A Taste of Love

St. Valentine's

by Pamela Fernandes

I remember Maya Angelou’s words, “Eating is so intimate. It’s very sensual. When you invite someone to sit at your table and you want to cook for them, you’re inviting a person into your life.” As we celebrate Valentine’s Month and all things love, I can’t help but think about all the little ways food enhances our love. If you consider your own love stories, I’m sure you’re mind would go back to those coffee dates, dinners— casual fare or expensive three-course meals, chocolates, wine, and cake. Even the occasions we celebrate to mark our love, engagements, weddings, and anniversaries, all include food. We say “I love you” through the food we share and the meals we make for the people we deeply care about. There’s an intimacy to sharing food. 

What To Cook?

Recall when you had your significant other come over to your place for the first time. You must have agonized over what to serve. What must be their taste? Or what about that first date? I’d bet money that you spent an hour or so considering which restaurant and the cuisine that they would enjoy. Why? Because food conveys our love. Food is an expression of the deepest feelings in our hearts. And so, there are aphrodisiacs and foods that keep the romance alive, all in the hope that the spark we feel with another person is kindled and reciprocated in them. 


The movie Chocolat based on the novel by Joanne Harris demonstrates just that. Food and romance are two of the most basic pleasures in life. And with them intertwined, we satisfy the most basic needs of another. Food also forms a major part of our lives. One of the most important activities we’ll share with a lover is dining with them, as often as daily. Our dining companion is going to be someone who knows how to woo us with food. The people we do select to be our potential mates or lovers tend to be the people who make an amazing entrance, they order with elan, eat with gusto and make scintillating conversation that we can’t get enough of. How could we ignore the person who notices us cringe at our horribly mixed cocktail and orders a fine wine instead? How do we walk away from the woman who bakes a delicious chocolate cake that makes you go back for seconds? You don’t. And pair that with a conversation that has you reeling or enthralled. A lover with stories to tell. Those are the ones we keep. The ones we keep dating and inviting until finally, we realize we want them to talk to us forever, every day for the rest of our lives. 

A Taste Of Ourselves

Food is also a revelation of ourselves. Since what we eat is a reflection of our personalities, we show our lovers who we are through the food we cook or eat. In my latest romance, IN OTHER WORDS, my main protagonist is a chef. He cooks foods close to his heart; foods that remind him of the happy part of his childhood. Lobster bisque and clam chowder, classic Maine food that formed his past and shaped his future. He takes out the Trish on a date to an Upta Camp and shows her Maine through the food and drink; seafood and Moxie. 

Breakfast, kiwi

When someone cooks their grandmothers’ turkey recipe for Thanksgiving or takes you out to their favorite hang out for a burger, they’re inviting you to look at who they are. They’re telling you, “Hey, this is me.” 

Our food reflects us. In his famous book, In Search Of Lost Time, Proust recalls how the taste of tea mixed with a madeleine transported him back to that time in Combray when he visited his aunt and she’d dip the biscuit in her tisane and give it to him. He says of that memory, “And at once the vicissitudes of life had become indifferent to me, its disasters innocuous, its brevity illusory – this new sensation having had on me the effect which love has of filling me with a precious essence.” The memory of that biscuit filled him with love, that sweet magic ingredient that makes life worth living.

Celebrate With Food

Therefore, this year, if you’re tempted to skimp on the chocolates or just hand over a bouquet of flowers, think again. Why not tell someone how you feel through food? Go out to dinner, cook something special or splurge on the wine. The food is a part of you, a part of the promise of your relationship and it is you expressing yourself and your love. 

Heart, Love

It invokes memories and forges new ones. It allows you to let other people see you and your intentions towards them. And it’s so much more. As Alan D Wolfelt said, “Food is symbolic of love when words are inadequate.” It’s not the taste of food but quite spectacularly the taste of love. 

I leave you with an Irish blessing;

May love and laughter light your days,

and warm your heart and home.

May good and faithful friends be yours,

wherever you may roam.

May peace and plenty bless your world

with joy that long endures.

May all life’s passing seasons

bring the best to you and yours!

Happy Hearts day! 

Photographer Reka Nyari – #MyBodyBelongsToMe

Geisha Ink
Ginzilla in ‘Geisha Ink’ by Reka Nyari

Artistic Directors of Creative Pois-On Tommaso Cartia and Daniela Pavan interview the Master of visual storytelling at the Black Book Gallery, New York, on the occasion of the artist’s ‘INK Stories’ exhibition. In the month dedicated to the storytelling of Love & Erotism, Creative Pois-On embarks in a voluptuous journey with this sensorial conversation where the photographer shares her aesthetic and narratives surrounding gender and sexuality in refreshingly unapologetic ways.

When asked about her creative process, and the subjects that she captures on camera, Reka Nyari has stated, “I want to find out the darkness and the edge behind that person.” The central theme of Nyari’s storytelling finds its completion in the ‘INK’ series: an intimate study of self-identity and female empowerment through nude portraiture.

Reka Nyari
Reka Nyari

Her vision and her visuals turned her into a worldwide known phenomenon. She is the recipient and the winner of many prestigious awards, including first place at the International Photography Awards (IPA) 2010, Beauty Pro Category. Her 225-page Monograph titled “Femme Fatale: Female Erotic Photography” has been published in 6 languages. And her commercial client list includes names like Kiki de Montparnasse, Fleur du Male, RADO Switzerland, AOL, Liz Claiborne, Makeup Forever, DC Comics, Sally Hansen and Ultra Records. She appeared in various magazines like Esquire, Vanity Fair, Tatler, Korean Cosmopolitan, and Vogue. Outspoken and elegant, poignant, eversive but also embracing, inclusive and motherly, Reka’s spirit embodies the most ancestral powers of the archetypical female figures but she is also very current, a woman of her times. Proof of that is the #MyBodyBelongsToMe campaign that outraged the social media and the predominantly patriarchal society with its raw message: “I shot over 60 women from all backgrounds, ages, and sizes to protest control over the female bodies. It made the news all over the world as a commentary to Facebook censorship.”

Find out more in this interview where the artist opens her heart and unleashes her passions withing to our Artistic Directors.


Daniela Pavan — I would like to start by asking you. What does love mean, to you? Do you have an image, a photograph of it?

