Dazed Digital

Rome / Italiano

Roberto De Paolis

September 1, 2011

The acclaimed Roman photographer and filmmaker returns from New York and talks about his phobias and upcoming show at the Italian Institute of Culture

  • Text by Satellite Voices

Guest Feature by Giulia Ruberti

Roberto De Paolis is a photographer and filmmaker with one great phobia: airplanes. And this isn’t very convenient, particularly when you live between Rome and New York and your work has you constantly on the move. I met Roberto by chance - on a plane - while we were both returning to Rome from our holidays and tried to distract him with a couple of questions.  

Satellite Voices: Roberto, is flying your only phobia?
Roberto De Paolis: Now yes, even though I was pretty sure I had overcome it… When I was younger I was absolutely terrified of spiders, to such an extent that I would move the bed away from the wall and sleep in the middle of my bedroom! The fear of flying suddenly hit me when I turned 20.

SV: Are you based in Rome now?
Roberto De Paolis: Yes and it’s quite good, simply because I get to spend more time with my friends and family. It’s also refreshing after New York to be in Rome. There’s a different energy in cities whose identities are linked to the past, an energy that I need. There’s no globalisation, things don’t all look the same. But there are huge limits as well. For example, in Rome I never go to the cinema! In Italy they still dub films and it’s impossible to see movies in their original version. What works for me is to move around a lot so this airplane issue is a real disaster!

SV: So are you traveling soon? What are your upcoming projects?
Roberto De Paolis: I’m going to be in Paris for a while. At the end of September I have an exhibition at the Maison Europèenne de la Photographie and at the Italian Institute of Culture. It’s a two person show with Beatrice Pediconi, which was exhibited last spring at the MACRO in Rome. And then lots of cinema. Actually, I will be presenting the last short I made in the Controcampo Italiano section of the Venice Film Festival. It’s called "Alice" and it’s the story of a young couple who’s relationship is taking off but then she gets pregnant and loses the baby and it all gets messed up. I’m excited. It’s the second year my work has been selected for Venice, last year with my first short and now with the second.

SV: Do you want to focus more on filmmaking rather than photography?
Roberto De Paolis: Yes. I started photographing when I was younger, portraying people in different environments, mostly alone and in some sort of conflict with the outside. But then, once my characters started to evolve, I couldn’t tell their stories in a satisfying way. So I started making videos where these characters could come alive. Through photography I depicted mental states. In the films there is more action. Now my main problem is that when I am asked to create a photography project I can’t really do it. I could technically produce something sequentially, but it doesn’t feel spontaneous and it’s not really the way I like to work.

SV: And are you working on something specific right now? 
Roberto De Paolis: Yes, my next short film. I am writing it together with my friend and screenwriter Carlo Salsa. It’s a true story that happened to a friend of his in Piemonte. It’s sort of a thriller. In real life there was a happy ending, in our version there isn’t. 

SV: The flight is almost over, how are you planning to release all the anxiety you have built up in these few hours?
Roberto De Paolis: I want to go home, eat a hamburger and watch Dardenne brothers movies all day. Then I’ll go out at night and get all of this stress out of my system!

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