Gianmarco D’Agostino is an Italian filmmaker whose documentaries underscore the restorative power of art and human kindness. At MNFF 2017 he screened his film “Camminando Sull’acqua / Walking on Water” for the first time in the USA, a story about Florence’s resurrection from the 1962 flood. MNFF caught up with Gianmarco and talked about what it’s like to work with older film along with what he is future projects.
MNFF: Tell us how you came upon Beppe Fantacci’s story and why you decided to make a film concerning his work?
GD: A good friend of mine, Antonina Bargellini, daughter of Piero Bargellini, Mayor of Florence in 1966, called me one day in May 2016. She was very excited, saying that she had something amazing to share with me. We met the next day with her long time friend Paolo Fantacci, Beppe’s son, who showed me a dvd of Florence during and after the big flood that hit Florence November 4th, 1966. I was shocked. The footage was an original 16 mm color film… I had never seen Florence like that! To us the flood has always been in black and white. But what hit me the most were these 20 minutes of film by the amateur filmmaker Beppe Fantacci and his friends, stylist Emilio Pucci and buyer Enzo Tayar. Several days after the flood they flew to the United States and screened the film to the top managers of several department stores. They used the film to show how Florence was in desperate need of help. Eventually they raised enough money to help the artisans of Florence, who had lost everything in water, and mud to get back to work as soon as possible. The ALFA (American Loans to Florentine Artisans) Fund they invented was essentially a crowdfunding campaign in 1966! This was a beautiful and forgotten story, and even if I had only 5 months before the 50th anniversary of the flood I absolutely had to tell it!
MNFF: So far you are one of the only filmmakers in MNFF to work with 16 mm. What is it like?
GD: It was my first time too and it has been a wonderful experience. I received the only existing copy of the film (how scary!) and brought it to Rome to “wash” it in the laboratory where many films produced at Cinecittà were developed. Then I went through the long and delicate process of “telecinema,” scanning the film in High Definition frame by frame. It was such a responsibility to hold in my hands the only color film of the 1966 flood. Or, so I thought … Some days later I was talking to my dearest friend Jacopo Fusi about my new project about the flood, and he revealed that his father Gustavo, an artisan himself and passionate photographer, has filmed Florence during the same days of Beppe. Suddenly I had in my hands an 8 mm film, and when I brought it to the lab, I discovered that this was in color too!
MNFF: It seems your previous films have focused on themes of prison, freedom, and artwork. Did that influence your making Walking on Water and does it influence your current work?
GD: Looking back to my previous work it seems that something has always guided me to tell stories inspiring a “sense of wonder” for the beauty and unity that human beings can express. Be it “The Last Judgment” by Michelangelo, or the “Don Giovanni” by Mozart, or a story of redemption told by a man in prison, what really matters to me while filmmaking is to share good energies.
MNFF: Do you have any insight or recommendations for filmmakers attending MNFF?
GD: Oh lucky them! I wish I could come back so much! Dear fellow filmmakers, at MNFF you will find passionate people, wonderful venues, amazing parties… Could you ask for more? Okay, there’s more! You will meet talented friends (and sometimes a new brother… right, Mr. John Gomez?!) and you will be living with local people in their places! To me it was so beautiful to feel at home away from home (thank you so much, dear Helen and Eric McFerran!).
MNFF: What are you working on now and what do you hope to do in the future?
GD: After the premiere at MNFF I traveled a lot with Walking on Water. Afterwards, I shot a new documentary and a Public Service Announcement in Bangladesh to help an Italian NGO to raise money and build schools where children can’t afford the State school. Now I’m back again to my 7 years long project about a German consul in Florence trying to save as many people he could from Nazi fury, including Jews. Yes, I know, another story about Florence, a tragedy, and a man doing something good for the others! Check the trailer, if you’re interested: https://vimeo.com/gianmarcodagostino/florencetheconsulandme.