Reka Nyari — The first thing I think about is my family, my amazing husband of fifteen years, who is super sweet and supportive and then our four-year-old daughter. I love them very much and it fills my heart with happiness when I think of them. 

Tommaso Cartia — Your nudes are some stunningly beautiful works of art. What do you think the storytelling of nudity is? What is nudity for you?

R — I think that when we are naked, whether being photographed or otherwise, we’re in a more vulnerable position, a truthful one. How we carry ourselves and how we even look around ourselves, our gestures, our gaze, even the way we walk speaks so much about us and our experiences. Both sometimes in negative and positive contexts. Once you remove the fashion, the outfits, the make-up, the photos become more lasting and timeless, they become us. 

Levitate, Reka Nyari.
Blooming Ink by Reka Nyari.

T — I’m very fascinated by your series of nudes entitled “INK”. “Geisha Ink”, “Valkyrie Ink”, “Mother Ink”, “Reaper Ink” and “Blooming Ink”. They tell stories of different types of women, stories of abuse and survival, of death and resurgence. Why did you choose ink as a pictorial element on their bodies, is that like a brush that writes and marks on their skins both the struggles and the romance of their existence? 

R — When I first started shooting women, I was fascinated and amazed by the resilience and the narrative that they had and I wanted to tell their stories to the world. For example, the first woman that I shot, Ginzilla, when I got to know her I’ve found out that she had grown up in a very traditional Japanese family of an uncompromisingly strict conservative-values, where her mother was very controlling and she wasn’t allowed to do any of the things a teenage girl normally does. So… She rebelled and started dating a tattoo artist. And after her first tattoo, she covered her entire body with tattoos designed by her but done by her lovers. It’s her love story, written on her body and at the time of the shoot her family still had no idea that she had any tattoos. It was this quiet rebellion, marked on her skin.

Reka Nyari
Reaper Ink by Reka Nyari.

D — You once said: “Female sexuality is the most powerful thing in the world.” Why do you think that so many people are ashamed or scared of it? And what difference do you see, if you see a difference, between the concepts of beauty, sexuality and vulnerability?

R — I think it’s all about control. I think we can see it from all different societies and religions that are focused on controlling female sexuality and sexuality in general. You can be beautiful, sexual and vulnerable and all of those things separately. I think it’s also important for women to claim back their own sexuality and nudity. The more we normalize it, the more power it has. We should not shame our bodies and we should not let anybody shame them. 

Reka Nyari.
Reka Nyari.

D — You recently published on your Instagram account a series of pictures you took for the #MyBodyBelongsToMe campaign that is still super relevant today! You shot over 60 women from all backgrounds, ages, and sizes to protest against the control over the female bodies. Also, you made headlines all over the world because this campaign was censored on Facebook. What can you tell us about it?

R — I was inspired by a young Tunisian woman called Amina Tyler. She did some self-portraits that she put on social media with her nipples out. Then, she received death threats and had to escape her family. Women from all over the world started posting pictures of themselves to support her. stating things like: “if you’re going to kill her, you might as well kill all of us.” I figured we could have done something about it in New York and a lot of women came forward. For me, nudity is not a big issue, but so many women in New York were posing for the first time naked or topless and it was this empowering moment of saying “I’m not ashamed of my breasts, even if my kid’s teacher sees this.”

#MyBodyBelongsToMe Campaign

D — Let’s tell a little bit of your story. You were born in Helsinki and you grew up between Finland and Hungary, then you moved to New York in your late teenage years to study at the SVA – School of Visual Art. If you can think of two photographs, what’s the portrait of your hometown and your roots that you carry within yourself and what’s your snapshot in time of New York City?

R — When I was growing up I was actually really shy and withdrawn. I was always an artist, but I felt like I was a little bit lost, I was a tomboy. I don’t know what photographs would really describe me… Maybe something that has a feeling of isolation like in the Nude York series of mine. Being alone in the city and finding yourself and your way.

Reka Nyari
Valkyrie Ink by Reka Nyari

D — How did these two different environments inspire the artist that you are today? And what’s the inspiration behind your Nude York series?

R — I think that everybody has different sides of their personality. I have a side that is very introverted and quiet and I like to work on all these concepts by myself and I also have a dark quality that I think that it comes from growing up in Finland, which can be a country with a very melancholic atmosphere. I’m really attracted to darkness, but then I’m also super social. That’s also what I like about photography, I get to meet and work with amazing people and build something together, it’s not just me in my room by myself creating. I think photography is something that binds these two aspects: introverted and social. 

T — Your artistic expression is also inspired by the cinematography and the eccentric narratives of directors like Roman Polanski, David Lynch, as well as by the art of Helmut Newton, Guy Bourdin, Miles Aldridge, and, Cindy Sherman, to name a few. How did these artists influence your own narrative?

R — One thing they all have in common is that they’re storytellers. I always felt that I was a storyteller even when I went to art school and I was studying painting, I felt like I was more of an illustrator. I didn’t want to do just the finished piece, I wanted to tell the story behind it and tell the process and the essence of the person. Also, I love that darkness, that weirdness, and the edginess that all of the artists and the directors you’ve mentioned have.

Reka Nyari
Mother Ink by Reka Nyari

D — Among your many accomplishments, it is remarkable the work that you have been doing with the Human Rights Foundation for years, shooting portraits of some of the most courageous activists in the World. What can you tell us about this significant project?

R — I’ve been working with the Human Rights Foundation for years and just loved meeting women’s’ activists that are fighting throughout the world for child rights, females empowerment and all kind of different issues. It has been an amazing process to give back to this community with my photography, shooting people who maybe never had a photograph taken before but it was a great way for them to have their voices heard. 

D — You are also a mom. How did motherhood affect your work and perspective in life?

R — I was so worried when I got pregnant because I have always worked for myself and I’m an artist. I think a lot of women are worried that a child could still their identity. But it has actually made me a better person. I feel more grounded, having my daughter made me focus on my work even more. I started looking at my reel and I was like, “who do I want to be as a role model for my daughter? What kind of things do I want to do, do I want to embody and portray?”

T — What are your upcoming projects?

R — The show at the Blackbook Gallery is going to be up until March 15th, they extended it. Then, I have a big solo exhibition at the Framing Gallery in Chelsea in September and October and then a book coming out of the whole series. 

T — If you can leave us with an image of the woman of the future, a photograph, what that would be? 

