic.
We could reach places, film,
and flee if we sniffed danger.
We were in Kenya when the episodes against Nyerere occurred.
It was a Muslim revolt.
We rented an airplane and flew to Dar es Salaam
which was closed down, practically.
We checked into a hotel where they wouldn't let us out.
But we were so curious and eager to film what was going on.
It was our reason to be there in the first place.
So we found a taxi that drove us to a place called ''The Barracks''
where the rebel soldiers were.
We asked to be let in, even if it was all shut.
It was a state of emergency.
They refused initially, but then as is usual with journalists,
we insisted on talking to the chief of the rebels.
They led us into The Barracks, searched us and took our belongings.
They tied our hands, and called in a firing squad.
This is all true.
They had machine guns.
They lined us up against a wall,
Climati, Nievo, and me.
We were ready for the worst.
I remember telling Climati, ''Smile, smile.''
Showing panic would have been really dangerous.
And this squad of a dozen men got ready.
For a moment I thought, ''This is the end!''
Finally a young colored officer arrived, shouting,
''Stop! They're not Whites. They're Italians.''
The phrase that saved our lives.
''They are not whites,'' which meant we were not English.
So they didn't kill us,
a miracle at the end, but we got this close.
They were the worst episodes we've gone through.
Two months later, Stanleyville, stronghold ofSimba leader Nicholas Olenga,
has been conquered by Belgian paratroopers and mercenaries.
The city is a cemetery without graves.
During the 1 00 days ofoccupation,
the Simba have tortured and, in part, eaten 1 2,000 Africans.
It was physically wearing, due also to being away from home.
We all had loved ones.
Just to let you know the spirit we had at the time,
we were young -Climati and Nievo came close to me and said:
''We've thought about it. We've got families, and no insurance.''
We actually had insurance, but not forwar.
I didn't know what to do. It was a situation of responsibility.
I took a pen and ink and extended the insurance for risks at war.
I took the responsibility.
They accepted this paper.
They were simply honoring a duty towards their families,
but we were really happy to be there.
The next day we followed the battle to the front line.
People were not prepared for cameras then.
They didn't know what we were doing,
and most of the time our cameras were disguised.
In Zanzibarwe rented a Dhow, an Arabic sailboat
and we would film from inside the Dhow.
Orwe filmed with an angled loop: we pointed the camera in one direction,
but were actually filming on the side, like a periscope.
The scenes we shot in the Congo were really strong,
like the one with the terrorist, ''Gancha.''
Prior to the arrival of the mercenaries,
This man had set a school on fire,
killing 30 children and their teacher.
When the mercenaries got there and were interrogating him,
one of them suddenly pulled out his pistol
and killed him before our eyes.
Carlo Gregoretti was with us,
the same Gregoretti that had introduced Gualtiero and me.
We invited Gregoretti to join us simply out of friendship.
He was there and he took part in the filming in Africa,
and also published in ''L'espresso''
some of the scenes from AFRICAADDIO.
This false news that caused such a scandal in Italy in ''L'espresso,''
Carlo Gregoretti wrote a few articles about
''The army of Ciombe at the orders ofJacopetti.''
The famous article in ''L'espresso'' was triggered by this:
Gualtiero, as I said, was a man of extraordinary charisma,
but also of peculiar attitude,
impudent at times.
He met Carlo Gregoretti, who had been invited to join us in Africa.
While chatting, Gualtiero blurted out something he shouldn't have said,
as often happens among friends.
Gualtiero said something like,
''The mercenaries did everything we told them to do.''
This is how the unfortunate misunderstanding happened.
So, the legend that we were after bloody events was born,
ust for the sake of entertainment.
It was said that we would cynically twist the circumstances
to make the scenes technically more effective,
''staging death under the sun.''
Can you imagine that we would stage such a scene?
I say it cynically, to have a man killed for a single take?
Technically speaking, it didn't even make sense.
It would be much smarter to fire blanks, and have him drop 1 00 times,
so as to be able to film as many takes as needed and pick the best.
Nobody in his right mind would say we had a man killed
ust to film a scene. It was preposterous!
An exaggeration, but it affected the public opinion.
When our material arrived in Rome it was viewed by our editors.
Paolo Cavara was also on the staff,
but was left out of the crew of all our films except MONDO CANE.
