Oscar, the joy of Alice Rohrwacher: “In LA with my bad girls”

‘The pupils’ is in the five of the Oscars 2023 for the best live-action short film. The director: “My mini blockbuster, a manifesto of love for Italy”

(Adnkronos/Cinematografo.it) – “Up until the end, I didn’t expect it, but I was hoping for it: it’s a worldwide selection and already entering the fortnight was an incredible surprise.” She’s radiant Alice Rohrwacher when he meets the press immediately after the nomination for the Oscars 2023 in the five for best live-action short with Pupils, the film produced tempest and Esperanto Filmoj for Disney, available on Disney+. The nomination also concerns the producers: Carlo Cresto-Dina, Alfonso Cuarón and Gabriela Rodriguez.

The Italian producer anticipates it, explaining the genesis of the film: “Alfonso Cuarón’s idea was to make a series of short films about the holidays with directors from all over the world. The first to be called was Alice who presented an idea in two days. In two weeks she wrote the screenplay, so we made the film right away, in December 2021. It was a big set in size but limited in time; we shot in Bologna in an institute originally for deaf-mute girls”.

However, nothing transpires about another promotional tour: “Disney is helping us a lot by involving all the agencies, in December we took a trip between New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco. I don’t know if we’ll have time to do another promotional round because Alice is currently in post-production for her latest feature film. In addition, superstitiously we decided not to plan anything.”

The director herself confirms the lightning-fast birth of the film: “When the proposal arrived, I immediately thought of this letter that Goffredo Fofi had made me read, written by Elsa Morante. In reality it was a story that had always echoed in my head, but I had never thought of turning it into a film. So I immediately asked Goffredo and Morante’s heirs if I could transfer it to a girls’ boarding school, even if I made some changes: the whole antecedent of the film was invented. , the need to work with girls, because I don’t know if I feel like a bad girl, but knowing that the pupils we all have in our eyes come from a girl, gives me a lot of confidence”.

Therefore, the short film “on the one hand is a mini-blockbuster, as my costume designer says: a short film but on which we worked with the same care, the same love, the same joy as a long film; on the other it is a Christmas story that turns out to be a small parable, because perhaps there is no better moment in the world than this in which little girls – who are called bad but are not bad – must have a voice”.

Among the secrets of success, the director first of all recognizes “the fact that it was produced by Cuarón and supported by Disney. It has helped a lot in terms of visibility, especially in America”. But also “the fact that for Americans Christmas is closely linked to the figure of Santa Claus, but in the past we referred to the theme of the nativity, regardless of believing or not believing in God. Therefore, for a foreign audience this short can evoke an archaic language that perhaps they may even feel nostalgic about. This film is a great, heartbreaking manifesto of love for Italy that even our writer, Elsa Morante, loved very much. Italy is a country that I love despite everything, even in the small details, from the costumes to the scenography. Because Le pupille is a collective story. And in this collective making of it I also find a beauty of Italy and as a reflection of Italian cinema which, above all in the past, was a cinema of collective stories”.

And to those who ask him if he will bring the girls with him to the awards ceremony, as happened at the Cannes preview – “one of the most unforgettable screenings of my life” – he replies: “We haven’t planned anything yet, but their presence would be extraordinary because they would make a place of tension like the evening of the Oscars, a great class trip”.

It has not gone unnoticed that in the five best director of feature films this year, women are missing, but Rohrwacher invites us to “reflect not so much on the directors, but on the films that have been made, on who votes, on the support they have: it is difficult to say how could it have been different. But it is a question that it would be nice to ask men because they always ask women, instead it would be interesting to hear their point of view”.

In the meantime, this short film strengthens the partnership with his sister: “I’ve already worked with Alba, but before that, she had always played ‘safe’ characters: the mother in The Marvels, Antonia in Happy as Lazzaro. That’s why I had the desire to work with her, in a completely different way. When I read the letter I immediately thought that the very strict abbot could be Alba. We had a lot of fun shooting it and I think you can feel in the film why Alba worked with great detail, but also with a certain irony. I haven’t heard from her about the nomination yet because she’s filming, she’s on set, I’m waiting for it to finish, but I’m sure she’ll be happy.”

Thus, the dedication of the candidacy is soon said: “To all the girls who are struggling in the world, may they break this cake and make sure it can be shared”.

Compared to the new film, most given in competition at Cannes 2023, however, he prefers not to say too much: “I don’t know where the chimera will be seen yet, I’m currently editing. I can say that it is a great journey, a film that involves me a lot. There are no naughty girls, just a band of naughty men.”

Before leaving, there is room for an appeal: “I think that for the products that are made, Italian cinema is in excellent shape, but as far as the public is concerned, there is great desolation. Even after the pandemic, the size of the hall as a place for leisure, for meeting, which allows you to open a window onto the other, has not recovered, and this is the greatest regret. I think the authors are trying hard, now we need feedback from the public.”