Anita Rivaroli and the feat of the Thousand. The director of “We Are The Thousand” tells her story.
Not only did you direct We are the Thousand but you helped create Rockin' 1000 alongside Fabio and the others: it all started from a video. Tell us about how it went. Rockin' 1000 was Fabio's idea but it only came to life when a group of his friends decided to help. The group was composed by six people, Claudia, Martina, Marta, Cisko, Mariagrazia and yours truly. I still remember when, back in 2014, I had just made my first short movie as a director and was still electrified by that experience, my academic background was in script writing and I hadn't thought of directing yet. Fabio encouraged me during the whole process, while he worked on his startup which mapped out hiking trails, a farsighted idea that preceded what Google went on to do. There was a very stimulating climate of creative interaction, with lots of ideas to try and an incredible desire to put it all out there. We started thinking of the path we were going to set off on to make the feat of the thousand become a reality. I was in charge of the audiovisual part: shooting the performance and packaging it into a Youtube video, obviously aimed at the Foo Fighters. So I began building my team, involving friends and colleagues willing to take part in such a weird experience, basically without a budget. Out of all the professionals that helped me out during this journey I couldn't not mention Alberto Viavattene who I share the directing credit with for the first lucky Youtube video, and Pasquale Remia, the director of photography for all things Rockin'1000 related. Together we created a team of cameramen with roughly 10 different camera angles. We had to capture the performance of a band that was not composed by five members, like they usually are, but 1000, playing on a stage as big as a football field.
You have a very strong narrative vision as a scriptwriter, you worked on many series and fictional projects (Skam, summertime) what was it like to tell a real story? How did you sort through the huge amount of footage and the many points of view that this story could have been told from? Before we began editing I categorized all the material we shot during the years (many terabytes) and I took notes to help me navigate through it. I think I knew the structure I wanted to use almost instantly, I had written down a treatment to map out the direction I wanted to move in. I'm a scriptwriter and I write fictional work, so , I find I can move better if I sketch out the path I want to follow, keeping in mind the destination I want to arrive at. But I only got to try it out during the editing process in which me and Roberto di Tanna, the editor of the documentary, tried to bring to life what I had thought out. It was a fundamental part of the process, and me and Roberto went back and forth with ideas and solutions to the problems we encountered along the way. I am very grateful for the patience he had during those months. In the editing room, I realized that something was coming to life and that we could turn all that heterogeneous material that we had collected into a movie capable of transmitting the emotions we had experienced in real life. I didn't have any major doubts regarding the point of view of the story because it came from a gut feeling: It couldn't have been my prospective, nor the organizer's, the correct one was the musician's who had participated in the event. We are the Thousand tells a collective story, a beautiful and touching collective story, but it's also a proving ground and a chance to explore one's ego. The organizer's ego, the Foo fighter's, every single musician's, who had the chance to perform in front of hundreds of thousands of people, or to be seen by millions online. What do you make of this? Of the relationship between one's subconscious and the collective's? It's a theme that I often thought about. The whole point of Rockin'1000 is to tickle the ego of one of the most famous bands in the world, by triggering a response we all have: vanity. Our tribute distinguished itself among all the others for it's spontaneity: in 2015 nothing was planned and I think that the Learn to Fly clip has worked so well because it's not – and it doesn't look like – an ad, it's organic, dirty and authentic. Giving unknown musicians, who often have elementary technical skills, a chance to play in stadiums for crowds of thousands, is another task that stimulates the ego, but having experienced it I feel that, at least for the musicians that take part in it, there is a deeper need that gets satisfied which is being together, playing and having fun. The social relations that have been established definitely seemed authentic. The harmful type of ego, the one that gives us the feeling of conquering whilst it destroys and demoralizes, is the one that traps us in our own convictions and stops us from questioning ourselves. Rockin'1000 was born and raised by many people who generously gave their creative talent and time. Among them I'm pleased to name Marco Sabiu, the orchestra conductor who tamed the first thousand musicians with strength and brio. He came up with the pledge, a ritual the thousand hold very dear. And the audio team, first and foremost Cecco and Vanis&Amek, fundamental figures for the positive outcome of the sound of the experiment.
Rockin'1000, other than being the realization of a big but finite dream (having the Foo Fighters play in Cesena), had taken an abnormal and unthinkable dimension in the beginning, by bringing together different generations and giving new life to “rock” gatherings like we hadn't seen in 50 years. What do you make of these unexpected consequences? Do you think it's an act of nostalgia or is it a new beginning?
