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A film with a double soul, a film of accusation as well as a psychological noir. The film is about infants sold to couples who can’t adopt, because the law in Italy is extremely restrictive and limits adoption to heterosexual, married, and with a medium-high income couples. It is also a noir tale of psychological plagiarism, in which a woman is forced by her partner to give birth to children for sale. Fifty thousand dollars is the price for a newborn creature. If the child has any defect, it can be sent back by the buyers. Una famiglia (A family), the second Italian film competing in Venice 74, portrays the heartbreaking story of Maria (Micaela Ramazzotti), a young woman living in symbiosis with Vincent (Patrick Bruel), a man older that her who dominates her completely. They live in loft on the outskirts of the city while waiting for yet another pregnancy... Ruthless mediators, among which a gynecologist, strike deals with sterile couples that are allowed to see the pregnant woman from afar, at a restaurant table for example, but cannot talk to her or meet her. Nor can she ever see the child again. Among the clients, there are also two gay men who would do anything to become parents. 

“My film – says the director - is not about the surrogate uterus, it’s about a couple’s relationship between and how it starts to weaver when trust is broken and when Maria starts to disobey”. However Riso, the author of the appreciated debut film Più buio di mezzanotte, recounts the research carried out with scriptwriters Andrea Cedrola and Stefano Grasso: “Thanks to the help of the prosecutor Raffaella Capasso we were able to read many transcripts of wire taps involving people who traffic in newborns and to get to know them better. The data is quite random. In fact the violation of family status is quite difficult to prove and many cases are never brought to light. For example in Campania over the past ten years there have been 56 ascertained cases.” What these stories all have in common is the presence of a complicit doctor who may for example advise the woman not to have an abortion, to finish the pregnancy and “help” a family who strongly desires a baby. In the film this role is played by Fortunato Cerlino. 

Riso makes no secret of the fact that he was inspired by a personal fact: “My partner and I can’t adopt, like many other single people as well. It’s not possible in Italy. We would have to go abroad but I don’t want to buy a child. By discriminating non-traditional families the State is actually pushing them into an illegal area. The very rigid criteria creates a black market”. The film is also an effort to denounce the drama of women who are subdued by men. “In the first scene of the film we see in the background Zampanò and Gelsomina seated next to each other on the subway, but already there is a sense of rebellion in her that will later mature”. 

According to Micaela Ramazzotti: "Maria has no other person in the world other than that man, he’s a husband, a brother, a friend, a lover, an owner, a jailer. She is the slave of a project she never chose but that she has accepted. She is so innocent, good and submissive, that she becomes the accomplice of a criminal. She will only be free when she disrupts the sequence of sex, pregnancies, expulsion of the baby, sale of the baby. Many women suffer violence because they are in love and fragile, and I often play these roles, I feel I am giving a voice to these desperate women. She is only a child, she is hardly a mother to herself. She hugs herself to give herself some strength, to keep the child she has never seen in her womb. But from the first scene she is thinking of a project for emancipation.”

Patrick Bruel, known also as a singer, was chosen for the part because of his nice eyes that can easily seduce young girls such as Maria and Stella (Matilda De Angelis), the next young victim ready to be impregnated. “I am generally chosen for positive roles –the French actress says – but Sebastiano convinced me to interpret this hard, black, extremely complex character. He never explained why Vincent is the way he is, but I though of an explanation. Perhaps for him the newborn is a symbol of the destruction of family, maybe he himself was the cause of a disaster between his parents”.

“In the film – Riso comments – there are no good or bad characters. Even the gay couple that refuses the newborn because of a heart dysfunction raises the question: what would I do in that situation? We didn’t sugarcoat the homosexual couple, we didn’t want to seem politically correct, we wanted to give yet another element for thought”. Riso had already chosen Micaela Ramazzotti for his first film. She reveals: “We never parted since then. Sebastiano has such enthusiasm for me that he moves me. His being so fearless makes me fearless too. He is the freest director I have worked with. He captured my primitive side and he makes me feel good, sometimes on set I felt like Meryl Streep, then I would go home and feel silly...” What kind of reception do you imagine there will be for a story that deals with such controversial, debated and painful issues? “Each film changes according to who is watching it –the director replies - Of course, Una famiglia is not meant to be a reassuring film, but it’s not a film on uteruses for rent.”

The movie, produced by Indiana Production and Rai Cinema, will be released in cinemas by BIM on September 28. The cast includes Pippo Delbono and Ennio Fantastichini

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VENEZIA 74

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