Maybe he was holding a grudge,
so when he saw some of the footage,
he claimed he had seen us forcing a mercenary to kill a black man
ust to complete a scene.
The film was confiscated at Technicolor, with a sign on the door saying:
''Confiscated due to massacre.''
So I was in Rome now, answering the magistrates
about all the incriminating scenes in the movie.
I was asked absurd questions.
For example, the judge sat with me at the editing table,
when he saw the scene of the liberation of the town of Stanley,
where we filmed dead people in the streets, he asked,
''Who killed them? Was it you?''
This kind of nonsense.
In the meantime, Gualtiero, Nievo, and Climati,
the ones under direct accusation, had to go back to the Congo
and get some papers to certify
that all the accusations were false.
Stanis Nievo went with me and we made the same trip again.
First to the embassy, where we had a notary accompanying us
with seals and everything to legalize signatures,
and in fact we did gather a big folder with all the evidence and testimonies
of people stating that we had saved them.
We had actually saved people,
on both sides, who were about to be executed.
We would hire them as our crew, saying they were porters or something.
At one point we really had a following.
How did it end? All ended well
for the simple reason that as soon as the judge asked us
if the scene was real where people are killed,
we would answer, ''It was all a fake, all staged.''
So the magistrates were happy and we could walk away from this mess.
But of course the acquittal was published with three lines on page five.
The accusation had been broadcast on the front page of every paper.
But that's how it goes. It's no surprise.
Following the publication of the article,
the left took a stand.
They realized that this film showed something very different
from the politically correct vision of Africa
finally becoming independent,
the death of colonialism, freedom to Africa.
This was the politically correct view of the time.
We showed the other side of it.
No, Africa is not ready for this independence.
The debate became political.
Our position was clear.
The scenes we filmed,
the interviews we made,
we weren't interested in the politics of the moment.
We said things honestly.
Our point of view was quite clear.
It was not a justification for colonialism
but it was a condemnation for leaving a continent in miserable conditions.
Daily I fought with the censors, with the Ministry.
They demanded cuts they had no authority to demand.
You don't ask to cut political ironies.
Rather,you ask for cuts because of customs, and moral codes.
But they had the upper hand
and without their OK, newspapers wouldn't advertise.
So I had to make a flexible compromise.
The result was that I got a reputation
for being politically incorrect.
The film was released to great anticipation by the public
because all these attacks caused quite a stir.
So they were very curious to see it
and it was promoted very well, in terms of propaganda.
I remember Rover bought our battered cars
to be displayed in the theater for publicity.
Of course, when a film is released, if it stirs debate
the producers are more than happy,
because it leads to success and that means money.
We all know about lines at the box office.
It was an assault to see AFRICAADDIO.
No one wins and no one loses, once and forall.
No condition is defiinite except forwhite and black deaths
that together infect the ruins and dissolve, amidst the buzz offlies
into absolute biological equality.
As for the criticisms, they were ferocious.
The public was not used to this kind of truth.
People were very reactive to the idea of mistreatment towards blacks,
The mere mention of the difference in skin color
provoked violent reactions, no matterwhat you said.
On our part there was absolutely no intention of racism.
I counted 98 press conferences all over the world,
always fighting to no avail. There was no point.
It was like talking to a wall: ''No! The film is racist!''
On our left is one of the Davids of Donatello
that we had the fortune ofbeing awarded.
This is the one for AFRICAADDIO,
the one that we did not receive from the hands of
the Minister of Culture and Entertainment, who refused to do it.
This is to point out again how lively the controversies were
Regarding the foreign language editions,
I decided to personally oversee the French version,
because I wanted a good translation.
Cineriz Productions didn't spare any expense so it was a job well done.
Then one fine day the copies are gone.
I did some research but got only vague replies.
Then the truth is revealed.
Politically, France's De Gaulle government,
De Gaulle's dictatorship,
formally asked Rizzoli not to distribute the film for political reasons.
It was during the ''Pieds Noirs'' in Africa, the Algerian crisis.
The compensation was generous, though.
It included a Legion d'Honneur. To whom, I won't say, for discretion.
The English version, unbeknownst to me,
was entrusted to an English translator.
But I couldn't oversee it.
I was busy with other things.
It ended up with a completely different translation,
for fear of riots from the black population.
Forthis great day ofUhuru,
every party has promised its voters
the prize ofthe land, livestock, houses and cars,
ofthe whites that remained.