R — The image that I really would love to see is of more women in power, united with men of course. More images of equality and acceptance.

Interview with Refik Anadol – A.I. and Machine Hallucination: The Fourth Version Of Imagination

Refik Anadol
Processed with VSCO with 1 preset

Few people in the world can say that they’ve seen it all. Refik Anadol has done much more than that: he has created more. His body of work locates creativity at the intersection of humans and the machines. Media Artist, Director, and Pioneer in the aesthetic of artificial intelligence, Anadol paints with a thinking brush, offering the radical visualizations of our digitized memories, along with expanding new possibilities of architecture, narrative and the body in motion. In this interview, Anadol not only pleases us in describing the creativity and passion behind his work but also enriches the conversation by making spiritual connections to what it means to be a human being.

As Anadol correctly states “when thinking about time-space and past-future, I believe that our physical sensors have incredible potential.” This is exactly what Anadol’s body of work challenges every day: the possibilities and the ubiquitous computing imposed on humankind and what it means to be a human in the age of Artificial Intelligence. One of Anadol’s most groundbreaking creation is for sure Machine Hallucination, where the artist has used 300 million publicly available images of New York City. For the WDCH Dreams exhibition instead, he accessed 100 years of the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s digital archives. In Oakland’s Sense of Place, he worked with real-time environmental data; and for the Charlotte Airport’s Interconnected project, he utilized real-time airport statistics. Refik is the recipient of a great variety of awards including the Lorenzo Il Magnifico Lifetime Achievement Award for New Media Art, the Microsoft Research’s Best Vision Award, German Design Award, UCLA Art + Architecture Moss Award, University of California Institute for Research in the Arts Award, SEGD Global Design Awards, and Google’s Artists and Machine Intelligence Artist Residency Award.

Listen to the Creative Interview Episode Here.

Refik Anadol joins Artistic Directors of Creative Pois-On, Tommaso Cartia and Daniela Pavan, for an intimate conversation where human nature is explored, along with its infinite possibilities and potentialities. Ready, set and imagine with this soulful artist gifted with an extraordinary ability to channel the world surrounding us into dreamy stories sparked with the power of our own imagination.

Tommaso – How did your unique art research start and when did art become such a fundamental part of your life?

Refik Anadol – I think I started my journey very at eight years old when I watched the movie Bladerunner — that movie changed my life. The same year I’ve got my first computer and that was also a very changing experience. I was always dreaming about the near future. I transformed my imagination into a form of art.

Refik Anadol
Refik Anadol in his studio

Daniela – How do you create these very intricated installations?

R – I’m obsessed with data, light, algorithms and recent A.I. intelligence. Eight years ago, I discovered the VVVV software. Without writing a code, you can connect notes and create a meaningful software algorithmic logic to pretty much anything: the sound, the text, the visual, the data eventually.

T — Is it something that is now in development? 

R — It’s been more than fifteen years actually. They mostly use it in Germany, but it’s now all over the world. I’ve been using it for ten years now.

T — You put all of this into Machine Hallucination that it’s now on display at the ARTECHOUSE in NYC. Can you tell us more about it? 

R — I’m very inspired by how we as humans can perceive things and create a memory and dream with that. With A.I., we can now experience this feeling like a narrative, as a new form of cinema. I use mounting memories, adopting the A.I. to visualize our memories, particularly the actual moment of remembering.  I’m trying to combine A.I., neuroscience, and architecture to produce the hallucination of buildings and environments transforming in space and time. I want to display the memory of a building. I think it’s an incredible story and narrative that can inspire and create new ways of imagination. Machine hallucination is the fourth version of this imagination. 

ARTECHOUSE NYC | Machine Hallucination • Artist Insight: Refik Anadol

D Art is a way to tell stories, data and numbers are a way to justify decisions – creativity meets logic… it’s like when the impossible becomes possible. How do you build this bridge?

I’m thinking about these experiences as a cinema, instead of just sculptures or paintings. Memory in the 21st century is also data – our likes, shares and comments, the technology we’re using every day, is a form of memory. This is one of the reasons why this project is letting audiences being inside the story by immersing themselves in it. You’re stepping inside of the machine. It’s not fake and the feeling of stepping inside is honest, is real.

T – It seems to me that your work, speaks, profoundly, about the individuality of the human being and of the universe we live in. When you talk about dreams and hallucinations, are you thinking in a scientific way or a spiritual one? And, how do you personally approach the mystery of the unknown?

R – If you think about memories and dreams, there’s the human soul. And emotions are much more complicated cognitive capacities of the human perception. Spirituality comes from the perception of time. The artwork should be communicated through different emotional impacts. We are surrounded by these machines and constantly moving by algorithms. The big question is, what does it truly mean to be a human in the 21st century? I think that the answer lies in the spiritual connection between humanity and technology.

WDCH Dreams
WDCH Dreams by Refik Anadol

T — What kind of response you got from the audience that really inspires you to progress with your research?

R — In the last three years, I think I’ve touched people in different ways. I’ve emotionally reached people that later sent me some very personal messages. I remember that one time somebody spent 5 hours in the Machine Hallucination exhibit, technically is a half an hour experience. In another installation of mine, Melting Memories, people experience such transformative feelings that they can stay in for three hours, and they don’t want to leave.

For more info on Refik Anadol please visit: www.refikanadol.com

Actress Wendy Makkena and the Perks of Being a Full-Rounded Interpreter

Wendy Makkena
Wendy Makkena and Chris Cooper in ‘A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood’

The actress, musician, dancer and entrepreneur who stars in the Oscar-buzzed seasonal sensation A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, directed by Marielle Heller and starring Tom Hanks, Matthew RhysChris Cooper and Susan Kelechi Watson – recounts her long and articulated career started with her stellar debut in the iconic Sister Act 1&2 alongside Whoopi Goldberg.

by Tommaso Cartia

Like stepping into a light and kind field of energy, that was the instant sensation I felt when I met Wendy Makkena at the Sony Square Headquarters in N.Y.C. for a conversation that revealed surprising epiphanies: “Quantum Physics has proved that even the smallest particle has their fielded energy and they react to the field of energy of the person observing them,” the actress told me when asked about the impact of feel-good movies like Sister Act or A Beautiful Day where she has been cast. “If you take that and you apply it to what are we attracted to, is going to come back to us. The universe mirrors.” And you immediately realize that there is definitely much more in her to explore than the lovely screen presence with which Makkena graced us since her debut with the shy, good-hearted Sister Mary Robert in the Sister Act’s extravaganza.

