Enzo MonteleoneEnzo Monteleone

"An eternal colonialism exists in the attitude of the western rich countries"

Italian director and script writer, Enzo Monteleone wrote four scripts for Gabriele Salvatores, among which we may cite "Marrakech Express" and "Mediterraneo" (Oscar of the best foreign movie in 1992), turned three feature films and several shorts and documentaries. His last movie "El Alamein - The line of Fire" retraces one of the turning points of World War II, the battle which took place in North Africa in 1942, the big defeat of the Nazi army and the withdrawal of the Italian troops confronted to the English.

Your movies often take place on Mediterranean sites. What does this geographical area, rich of different cultures, overlapped with the passing of the centuries represent for you?
During a certain moment of my life, I instinctively felt I belonged to a territory. When I was 17, I made my first journey alone in the Mediterranean. I went to Greece and I felt more at home than in Italy. These islands, burnt by the sun gave me a feeling of adherence. Then I moved on to Turkey and then towards the East of the Mediterranean basin. I have never been attracted by America as were many members of my generation, I felt an adherence to this area through literature, food, culture… North Africa forms an integral part of it. It is not by chance that one of the stories I decided to write for the cinema, one of my first scripts was "Marrakech Express", a journey to Morocco. For my generation, it implied the fascination of the kasbah, smoking the hashish, the souks... And then the journeys in the desert, this enormous entity with its immense personality. The oasis that risk today to disappear are as the stations-service of a network of roads that connect the black Africa to the Mediterranean and to the Arabian North Africa. All of it, I put it in" Marrakech", in" Mediterraneo" and also in "El Alamein." In this last movie, I explored the contrast between the vastly big that is the desert and the miserably small represented by the soldiers.

The movie has been shot in Erfoud, in Morocco. What were your relations with the local population during the filming?
Morocco is one of the most beautiful countries of the world. We had the possibility to work in a village of 5000 inhabitants right in the middle of the desert. To arrive there to shoot a movie means to bring work, you are therefore distinguished as a friend. People were happy and worked very well. One day, I had to chose some extras for a scene of crowd. Before the hotel, an immense crowd assembled, nearly the whole population in a ray of 100km had come. I needed 100 to 200 people, and they were thousand. A bothersome situation because no one understood the reason of his or her exclusion. I realized how privileged we are. For the tourists, it is fascinating to see women sitting on a donkey to pull water from the well, but it is not picturesque at all. I am sure they would prefer to have the running water at home.

Did European colonialism influenced relations between the countries of the Mediterranean?
Certainly. An eternal colonialism exists in the attitude of the western rich countries. Today, the gates are especially economic. Rural emigration and urbanization have only created despair. It is sufficient to look at Rabat, the shanty towns that surround the capital. It is an economic problem and not a cultural, religious or linguistic problem. The wave of euphoria and enthusiasm that followed the struggles of liberation against colonialism lasted a short period of time. The regimes on power, the massacres between different ethnic groups, created a powder-keg where the rich countries don't intervene, except by interest.

Do you think that art, cinema can encourage the dialogue?
I believe it. Even as spectator. I try to make movies with the content but also visually emotional. Some time ago, I read a piece of news, of some Kurdish who died in a container in Trieste, a tragedy as so many others. I believed that this was the moment to tell these stories, but I found a lot of resistance. Michael Winterbottom succeeded it very well with" In this World”. In Italy, the only one that succeeded in approaching this kind of topic is Gianni Amelio with "Lamerica", one of the best movies of these last years, epic, with an enormous visual power.

Can you tell me a personal experience of intercultural dialogue?
I live in Rome, in Piazza Vittorio, a district that unites numerous ethnic groups. A multicultural experience has been initiated lately: the orchestra of Piazza Vittorio. This idea put forward by Mario Tronco, the percussionist of the group Avion Travel, who created an orchestra composed of fifteen musicians coming from eleven different countries and talking eight different languages. Their rehearsals take place in the canteen of a school. It is a success of an attempt of dialogue. Music speaks the same language everywhere.

Camillo De Marco