At the Spazio FEdS in Venice 79 it is the day of Christian family, the reference weekly for the Italian company which this year celebrates its ninetieth anniversary. And for this important birthday it has arrived Robert Cicuttopresident of the Venice Biennale which is also celebrating its ninetieth year of activity in 2022.
A coincidence that affects him personally: “I was a young producer, with Ermanno Olmi we won the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival with The legend of the holy drinker. And Christian family dedicated a cover to us”. And to bear witness to the relationship between the magazine, the cinema and the Mostra, the weekly presented a special prize to Krzysztof Zanussiwhose work represents a meeting point between all these dimensions.
Zanussi, in fact, is not only “a master who carries forward the values of the deepest humanity, proposing a cinema that questions spiritual questions”, as he explains Eugene Archdeacon (deputy head of news and entertainment department of Christian family), but also a director whose history is linked to the Biennale: Zanussi, in fact, won the Golden Lion in 1984 with The year of the quiet sun, the film that definitively consecrated him internationally. “Between us a long friendship and a great friendship – reveals Cicutto – and, even if we don’t meet often, every time we have the feeling of having seen each other the day before”.
IS Stefano Stimamigliothe director of Christian familyto explain the meaning of the award: “On the occasion of this birthday, we wanted to celebrate a master who, like our magazine, has accompanied people in reflection and spiritual research”.
Stefano Stimamiglio (photo by Stefano Micozzi)
A long history, that of the Catholic masthead: “We were born in the ambit of San Paolo, by the will of Blessed Giacomo Alberione – summarizes Stimamiglio – who saw in the means of communication a possibility of evangelization. In 1938 the cinematographic apostolate with San Paolo Film began: Abuna Messias he won the prize for best film at the Venice Film Festival in 1938. After the war he produced what went down in history as the first film for children in Italian cinema and the first national color film, demonstrating how much the San Paolo has grasped all the novelties with the aim of evangelizing, anticipating the proposals of the Second Vatican Council. A great force? The network of territorial agencies for distribution, but also having produced films by great authors such as Rossellini and Godard and being able to boast today a large archive with many materials from those works”.
And so the presence of Zanussi – whom the Ente dello Spettacolo honored in 2003 with the Bresson Prize – takes on an even more significant value, precisely because his filmography represents an authentic and intense testimony of the difficult journey in search of the spiritual meaning of our life. But is there still room for this type of cinema? “For people – reflects Zanussi – entertainment alone will not be enough. In hard times we can delude ourselves that life has no weight, but we always need to seek order in our existence. There is a return to drama, first Covid and now the war tell us that life is being tested ”. Have you heard from your friend Nikita Michalkov, who takes Putin’s side? “You know very well that it’s not worth calling me, we don’t agree.”
And on the present more generally he says: “Christianity must measure itself against the audiovisual and its revolution: as happened with the press, thanks to which the Judeo-Christian tradition changed its form of expression finding a new diffusion, something similar is happening today . Reason is not enough, even mystical intuition helps to approach the meaning of life. And there cannot be a conflicting relationship between science and faith”.
Krzysztof Zanussi (photo by Stefano Micozzi)
In addition to having won the Golden Lion, Zanussi was president of the Venice jury in 1985. “A beautiful adventure – he recalls – with two companions such as the critic Lino Micciché, very rigid and authoritarian, and the great Eugène Ionesco, a bit anarchist and with a very strong personality. Lino wanted us to see all the films from start to finish as per the regulations, Ionesco feigned illness in front of the 410 minutes of a film by Manoel de Oliveira”.
On the relationship with John Paul II: “I met him when I was a student and he was a bishop. They offered me to shoot his biography, From a distant country: it would have been stupid to refuse. It was an opportunity to make Poland and its changes known to the rest of the world. Even today I carry the label of ‘director of the pope’, even though I have made many films”. Between these, The power of evil with Vittorio Gassman, whose 100th birth anniversary is celebrated today: “An absolute professional, we made a film in French and he shot his scenes in five days, working twenty hours a day. Passionate about the duty of him, a great discipline ”. And on the future: “I hope to show you my new film soon, The perfect number. It excites me to tell stories, to reflect on the mystery of our existence”.