Our ‘Creative Being Interview’with Wendy Makkena
Wendy Makkena
Wendy Makkena

She is an interpreter – as she likes to define herself – and it is so refreshing to hear that in an entertainment world filled today with influencers-wannabe divas. “My first intuition is that I really think that there is a common thread in any creative endeavor. When I play the harp, I interpret someone’s else music, when I’m acting, I’m interpreting someone’s else words. Even as an entrepreneur creating a recipe, I feel like I’m interpreting something, putting my acting skills into practice for marketing purposes.” And that’s probably the secret of her long-lasting career in the ever-changing entertainment industry. Makkena’s versatile talent brought her to perform in successful Tony Award-Winning Broadway shows; she is also a classically trained Juilliard harpist performing at Carnegie Hall; and a dancer who spent six years with Balanchine’s New York City Ballet. After a hiatus, her “long, dark winter,” the performer is back in full shape with the daring role of Dorothy in A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, as well as many interesting upcoming projects, and as an entrepreneur – she is the founder and the creator of the successful start-up “Ruby’s Rockets” frozen fruit and veggie pops.

Listen to the podcast above and read the interview below to explore more about Wendy Makkena’s creative endeavors.

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood
Wendy Makkena at ‘A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood’ premiere

I want to start by asking you: how did you feel to be a part of A Beautiful Day, acting alongside a master like Tom Hanks, an all-round incredibly talented cast, and directed by the exquisitely talented Marielle Heller?

“I’m so glad you said exquisite director Marielle Heller, because I can’t say enough about working with her and about her movies that I watched preparing for this role. She was an actress and a writer before becoming a director, I didn’t know that before, which makes her even better qualified. I think she definitely deserves an Oscar. The greatest accomplishment for me in this movie was basically not fainting when I walked in the room on my first day on set! It was with Marielle Heller, Chris Cooper, Matthew Rhys, Susan Kelechi Watson. Tom Hanks was not there that first day, but still, I was petrified! It was the family scene when the character played by Rhys meets my character, Dorothy, someone who he hates because she is the new woman in his father’s life. I felt nervous, but I also thought, well this must be how the character feels in this scene, so I stepped into the role.”

The movie is based on the beloved TV personality Mr. Rogers, where you familiar with him and his show?

I was familiar with Mr. Rogers growing up, but I didn’t watch it when I was a kid. But when my daughter was little, I wanted her to watch things that were fast cutting, so she watched the Teletubbies and she watched Mr. Rogers. And I started getting sucked in when I was doing house works and I would think ‘oh here is Mr. Rogers, he is kind of a character’. And I realized, as I’m into the mindfulness philosophy, that he was really present for these kids, he was holding a presence, it wasn’t just about entertaining the kids. Little that I know, cut to 20 year later I’m in a film about him.

This movie kind of reminded me of Sister Act, and of those feel-good movies that specifically in the ’90s were proposing these very good role models for a new generation. I believe that there is a tendency with the movie industry today to equate box-office success with very dark, violent, superhero subjects. How do you think that those light-hearted movies, like the Mr. Rogers’s show was for kids, are still important for us to experience and to reach that sort of cathartic release of our own day-to-day struggles?

Well, I think that we have noise pollution, air pollution, but we also have mind pollution. I feel like our souls are wilting a little bit anytime we see another night of CNN, another night of FOX, it’s the 24 hours news cycle. How dark can we get, how sexual? It feels like everybody in entertainment is competing against each other to be as extreme as possible. I feel like I’m polluting my mind. There is such a thing as vibrations and a law of attraction; quantum physics proved it. Through an electro-magnetic microscope, scientists videotaped the tiniest particles to see how they change depending on who is viewing them. They do change, drastically, and they can even completely disappear. They have a fielded energy, they react to the field of energy of the person observing them. If you take that and apply it to what we are attracted to, it is going to come back to us. If we are attracted to negativity, it will come back to us. It is the time for us to sit back as a group, as humans. If you smile and laugh it changes your brain chemistry, let’s just look at science!

Based on this, what are you taking away from the feel-good vibrational experience of working in A Beautiful Day?

Before I did the film, I had what my agent calls a long dark winter. There were some personal things that were troubling in my family, my mom passed away, so I took a step back for a couple of years. When I came back, I was a different age, I was in a different city and I was feeling just, exhausted. But God Bless Avy Kaufman, who is the casting agent of this movie, who loves my work and she brought me in for a part I’m not usually cast for. So, what I feel is gratitude, gratitude. I mean, I’m in a room with Tom Hanks, all I can think is, gratitude.

How does it feel to be a part of the American cinema history with Sister Act, and how was working with Whoopi Goldberg?

It is such an iconic film, internationally, and again this speaks of how good people can feel when they watch a movie like that. Also, it speaks to 5 years old to 90 years old, like Mr. Rogers does. When you start a project you never know how it will go. It is a movie about singing nuns, so we were worried if we were going to be made fun of, or would the material be disrespectful? But no, when we first saw the first screening, we had chills, we were crying, and we knew this was something great. First of all, it was super fun, but it was really Whoopi who made it special, because of course it all comes from the head, and she has a such a generosity of spirit. I knew I would have learnt so much from her. She was protective to all of us, it didn’t matter who you are, everybody was important for her, across the board, and I thought, that’s who I would like to be if I were her, that was my big first role. I was a theater actress at that time, and I was scared of being maybe too big, theatrically, on screen, or I thought, “Am I going to be able to lip-sync?”

Whoopi Goldberg
Wendy Makkena and Whoopi Goldberg on the set of Sister Act

There were parts that I would sing on my own and actually I auditioned for the part with my own voice. And this is the first time that I’m sharing this. When I got the job, they wished I could sing but I couldn’t, but they still wanted me, and they were busy trying to find someone who could sing my voice. I was feeling so comfortable in the room doing rehearsal, that Marc Shaiman’s (the musical director Ed.), assistant said, “Wait a minute, everybody stop! Wendy why didn’t you sing like that when you auditioned! We could have gotten you ready to sing for the role in three months.” So a matter a fact, they got me into a limo, into Hollywood, and into a sound studio and asked me, “What do you need to sing the way you just sang in that room?” I said, “Give me a bottle of red wine and I don’t want anybody to see me while I’m singing!’ So that’s how they decided to mix me with the singer–they still needed a singer because my high notes were still a little tight, but they got me to sing live during the takes. So, the amazing Andrea Robinson sings the parts of Sister Mary Robert, but she is overlapped with my own voice.”