Rockin' 1000 has worked as an endorphin injection. It has awakened dormant passions, it has taken instruments out of their dusty cases, and most of all, it brought musicians out of their garages and bedrooms, allowing them to perform in stadiums, welcomed by a crowd that is there to see them. The project stimulates self confidence and encourages making music together, so it's without a doubt an amazing effort to create new forms of socialization during these hyper digitized and hyper connected times in which we live in. However by working a lot with teenagers I reluctantly found out that rock music isn't particularly appreciated by new generations. Not only that but teens don't play musical instruments, they don't form bands, like we used to in the 90s and 2000s. What changed? Surely the way music is made, technology substitutes group learning which is hard and difficult and it brings new modes of inspiration. I feel that we are moving apart from playing music as we know it. The consequence is often experiencing music in solitary, as an individual. It's undeniable that rock music is undergoing a declining phase, but that doesn't mean its dying. Will it be back in new ways with new protagonists? I hope so, considering I grew up with punk and rock music and have trouble listening to trap music.
When did you know it was time to tell this story? Why not sooner rather than later? How do you think the Rockin'1000 story will end, if it ends at all? I decided this story deserved to become a movie after the legendary day at the Parco Ippodromo. That night the air was full of euphoria and adrenaline... getting to know the thousand wasn't enough, I decided I wanted to dive deeper into their personal lives to understand what moved them. Some people had traveled 700/800 km by car to participate in our event: was it due to their love for the Foo Fighters? It couldn't have been just that. I was sure there was something else. Something more personal and profound. I worked on this documentary for a long time. In the beginning resources were scarce, we had to get creative. I met Giorgio Giampa', a composer I really looked up to, in Cannes and I brought up the idea of doing the soundtrack for the film. He agreed enthusiastically and introduced me to the producers I needed, the ones that allowed the film to take off. I still remember the first time I met Simone Catania, Michele Fornasero and Francesca Portalupi. We traveled back and forth from Turin to Cannes in a day: we talked about the movie, our thoughts on filmmaking, our dreams, food and shot the shit. When I explained what I was looking for from the story I was following, I had the sensation they understood immediately. To me that was key: being in tune artistically. “We are the thousand” was the only Italian project to get selected at SXSW, a prestigious US festival and an ideal spotlight for your film. The festival was canceled due to the spread of the pandemic. These are hard times for another collective phenomenon, filmmaking, which is moving more and more back to it's original state: a singular point of view (or at the most a household's). What do you think of everything that is happening, specifically regarding the temporary downfall of collective experiences?
I am very worried and at the same time I can't explain this phobia of movie theaters. Sociability, an essential commodity, is continuing in other places such as bars, pubs and restaurants. Those are indoor environments where masks aren't being worn, and often times people stand closer together compared to movie theaters, so I don't understand why people don't find it more worrying. I keep going to the movies and feeling safe, unfortunately theaters are almost empty and it's damaging, because the experience of the big screen is not comparable to home viewing. We are the thousand deserves to be seen on the big screen with high quality audio: we have 250 drums playing in unison, the emotion, the musical power, should be experienced at the movies.
We are the thousand has been selected at the “Festival di Roma” and will debut in the same city you live in, soon after it will release in theaters through iWonder's events all over Italy. How do you feel knowing that from the 22nd of October your movie will belong to everyone, to all the thousands, to the audience, and the Rockin'1000 story will finally be released? Do you have any regrets? Would you have told the story any differently, would you have added or removed something? Would you have liked to have more space or time? I am very happy about being selected at the “Festa del cinema di Roma”, my foster city. I think it's the ideal festival to debut at because it has always placed an emphasis on the audience's taste, selecting important pieces of work, both films d'auteur and pop culture movies. To me this year's edition, regardless of all the issues that have come up, is wonderful and music plays a key role in many other movies. We'll be in theaters for four days and we'll do a mini tour in other cities to interact as closely as possible with the audience. I can't wait to sit in a theater and watch the reactions of those who know nothing about Rockin'1000 or the many musicians they are about to see. It will be emotional, I think.
We are the thousand has been jointly acquired for US distribution by Breaking Glass and Blue Fox. Stay tuned for upcoming dates!