“Intellectuals wear black, the poor wear colors. My Fortunata, embodied by Jasmine Trinca, wear miniskirt and undershirt, and is a depositary of a wonderful interior ‘chavness’.” The day on which Lucky premieres in the Un Certain Regard section of the Cannes Film Festival, his director Sergio Castellitto explains how it tailored this role of a genuine suburban woman on actress Jasmine Trinca, who already worked with in his previous film You Can’t Save Yourself Alone. Lost in the concrete jungle of the Roman suburb of Tor Pignattara, Fortunata tries to raise her head after a failed marriage with the help of a security guard, marvelously interpreted by Edoardo Pesce. She has also to secure a dignified life for her 8-year-old daughter, Barbara (Nicole Centanni), so she goes from house to house offering her talent as a hairdresser while dreaming of opening a salon of her own. This mirage of emancipation is further fueled by her friend Chicano (Alessandro Borghi), a gentle and unstable tattoo artist who has to take care of his Alzheimer-suffering mother (Hanna Schygulla). However, Fortunata’s precariousness affects the soundness of her family and she is compelled to take her daughter to an analyst, the reassuring Patrizio (Stefano Accorsi). Just moments before walking the red carpet and already satisfied with the good result at the Italian box office on its very first day of release with Universal, Sergio Castellitto and his wife Margaret Mazzantini, scriptwriter of the film, answer our questions on the genesis of this story of exclusion and resistance, that has been compared to Mamma Roma.

Mazzantini, which suggestions inspired such a strong character?

M.M.: I’ve nurtured the idea of such a female character for 20 years. She might be the daughter of Italia, the protagonist of Don’t Move interpreted by Penelope Cruz. Fortunata too was supposed to be brought to the big screen by the Spanish actress, but then some time has passed and in the meanwhile I met Jasmine. She is a strong and talented woman, so I re-written the story for her.

Fortunata is a stubborn woman living in world that is not tender at all with women…
M.M.: I see her as a wild animal who is fighting to survive, like the female protagonist of a western film who faces a male-dominated and misogynous world. Although they are all scarred by desperation, the men in this story are honest and dishonest at the same time. Fortunata tries to survive in this jungle of relationships, her strength lies in her vulnerability, in her flaws too. Her shortcomings make her very human.

She is also the outcome of the context she lives in, a complex and multi-ethnic society…
M.M.: She’s a gladiator fighting with bare hands, plunged in suburbs populated by praying Arabs and Chinese who do tai chi – something like a symbolic troop that has colonized our periphery. It is a Greek tragedy set in Tor Pignattara.

Castellitto, after so many films together, how is evolving your creative relationship as a couple?
S.C.: Film after film I consider Margaret to be the author, like or even more than me. Her first draft undergoes some changes, for instance in the characterisation of the actors and then in the editing. She took care of it when I, exhausted at the end of the shooting, decided to go to London to meet our daughter. Lucky is a very written film, but it’s like a cage with an open gate, always ready to welcome external suggestions.

So you’re observing the suburbs again…
S.C.: This specific element belongs to Margaret’s writing too. She has always focused on the lowest classes and the wrecked areas of our society. We shouldn’t forget that social classes still exist, although they tell us they don’t; and in politics left and right still exist too, otherwise the frightening social conflicts that we face nowadays wouldn’t exist either. Try to go to Tor Pignattara moving from the bourgeois Roman neighbourhood of Parioli: you will find another world, populated by Sinhalese and Chinese people. Where Pasolini’s Accattone used to live, now you can find a Sinhalese man. In the opening scene of Lucky we see a group of Chinese people getting together to get their workout on the street, then the ancient Roman aqueduct, and finally a Fascist-era apartment building: this is Rome.

What’s your reply to those who accuse you to make the literary and cinematic narration too popular?
S.C.: We believe in the educational essence of cinema and luckily we’ve always had a great response from the audience. I believe that readers and moviegoers are deeply clever, they are not an undifferentiated herd as many would say. Since last night, when the film was released in Italy, we are receiving tweets from many women who recognise themselves in Fortunata…