Being that you are an actress, and also a musician, dancer and entrepreneur, how it is for you to navigate through these different mediums and art expressions?

My first intuition is that I really think that there is a common thread in any creative endeavor. I’m an interpreter, when I play the harp, I interpret someone’s else music, when I’m acting, I’m interpreting someone’s else words. Even as an entrepreneur creating a recipe. I thought to take a very cool smoothie and turn it into a vegetables and fruits’ popsicle mood so that kids can have a popsicle breakfast, they don’t know what’s inside, there is no sugar in it, just fruits and vegetables and it is probiotic. To me, there is a creative engine somewhere, and I used my acting skills in a huge way to put these popsicles on to the shelves. You have to be convincing, like when I’m on the phone, I know how to pitch my voice up to sound a little younger which makes people more willing to help you more, it’s a marketing strategy. Everything is interrelated. 

What are some of your next new projects that you can share with us?

I just wrapped a wonderful movie called Spiked, a true story about a group of Mexican miners in Arizona who are being racially profiled. It was a big news story in 2005. Juan Martinez Vera, the director, got a hold of the story. The movie stars Aidan Quinn, who plays a journalist, a newspaper owner, and I play his challenging wife, a very different role from the ones we just talked about. She is bipolar, hypersexual and an alcoholic. 

Read our review of A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

The Wonders – Rohrwacher’s ‘Heroine’s Journey’

Actress Maria Alexandra Lungu who plays Gelsomina, the protagonist of the movie.

Part 2 of our in-depth analysis of the movie by Alice Rohrwacher starring Alba Rohrwacher. We broke down the narrative structure in its three acts, highlighting the steps of Vogler’s ‘Hero’s Journey’ and some of the categories of Joseph Campbell’s monomyth that apply to the movie. Le Meraviglie (The Wonders) is part of the MoMA retrospective dedicated to the Rohrwacher’s sisters on show until December 23rd

By Tommaso Cartia

The story opens with the description of the Ordinary World of the family of our Heroine Gelsomina. The psychological hierarchies existing between the main protagonists are immediately introduced. In particular, the strong bond between Gelsomina and her father, underlined by the fact that Wolfang (the father) trusts only his eldest daughter to carry out the most onerous tasks of the honey processing. The strong character of the second-born daughter, Marinella, a Trickster, is Gelsomina’s comic relief who often loosens tensions and lives everything with a sense of disenchantment. The mother remains a solid figure, sometimes in contrast with her husband, but she does not seem to have a relevant voice in the difficult balance between Wolfang and Gelsomina, who at the beginning of the story is an Animus, projecting herself first with the father figure and his male energy. Cocò is another central character who is presented right away. She initially appears as Gelsomina’s natural Ally, sharing the need of the young girl to emancipate herself from the imposing patriarch. 

More or less a quarter of an hour from the beginning of the film, once the work is finished, the family enjoys a moment of leisure by the sea close to an island not far away from the mainland, occupied by the ruins of an ancient Etruscan necropolis. In this enchanting scenario, we see the epiphanic appearance of the character of Milly, the TV host of the program “Il paese delle meraviglie (The Wonderland). Dressed all in white, diaphanous, ethereal, Milly introduces the main topic of the show with these cryptic words: “What am I doing here? It was a secret but now I can reveal it, this is our great comeback, The Wonderland, among the riches of the Etruscan region. It will be here among those families who still live like it was once upon a time that we’ll talk… about sausages!” Milly’s fabulous introduction immediately reveals the real content of the TV show, not fabulous at all, but kind of tacky, generic and focused just on the promotion of the local products. But behind the fiction and the artifice of the television production, the figure of Milly stands out as a supernatural element, the Mentor figure, that attracts Gelsomina in an Extraordinary World, stranger from her own. 

Despite her appearance as a series B presenter, in the eyes of Gelsomina and her sisters, Milly is a blue fairy. Gelsomina looks at Milly in awe as the Fairylike woman hands to the girl a flock of her wig’s hair and also a poster of the show with the instructions to participate. With this double gesture, Milly will initiate Gelsomina’s shifting journey. Cutting one’s hair is archetypically a sign of transition, from childhood to the adult age, and the poster represents the New Direction that the whole Gelsomina’s family is invited to take to change their economic status and welcome the advent of the new corporate era for the farming businesses. This is the triggering Inciting Incident of the story and the Call to Adventure.


The meeting with Milly will subsequently lead to the beginning of the ideological clash between father and daughter. After work they pay visit to one of the families from the area, with whom they share the same plots of land. They have decided to participate in the television program. Wolfang is opposed to that sort of frivolous charade and instead emphasizes the concept that they must stick together; they must join and not allow strangers to come and exhort their work and exploit their world. On the other hand, the other patriarch thinks that advertising on television will help their economy. The gentleman also asks Wolfang when he is going to have a son dealing with the family business, alluding to Gelsomina playing that role in the family. In the meantime, Gelsomina is struck by a commercial she is watching on the TV, of Milly publicizing the show. She asks the father to agree to participate in the competition, which he of course refuses. Is the father the true Antagonist of the story, and the Refusal of the Call to Adventure falls in between this father-daughter conflict. To distract Gelsomina, Wolfang promises her to buy her a camel instead, a gift that Gelsomina has been wishing for since she was a child. But the girl underlines the fact that it was indeed a desirable gift, but when she was little. The father is preventing his daughter to step into adulthood, wrapped in the fear of losing her and therefore a role that gives stability and significance to his existence. 

