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Peroni Nastro Azzurro Film Academy

Gabriele Muccino, the director of Will Smith's 'The Pursuit of Happyness', talks about Italian film history and his latest project, 'Senza Tempo'

After achieving critical and commercial hits such as L’Ultimo Bacio (The Last Kiss) in his native Italy, filmmaker Gabriele Muccino was handpicked by superstar Will Smith to direct him in 2006’s The Pursuit of Happyness. The experience was so fruitful that the duo teamed up again on Seven Pounds, and Muccino now has the enviable ability to work both in Hollywood and back home. This makes him the ideal candidate to spearhead the new Peroni Nastro Azzurro Accademia del Film initiative – created to promote young cinematic talent, as well as showcase the essence of Italian film worldwide.

Dazed Digital: Tell us about 'Senza Tempo', the short film you made for the Peroni Nastro Azzurro Film Academy!
Gabriele Muccino: It’s the story of a man and a woman living in Rome in the 60s. I’ll be working with the up-and-coming new talents that we picked from a very strong selection and they’ll have an active role, collaborating not only with me but the editor, the production designer, and so on. I hope to be an example to them. I wished I had a teacher when I was younger but I didn’t find anyone willing to accept me!
DD: What is it about Italian cinema that makes it stand out?
Gabriele Muccino: I think Italian cinema is the most heartfelt and the most able to break your heart. It has the ability to capture the sense of what life is all about – the nuances, the attention to detail. Everything is so accurate, so elegant, so simple… and also so universal: it links to a sort of timeless element.

DD: What are the essential Italian films for you?
Gabriele Muccino: I could name 50! Federico Fellini’s 8½ is for me probably the most important movie ever made. Fellini had the ability to really dive into our subconscious and bring it onscreen. And DeSica’s Bicycle Thieves is one of the most poetic, bittersweet stories I’ve ever seen. It inspired me enormously when I was making The Pursuit of Happyness – both movies are the story of a father and son’s survival.

DD: How does working in Hollywood compare to back home?
Gabriele Muccino: It’s quite a different approach. In Italy you have total freedom, whereas in Hollywood you always have to relate to producers, which makes your work mostly based on politics, not the art itself! Having said that, I loved my experiences over there, because I had the luxury to work on scripts that really spoke to me and were unconventional. The movies I had the opportunity to realise were very influenced by my own Italian sensibility and love for Italian cinema.
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