As a female director in Italy, Laura Bispuri has confronted her share of challenges seeking to uproot all the prejudices and stereotypes about women: in the film industry as well as in everyday life.
Bispuri recently completed her new movie “Daughter of Mine,” which screened at the Berlin Film Festival and the Tribeca Film Festival.
An advisory board member of We Do It Together — a nonprofit organization that produces movies and media content by women, about women but for everyone — recently shared some of her experiences.
Your films “Sworn Virgin” and “Daughter of Mine” both center on female partnerships — both on screen, with the two leading protagonists, and off, with your collaboration with actress Alba Rohrwacher. How important is it, for you, to collaborate with women?
It’s a milestone of my belief. I believe it in life, and the way I decide to live it, and it’s a political belief too. I truly believe in the cohesion between women. It’s one of the things that scare people the most. We can really change everything with it. This collaboration is the thread in both my films: the women I portray are not related by blood, but they are somehow still deeply connected one to the other.
You made maternity a macroscopic concept that often, especially in Italy, is still only interpreted in a very micro way — a mother is the one who gives birth and raises her children.
One of the hardest things was to have three different points of view, but this was exactly what I wanted: not to define maternity in one standard way, but to create an emotional magma, where every woman can become mother and daughter of the other two.
There are several scenes where we understand that there is a past where Tina [Valeria Golino] has always taken care of Angelica [Alba Rohrwacher]. I like a lot a scene where Tina pays a visit to Angelica at the pier — here it’s Angelica who takes care of Tina for the first time. Even Vittoria [Sara Casu], who is a kid, at the end becomes mother to the two others herself.
You are in the board of We Do It Together. Why did you become part of it, and what do you think of all these current movements like Me Too and Time’s Up?
Even before the marvelous explosion of these movements, I have been working on these subjects for a long time. In Italy, every three days a woman dies. But violence is not just physical, it hides in the details.
I personally think that it’s because these injustices start inside, in the house, in the intimacy of our lives where women are expected to cook the pasta and be criticized if it’s sciapa (unsalted). There is still a very hard time to define the problem and make people see it as such.
Have you personally ever struggled, as a female director?
There is this spread idea that even if a woman director and a man director are at the same level, a man is seen as a genius and the woman is a good director. This happens all the time. I have always found myself, even in official situations, where people would rather comment on women as objects, rather than on what we do. Sometimes you feel like it’s you against the world, and it’s daily, in the small things — in the critique that men throw at you, for example.
Did this happen with “Daughter of Mine”?
In Italy, “Daughter of Mine” was criticized because women are the protagonists and men are just in the background. It’s a struggle, it’s a big struggle. But I feel like supporting this historical phase with all my might. It started from the United States, but it’s spreading all around the world, and this is what I hope: that we can come together all of us, from around the world, towards a common goal.
Both in “Sworn Virgin” and “Daughter of Mine,” the location becomes a character itself matching the desolation of the spirits of these characters. Does the story suggest your locations, or does it happen the other way around?
I always spend a lot of time on the locations and it becomes part of the writing phase. For “Daughter of Mine” I instinctively decided that it should have been set in Sardinia. I found several connections between the land and the story and Sardinia started influencing the script. The feeling, in Sardinia, is very strange. It’s an island that questions its relationship with what doesn’t belong there. The fact that in Sardinia there is such a strong identity, but at the same time an equally strong need to look for it and define it, felt exactly like the characters I wanted to portray.
This is part of a blog series by We Do It Together, a nonprofit film production entity created to produce films, documentaries, TV and other forms of media uniquely dedicated to the empowerment of women.