Alba Rohrwacher
still from Le meravigile (The Wonders).2014. Italy. Directed by Alice Rohrwacher. Courtesy Oscilloscope Laboratories

Gelsomina’s mother seems instead favorable to the opportunity the TV show presents, as is Cocò who fully supports Gelsomina’s idea thinking not only that that money is indispensable, but also that the girl’s destiny should not be playing the peasant woman role that Wolfang is envisioning for her. Cocò represents a parallel subplot to Gelsomina’s story, reinforcing the central theme of the Heroine’s journey. Cocò is, in fact, as dissatisfied as the young girl; she wishes a change will occur to her life; she is young and charged with a strong sensual drive. “Am I real?” is the question that she often asks out loud. She is like Gelsomina, a character in search of her true self. Later on, Wolfang decides to adopt a new kid, Martin, a German boy who will come to work with the family for a few months. The arrival of the boy is groundbreaking for the economy of the story, and it alters the family’s equilibrium. Like Milly’s character, Martin is a sort of mystical presence, an exotic and mysterious one. He never speaks, but he has a special power, he can whistle very well. The kid represents Gelsomina first encounter with sexuality and with a male sensual interest that is separate from her father figure. The romantic theme is introduced also by a love song from Italian TV personality Ambra Angiolini; it is again in the world of TV that Gelsomina as well as her sister Marinella, find an extraordinary world to escape and dream away.

One day at a village’s fair where Gelsomina’s family go to sell their honey products, the girl finds a banquet with people advertising Milly’s TV show, and this time, she sneaks away from her father and she signs the family. This is the New Opportunity given to our Heroine to fulfill her destiny. It is now that Gelsomina also proves to be not a common human being, but a hero with extraordinary abilities. She demonstrates to her love interest Martin, that she is able to put bees in her mouth and pass it over her face without being bitten by them. The scene is full of magical and sensual realism and grants Gelsomina a special status; she is not just a worker with the bees, she can command them. 

As we progress in the journey, an old friend of Wolfang, Adrian, comes to visit the family. His appearance is absolutely disruptive and accelerates the departure of Gelsomina from the father figure. Adrian tells Wolfang that it would be about time for him to make a son and free Gelsomina who he invites to come and visit the city of Milan, to get away from there. Gelsomina says that she would love to, she finally declares her subconscious intent, to emancipate herself, but again Wolgang addresses her as “just a kid”.

Later, left alone to process the honey, Gelsomina, Marinella and Martin, got distracted, listening to the song by Ambra Angiolini, and Marinella accidentally injures her hand with one of the machines engines. Gelsomina immediately rushes her to the emergency room and because of that they forget to change the bucket that should contain the honey. At their return they will find out that all of the honey from the production had irremediably spilled, and they are of course terrified by their father’s possible reaction. Meanwhile a representative from the TV show, comes to the farm to inspect the family and check their eligibility for the program. This is a Luciferian character, with crossed eyes, who brings temptation in; he appreciates the honey the family produces, and he tells them that they have been selected for the show. When Wolfang and Angelica return they are shocked to see what happened to Marinella, but the father is more concerned with the man from the TV show, and realizes his daughter tricked him. Wolfang showed up with what he still thinks is Gelsomina’s object of desire, the camel she wanted since she was a little girl, and he is so sorrowful to witness that he tried to make his daughter happy and she did nothing but disobey to him. Wolfgang leaves, chased by Gelsomina who is vividly sorry and asks her father if she can still help him with anything, but Wolfang rejects her. This is a high turning point, marking Gelsomina’s first real conscious stance towards her father. This is the apex of the story’s Climax that stands there with no effective resolution as the narration jumps directly to the family participating into the TV show.

Here we get closer to the Innermost Cave and the central Ordeal, and also metaphorically this moment represents a Descent into Hell. In fact, the boat that transports the family into the necropolis where the TV show is set is called Lucifer, and indeed the archeological site of the set is a necropolis, a real innermost cave. It is in a deep cavity in the rock where the parade of the harnessed families dressed up in their traditional costumes selling their products take place. They also need to perform. Godmother of the evening is obviously Milly. Gelsomina’s family introduces itself to the cameras. Wolfang timidly tries to explain the beauty of his art as a beekeeper, but the camera’s mechanical and cold gaze blocks him, making him appear uncomfortable, fragile; it intimidates him and resizes his role and his male power that was the main force at the beginning of the story. Unable to verbalize, he can only declare that his honey is natural, genuine, a product of a world that is about to vanish. The fragile lyricism with which the conflicting antagonist of the story reveals his ardor, humanizes him. It is certainly not only the advent of the modern era that will scratch the ancestral secrets of his bucolic art, it is the decadent sensation of an ineluctable change: his children will grow, they will go away, he will not be able to tie them forever to a world that is crumbling down. Gelsomina and Martin take the scene, performing with their super-powers. Gelsomina plays her bee trick, putting one in her mouth. Martin charms the bees with his whistle; similar to Orpheus that charms Hades with his harp. The contest is lost by the way, Gelsomina’s family doesn’t win the challenge. But another challenge awaits our Heroine: she needs to pass the Rite of Initiation of her sexuality. Cocò is moved by the kids and embraces them after their performance, but her grip is too strong, almost sexual, very carnal. Martin is stunned by that physical vicinity, he suddenly escapes, vividly scared, and he gets lost in the woods, nowhere to be found. The family is then forced to go back without him for the moment and to look for help. 


On the way back, Gelsomina bumps into her her Mentor, Milly, who kindly invites her to sit next to her. She takes off her fairy wig, as if to go back to a state of humanity, as if her supernatural aid is about to be over. Milly is now, for real, the woman that Gelsomina would love to be one day. That mirroring allows the girl to perform her heroine’s act. She finally escapes her family and goes back by herself, swimming back to the island to look for Martin into the forest. The drowning in waters signs her cathartic shift, and when she emerges, she is now ready to touch fire. She finds Martin, and it is in fact by the heat of the fire that the two kids have their first, still innocent, physical vicinity. It’s a goodbye to childhood and a welcoming to the adult age. 

The next scenes of the movie follow a surreal crescendo. Gelsomina comes back to her family who had settled a bed in the middle of the field in front of their house, a bed that represents their true union and closeness. They all lie in bed together. The father reconciles with Gelsomina, telling her there is room for her in the bed, and the girl, now a woman, can reconcile with the fact that she can be a daughter and still be a woman, and that she still has a role in the wonderful world of her family, but now she has conquered another wonderful one: herself. A metaphysical time passes over them, and they vanish from the bed; they vanish from their house as well as all of their belongings. The last shot presents that wonderful world like a skeleton of what it once was. Time is inexorable; Wolfang was right, their world was coming to an end, but his family’s embrace in an imaginative bed will probably hold them close forever. Probably, as the movie leaves us suspended in the certainty of the uncertainty of life. 