An excess of caution, probably.
The film was completely altered.
Anyway, the film that resulted was not AFRICAADDIO.
It was something else.
To this day I'm still indignant,
and wish I could bash someone's face in.
Unfortunately, I got to know about it when it was too late.
Rizzoli had died,
and I had to suffer the outrage of seeing the film I loved so much,
a film that cost me sacrifice, passion, and youth.
To see it castrated, and insulted.
I felt rage and grief.
''Blood and guts.'' Come on!
MONDO CANE no longer exists, but AFRICAADDIO still exists.
If I had to reedit it,
I would only change the voice over, the commentary.
I wouldn't touch the images,
because the film AFRICAADDIO is still relevant today.
This comforts me immensely.
I'm really proud, not because it might be immortal,
but because of how I intuited the future.
AFRICAADDIO is a film that I love very much.
I remember it with pleasure and pain.
It was a beautiful film,
an important film,
shocking, full of events, violent.
Very beautiful, it had it all.
AFRICAADDIO is the film I'm most partial to,
the one that cost me the most effort
that I had the most enthusiasm about.
AFRICAADDIO was a film with a soul.
It was an act oflove.
After AFRICAADDIO...you don't like to get so viciously criticized or insulted,
especially after traveling for three years, risking your life,
sacrificing so much to make a documentary.
Upon receiving defamatory accusations as being racists etc.,
we tried to make a new film that would be clearly anti-racist.
Once I got this idea, this intuition,
to make a movie as if staging a newsreel back in past times,
it would be something bizarre
because certainly in the 1 800's they wouldn't conceive of documentaries.
The idea fascinated me.
Also it would give me some respite from the toils of actual newsreel shooting,
which is draining and unfulfilling.
So we thought, ''Why don't we do 'Mandingo' as a documentary?''
Like a vintage documentary,
in the sense that we imagine being photographers
coming to America in the 1 800's to observe the situation.
So we studied the subject, the history of slavery in America
and began to film adopting, mind you,
the viewpoint of men from those times regarding slavery.
So you would see the English poet Thackeray
visiting one of those gorgeous mansions in Louisiana
like in GONE WITH THE WIND,
and witness the confusion that reigned in the house.
In GOODBYE UNCLETOM, the characters are not made up.
They portray real historical characters,
people who played a role in history, science, and religion.
The reverend and his sermon; those writings are for real,
not some screenwriter's dialogue.
The theory of scientific racism is real.
I was the one doing the research
because of my professorial background.
So I read all the documents I could find
on the topic of slavery in America.
The topic was very interesting.
It was the time when racism and slavery were widely discussed.
It was a time of redemption. It was the time of Martin Luther King.
A topic very up to date.
This was our idea, to demonstrate how such aberrations originate.
Without softening it with our present day view of things.
Without the hypocrisy of declaring that
African slaves in those times were woefully aware of their conditions.
Because for the most part they were not.
They were stolen from their homeland,
brought to another, totally different country, with a different language.
Receiving no education, not going to school, without freedom,
they could hardly have an idea of their roots.
Just as the white owners had no conscience of doing something evil,
they were righteous in what they did, based on religious beliefs,
the Bible suggesting it.
So they saw things differently.
An African was a sort of animal to be used as a workhorse,
and it was for their own good that they were taught to live that way.
Let us not forget that for us Christians, Catholics,
traveling along with Spaniards and Portuguese to America,
the pagans didn't have a soul.
I mean, literally, pagans didn't have a soul.
So a slave was like an animal,
he could be killed like we would kill a chicken.
That was the concept back then.
So in the film we tried to show that.
But it was interpreted as cynicism.
It was probably our mistake. We should have stated it clearly:
''Attention, what you are about to see is the viewpoint of men of those times.
It is not ourviewpoint.''
As for the shoot, remember we were coming off AFRICAADDIO,
a project that lasted three years and cost us much sacrifice.
Being away from home for three years is very hard.
So for GOODBYE UNCLETOM we planned three months of shooting
like a normal film.
So where do we shoot?
It was going to be a fiction, for the first time in our lives,
so we decided on Brazil.
We obtained visas, passed medical tests and were granted permission.
We left Italy for New York and were stopped by the Brazilian government
with a counterorder stating:
''Stop the crew of MONDO CANE and AFRICAADDIO.''
Our reputation had eventually caught up with us.
