My Brother's Voice
interview with the Director, Andrea Bersani
Your film is incredibly moving. It is difficult to begin to put into the words the emotions an audience can feel from watching your documentary. What has been the most surprising audience reaction you have received in this process either in the theatre or on the road at film festivals?
Thank you very much. As a matter of fact, the most surprising audience reaction I encountered in film festivals was to hear people laughing during the cheerful sequences; I don't think "My brother's voice" is a sad film at all, but I was worried that someone could see it as such because, at its core, it deals with overcoming a tragedy. I worked quite hard to keep its tone well balanced and actually hearing people laughing and saying they appreciated the light-hearted way I coped with its story was a relief.
The story of grief and the way in which the family keeps the spirit of Riccardo ever so present around them is captivating. What led the family to first want to make the film? How did you first approach them?
I've known the family this film is about for a few years, since they're from my hometown, a small rural town in the area of Rome. I was not very close to them though; we got closer during the making of "My brother's voice". The idea that they kept the spirit of a missing son so present was fascinating to me, especially since the little girls seemed to really relate to him. I think this sort of gap (and links) between realms of existence (and times) is what this film is truly about. I approached them asking if they were willing to develop some kind of documentary project about this relationship-in-absence. They were OK with my proposal because we discussed all its contents together and they were totally involved in the creation process. One day they told me they had a collection of videotapes filmed when Riccardo was with them; they asked me to digitalize them, knowing that I was able to deal with digital video and this kind of stuff. They didn't watch these tapes since the tragedy, and the little girls never saw them before. When I started to capture and see this old footage I realized it was a diary of Riccardo's life and it seemed a no-brainer to me to use those beautiful images as a "narrative engine".
How has the inception of the film affected the family? Have other parents with similar tragedies reached out to them in support?
They are extremely happy with the result, and that's not so common when you're making a documentary, since you're dealing with real people and their real lives. It's an extremely delicate process. I'm really glad that Francesca told me "with this film I strengthened a bond with my son that was starting to fade due to the passing of time, and I shared this great emotion with my husband and our daughters". This film does not have a distribution at the moment, so it has been screened in limited events only; still, some of the audience reached out to them to share their feedbacks on the film and I think this is just great.
What led you as a filmmaker to decide to keep the events of their sons passing ambiguous?
I thought it was not relevant. What matters is that Riccardo unfortunately is not here right now. It's a story about present time, passing time and relationships through time, not strictly about facts and consequences. That said, I decided to add a few hints on how it happened, just as a extra narrative layer. Some people got it right, others didn't; it's totally OK either way, since those clues are not there to get a "hidden content", but to motivate the audience to look for additional layers (and I think there's a lot of additional layers) if they wish to do so.
After producing such an intimate true life story has this experience inspired any future documentaries or narratives?
I don't know if my film is something that will inspire other works; I definitely hope so, since I think it's important to bring back personal, intimate stories especially nowadays. I think I'll stick with this kind of projects in the future. By the way, this is my first feature film so I hope the audience will appreciate my work and forgive its flaws.