The Wonder-ful Rohrwacher Sisters on Show at MoMA with their Vivid Portrait of Contemporary Italian Cinema

Alice Rohrwacher
A still from Le meravigile (The Wonders).2014. Italy. Directed by Alice Rohrwacher. Courtesy Oscilloscope Laboratories

The Wonders: Alice and Alba Rohrwacher – is the title of the retrospective running from the 4th to the 23rd of December at The Museum of Modern Art, giving the American audience the chance to discover or rediscover the enchanting aesthetic world of writer-director Alice Rohrwacher and actress Alba Rohrwacher. Two brilliant talents, two powerful female figures, one spectacular body of work that is weaving back together the tradition of the golden era of Italian cinema with a modern sensibility, inquisitive and nurturing at the same time. On the occasion of MoMA’s homage to the sisters, I publish here Part 1 of a case-study on Le Meraviglie (The Wonders), one of my favorite movies by Alice Rohrwacher, starring her sister Alba. My analysis explores the complex beauty of the symbolistic construction of the narration through the model of Vogler’s Hero’s Journey and Joseph Campbell’s Monomyth, which lay underneath the magical neo-realism of the cinematography. 

By Tommaso Cartia

The retrospective was brought to MoMA by Istituto Luce Cinecittà, and curated by Josh Siegel of MoMA’s Film Department and Camilla Cormanni and Paola Ruggiero of Istituto Luce-Cinecittà. It showcases both Alice and Alba’s collaboration on movies like Happy as Lazzaro and The Wonders; and their personal efforts. Among them some movies that I consider the undeniable proof of the striking aliveness of Italian Cinema: Corpo Celeste (Heavenly Body) by Alice Rohrwacher; Maestro Marco Bellocchio’s Bella Addormentata (Dormant Beauty) and Sangue del mio sangue (Blood of My Blood) and Laura Bispuri’s Vergine giurata (Sworn Virginand Figlia mia (Daughter of Mine), all starring one of the strongest Italian interpreters of our time: Alba Rohrwacher. For more info on the retrospective please click HERE.

Enjoy here below Part 1 of The Wonders case-study. Part 2 available at the link at the bottom of the article.

Le Meraviglie (The Wonders), written and directed by Alice Rohrwacher, is the coming of age story of an adolescent, Gelsomina, and of her conflicted relationship with a father figure who wants to force the inexorable pressing of her adulthood into a muffled, bucolic world out of time. Gelsomina’s family lives in the Umbrian-Tuscan countryside, leading the rural life of the beekeepers, an old-fashioned world where the development of the modern means of production, the advent of capitalism and industrialization, seem never to have passed and never having affected its virginal genuineness.

The family is constituted by the authoritarian father-master from German origins, Wolfang; the young Italian mother, Angelica (played by Alba Rohrwacher); the younger sister, Marinella; two younger sisters; and Cocò, a young German girl, a handyman and aide of the family. A microcosm of all women to whom the patriarch Wolfang tries to infuse his archaic ideals, with authority but also with a sort of rough sweetness and profound respect. Is Gelsomina, however, the one with whom he has the strongest, visceral relationship. She is the eldest, the one whom everybody address as the head of the family, the one that probably, in her father’s vision, incorporates those male psycho-physical traits that he failed to pass to a son who unfortunately did not arrive. Gelsomina is the foreman of all the honey production jobs, the one who knows its rules and rituality, the only one who Wolfang trusts to coordinate the operations. The other sisters are too little, and the second daughter, Marinella, is a happy slacker. The mother is instead a very practical, straightforward figure. Theirs is a life lived according to the values of pauperism, a protected, existential condition that it is about to suffer the advent of the large-scale industrial productions, that will soon eat alive the family-run businesses. In the immobility of their picture-perfect life is Gelsomina, who starts a first movement, who starts contemplating the possibility of change. The switch in her perspective is triggered by the fairy-tale encounter with Milly Catena (played by Monica Bellucci), a beautiful but over the top host of a TV show – Il Paese delle Meraviglie (The Wonderland).

The program is a contest, a sort of reality show, where different family-run businesses from the area can participate by showcasing their local products. The win is a significant amount of money. Gelsomina is charmed by the Fairy Godmother fascination of Milly, who becomes for the girl an icon, a figure of the woman that she would like to be one day. Gelsomina has been persuaded that winning that contest would be crucial for the future of her family’s business. This idea is of course, strongly opposed by the father Wolfang.

Another disturbing element for the quiet life of the family will be the arrival of Martin, a young German orphan, who will spend a few months with them to help Wolfang with the heaviest jobs. Martin is another reason for restless upheavals for Gelsomina, the gradual transition from the age of puberty to adulthood; the first innocent, erotic impulses towards the other sex. Gelsomina, the heroine of this story, is therefore animated by two complementary desires, albeit apparently different: the conscious desire to make her family win the television program, and the unconscious one that moves her deep wills – to emancipate herself from the paternal figure and run towards her adult age symbolized by the marvelous mirror of the woman who she would like on day to be, Milly, and by the sentimental object of her desire, Martin. This seems to be the controlling idea of the film, which strongly archetypal, symbolic, but also psychological nature suggests a structural analysis that could, therefore, be based on the model of Vogler’s Hero’s Journey and the analysis of Joseph Campbell’s monomyth: it is in effect a story of separation – initiation – return. But Alice Rohrwacher’s aesthetic undeniably refers also to minimalist narrative styles, a magical neo-realism, where often the photogenic beauty of the frame slows down the narrative rhythms to contemplate the wonders of nature that are the other big protagonists of the film. 

The neorealist quotations are therefore well articulated both photographically and on the contents level, starting from the choice of the name Gelsomina, which immediately reminds us of Fellini’s Giulietta Masina in La Strada, who in fact, plays a character named Gelsomina.

