“We’ve all been held hostage by violence. An entire generation fell hostage of it.” With such words Annarita Zambrano explains the necessity of a film like After the War, her debut feature that premiered in the Un Certain Regard section of the Cannes Film Festival. Set between two countries, Italy and France, the film narrates the season of Italian terrorism from a largely innovative perspective, even echoing the Greek tragedy. France gave asylum to many Italian terrorists and their supporters who left the country during the “years of lead” (1970s-early 1980s). In the early 2000s the so-called Mitterrand doctrine unexpectedly accepted to extradite them. This is the historical background behind the fictional story of Marco (Giuseppe Battiston), an idealist who was sentenced for murder in Italy but started a new life in France. As he is now suspected to be the instigator of the homicide of an expert in labour law, the man decides to escape with her teenage daughter Viola (Charlotte Cétaire). In the meanwhile, his family in Bologna is subjected to increasing threats. His mother, sister (Barbora Bobulova) and brother in law wanted nothing to do with him for 20 years, but now must face a guilt that is forcefully coming back from the past. The film was produced in France with a budget of 3 million Euro, the support of the Gan Foundation and the Italian production company Movimento Film. I Wonder Pictures will release the film in Italy next fall. In early July, the film will have its Italian premiere in Bologna at the 13th Biografilm Festival. The film also stars Fabrizio Ferracane, Elisabetta Piccolomini, Marilyne Canto, and Jean-Marc Barr.    

Do you consider After the War more as a political film or as a private story showing the most personal consequences of political choices?
The film moves from a political background, but then tackles human issues. It is a small story stumbling on the big History, both public and private.

The terrorism of the Red Brigades is still very much an open wound for Italy.

A discussion on that historical season is very much needed. Our country left this issue unsolved and these people never faced their responsibilities. The Mitterrand doctrine too was ambiguous: that was not a law, but just a promise. It was then re-discussed in 2002 when, under different geopolitical conditions, President Chirac decided to collaborate with Italy, that was asking the extradition for the former terrorists. What was the right thing to do then? My film doesn’t give legal answers, but wants to be a reflection on human and political guilt, on the reasons of the State versus the human reasons. The weight of guilt on those who remain is a recurrent topic not only in classical culture, but also for the Catholic one. It permeates many Italians, including me.  

Did you take inspiration from any real character, for instance Cesare Battisti?
No, I didn’t portray the story of any specific historical character, although there are definitely some references. I studied a lot, I met some refugees, but there’s no game of identification as Marco doesn’t exist, he’s just a fictional character.

You were very young at the time of the Red Brigades. What do you remember of those years? Why are you so interested in that?
When they killed Aldo Moro I was only 6. I was just a collateral victim of those years. We were aware and at the same time not aware of what was happening. I remember my parents telling me to be careful. When I later started to understand, I was 20 and the fight was over. Many people asked me: ‘Why are you dealing with this topic? Why do you want to make this film? What do you know about it?’. I am nobody, that’s why I tell this story. I have no explanation for the terrorism, but I think it’s important to try to understand.

In the opening scene, we see university students protesting against the labour reform and the abolition of the Article 18. It is an explosion of protests that will be later put to an end with violence. The left-wing payed a high price for the criminal acts of the Red Bigades.
I didn’t want to use flashbacks in the film, but that scene works like a reminiscence. Those students will be held hostage by violence, because at some point they will believe that protesting equals killing. An entire generation fell hostage of it. 

What’s the link between this film and your previous works a short filmmaker?
The topics of family and family wounds. The ambivalent relationship between a lumbering father and a daughter pursuing her own devices. These are my recurrent themes.  

How did you choose the two protagonists, Giuseppe Battiston and Charlotte Cétaire?
Charlotte struck me for her silences: an actor must be able to play even when is silent. She’s a dancer and a free woman; she’s an adorable rebel who doesn’t want to make a career as an actress. Battiston instead is an anti-romantic: I wanted to go against the fascination of the terrorist à la Che Guevara. This is a man who recalls Orson Welles, with a presence that fully occupies both the physical and the mental space of his daughter Viola. Moreover, Battiston comes from the tragic theatre, although Italian filmmakers mostly use him for comedies.  

You are currently living in Paris. Is there a link between the Italian terrorism of the 1970s and the contemporary Islamic one?
I live in Paris in the same street of the Bataclan: that episode has been a trauma for everyone. It’s dangerous when violence becomes banal, even normal. We are slowly waking up from our closed society and we feel that there’s a war that is threatening us. I think that France is facing terrorism in the best possible way. They don’t give up on going out into the streets, on living their lives.  

This film has two souls, an Italian and a French one – just like you. Since you work in France, what’s your relationship with Italian cinema?
I made my first shorts in France, but my first feature film is Italian. A stateless director has less ideas and stories to tell. You cannot really root out an artist, it’d be like causing an impairment. I want to make films in Italy. At the same time, I owe a lot to France: they taught me not to beg, to have my dignity as an artist, to try my best to compete with the other. Being a woman, this is even more difficult. Did you notice that I’m the only woman among the Italian directors in Cannes?