''Stop this crew from entering Brazil.''
Papa Doc was in charge of everything.
With the recommendation from the Italian ambassador,
Papa Doc gave us a lot ofhelp.
Seven or eight cars with diplomatic plates, special permission,
all in exchange for some chit-chat, some sympathy for this strange old man.
I remember the dinners we had to attend every Friday night.
He would treat us to stale bread, cheese and water from the swimming pool:
the rhetoric of sobriety.
It was fun, it was a new experience:
putting on costumes, building sets, and writing dialogue.
I had never done that before.
They called me.
I went and stayed there not too long, three or four months. I don't remember.
Maybe two months. I stayed a very short time
because the film was born bad and was going to end worse.
The final scene was the story of Nat Turner,
who at the height of the slave era was the first to revolt against the whites.
So, what were we aiming for?
The chance to have a conscience for blacks.
The closing scene where the child wants his balloon back and he pops it.
He does it just out of malice and I felt it wasn't gratuitous malice.
I saw it as a legitimate moral vengeance from this man
who had so much identified with that character
who had been destroyed.
It should go without saying that nobody today would endorse slavery,
by any stretch of the imagination.
So, a film that was made to respond to all accusations of racism
from AFRICAADDIO, to be anti-racist,
turned out to be a reiteration of our alleged racism.
Racism that, once again, we absolutely reject.
It would be illogical, stupid.
As for the film being... it is difficult to watch.
Maybe we went a little too far
and lost sight of the public.
My theory is the public is always right.
There's no such thing as the masterpiece that the public didn't get.
I find the idea offensive.
The public appreciates good things.
But if it is rejected because it isn't understood,
it means that it needed an explanation,
and if an explanation is necessary then the film just doesn't work.
It must be self-explanatory.
Presenting this documentary about the slavery ofblack people
without a word of introduction,
it was inevitable that the authors' intentions would be misconstrued.
It's our own fault.
As for the criticism of the film, we had to accept it.
Moreover, it didn't have the same success as the previous ones,
and so evidently, something wasn't quite right there.
The film aroused curiosity at first,
then came the censors and it was banned.
At the trial, it was discharged in full.
Anyway, two months later the film is released again.
It was not the success it should have been.
Once a film has been removed, the public is rightly distrustful.
It was a beautiful film in its intentions,
but it came out wrong.
After thirty years, I would redo the film.
Redoing it, giving it a more documentary and scientific slant.
I would explain situations, give dates, and data
about the whole phenomenon of slavery in America,
and how it all happened.
Revisiting the film today, honestly, I would change a lot of things.
I don't justify myself at all costs.
I'm not after a moraljustification.
In my opinion, if you state a moral,
Finding morals is the critics'job.
WithJacopetti and Prosperi there was precise research.
Even if there was violence it had style and intelligence.
It's not about art.
There is no true art. Today it's all about shocking the public.
There is no love of the movie-making culture.
Everything that was done afterwards served no purpose.
They were the true creators of this genre.
The collaboration ofJacopetti & Prosperi lasted four, five years
in perfect harmony.
Extreme mutual politeness, extreme respect.
We were still getting along great while filming GOODBYE UNCLETOM.
Our relationship cooled down a little while shooting MONDO CANDIDO
from Voltaire's ''Candide'' for reasons that are pointless to explain now.
It was his lack ofloyalty
in terms ofhis partnership with me, from an economic standpoint.
In the end, and I don't want to go into the reasons again,
we had a final crisis and we parted.
A decision kept to this day.
This separation saddened me immensely.
I understand that they had some argument
and because of their strong personalities,
they couldn't reach out to each other.
They just stopped working together.
It was a loss for the entire movie world.
They had such great potential and capacity
to create important and great films.
I am sorry because you can't simply forget...
but no resentment, nothing.
It was always discussed in a civilized manner.
We really went too far.
The dangers, illnesses, accidents,
but we never felt we were heroes or martyrs.
It was always a pleasure for us.
To this day I still have nightmares.
I no longer have nightmares about graduating, about examinations,
but I have nightmares about someone calling me
and telling me to go organize and film something somewhere.
This genre is attracting a lot of attention.
I've received proposals. I can't accept them now.
It's not my time anymore.
At another time I'd surely like to take the plunge
and do something contemporary.
There's still so much to be told.
It's not true that everything has been done already.
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