At the link below please find Part 2 of the study analyzing the movie in the three acts in which the narration is divided, highlighting the various rites of passage of the heroine and the function of the different archetypal figures she encounters in her journey, read through Vogler’s Hero’s Journey and Joseph Campbell’s Monomyth

Stonewall has Never Been Louder

Stonewall Outloud

With Stonewall OutLoud, directors Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato revive the resounding echoes of the night of the N.Y.C. riots that 50 years ago saw the LGBTQ+ community rebelling against the prevailing conservatism winds that were—and still are in some regards—shaking the American stars and stripes. The torch of the testimony of the people who lived the uproar of those days is passed down to a new generation by featuring some prominent figures of today’s LGBTQ+ community, who lend their voices to the archival audio recordings of the veterans in a mirroring synesthesia. 

By Tommaso Cartia

From the moment this film is on to the moment that it is out, something so visceral touches the profound strings of your heart’s nostalgia, and invades you. It is like re-watching family videos, the voices of our loved ones traversing time and coming back to remind us about their once untamable aliveness, that resilient attachment to the gift of life preserved against any toiling struggles. In Stonewall OutLoud, our family is the extended LGBTQ+ community, with its toiling struggles, and its voices that we can’t dare to put to oblivion. 

Inspired by the audio-documentary Remembering Stonewall by Dave Isay, the movie, narrated by RuPaul, finds a vividly original way to vehicle the voices of the heroes of the uprising, shortening the physical and temporal distance by unleashing them out loud through some popular faces of the current LGBTQ+ scene. Like Actor, Comedian and Activist Daniel Franzese; Singer & Actor Lance Bass; Athlete Adam Rippon: RuPaul Drag Race Star Raja; and more, including Laith Ashley, Charlie Carver, Jeffrey Bowyer-Chapman, Fortune Feimster, Connor Franta, Isis King, Keiynan Lonsdale, Jinkx Monsoon, Ben J. Pierce, Michael Turchin, Amber Whittington and Alexis G. Zall.

Adam Rippon
Adam Rippon with Veteran of the Stonewall Tree Sequoia. Photo courtesy of David Magdael & Associates

Each one of them revisits rare and priceless material that even America’s history books have shamefully neglected, preventing our kids to fully understand that the freedom of costumes they can experience today when they effortlessly parade during a Gay Pride, was nothing but a strenuous conquest that cost the lives of many. “I connected with the material instantly because it is so important,” said Actor Daniel Franzese, commenting about his role in the documentary. “A lot of our history as queer people is erased, we don’t have any of that in our American history books, anything about gay people growing up in this country. It was completely washed away. When I was approached for the project, I immediately said yes, because it got to me that at this point in my life, as an LGBTQ activist, actor and gay man, I should definitely know more about this stuff. These stories should be all learned and engrained in our consciences,” continued Franzese. 

From the left: Director Randy Barbato, Actor Daniel Franzese, Veteran Activist and SirusXM Host Larry Flick and Daniel Mitchell from Youtube Originals. Photo courtesy of David Magdael & Associates

Emmys and GLAAD Media Award-winning directors Randy Barbato and Fenton Bailey, the visionary minds behind WOW (World of Wonder) – the production that created masterpieces of contemporary LGBTQ+ entertainment beginning with RuPaul’s Drag Race – continue to wonder their audience, weaving together the fragmented history of the American gay community and leaving a profound trace in its legacy and in our conscience.

Randy Barbato and Fenton Bailey
Randy Barbato and Fenton Bailey. Photo courtesy of David Magdael & Associates

“The film was inspired by Dave Isay, the man behind StoryCorps, who 20 years after the Stonewall riots released the audio-documentary Remembering Stonewall,” says Barbato explaining the inception of the project: “We were approached by Youtube Originals to do a film about it and we asked ourselves, ‘How can we bring this back to life?’ Initially, we really didn’t know, it was difficult because there is very little visual archive of the Stonewall uprising. Our number one goal was to find an effective way to communicate the story to a younger generation. We made it happen and it was really sort of magical the way that our performers connected with the voices and the material in the film, it felt so surprisingly organic.” And it feels so surprisingly organic to absorb, as an audience, this alive, out-loud page of American History, that should never ever be put on Mute.

Grimanesa Amorós – Lighting Up her Lovingly Romance with the Unknown

Grimanesa Amoros

The Artistic Directors of Creative Pois-On, Daniela Pavan and Tommaso Cartia, gently turned through the pages of the artist’s extraordinarily eventful life to paint a vivid chiaroscuro portrait of the woman behind the art, and the art behind the woman, circling the earth with her light in the attempt to make sense of her lovingly romance with the unknown.

November 2019, is the Enlightenment month for the Creative Pois-On Podcast. “Let there be light. And there was light.” This infamous quote from the Genesis, expresses in a poetic and very visual way, an essential creative process – to bring something to the light, out of the darkness. This is true of all creations: when you birth an idea, when you bring to the light a child, when you light up the stage of a theater and you give light to your creation for everybody to see it, when you stand up under the spotlight to pitch your business idea that you’ve been working so hard on. This is what Creative Pois-On wanted to explore in the four episodes of the November podcast; trying to understand how vital Light is in any creative process, but at the same time how fundamental darkness is, meaning everything that happens in the dark before an idea, a project is out in the light.

Tommaso and Daniela were kind of wresting in the Dark, looking for the perfect interview subject for the November series; until they got hit by the Light in Grimanesa Amorós’s work – an artist who exemplary embodies and exudes the theme of light.

Please listen to our two-parts podcast interview with the artist here below:

About Grimanesa Amorós:
Grimanesa Amorós was born in Lima, Perú, and lives and works in New York City. She is an interdisciplinary artist with diverse interests in the fields of social history, scientific research and critical theory, which have greatly influenced her work. Her works incorporate elements from sculpture, video, lighting, and technology to create site-specific light installations to engage architecture and create community.Grimanesa Amorós has often drawn upon important Peruvian cultural legacies for inspiration for her large-scale light-based installations, which she has presented around the globe from Mexico, Tel Aviv, and Beijing to New York’s Times Square. She often gives talks at museums, foundations, and universities where her lectures not only attract future artists, but students and faculty engaged with science and technology. Amorós has exhibited in the United States, Europe, Asia, the Middle East, and Latin America. For more information about Grimanesa Amorós, visit http://www.grimanesaamoros.com @grimanesaamoros #grimanesaamoros

A Beautiful Day at the Theater

Tom Hanks-starrer A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood (Sony Pictures), directed by Marielle Heller and recounting the life of the beloved TV personality Mr. Rogers, is impacting the American theaters just in time to light up the Holiday season. A cathartic little miracle that can revive the purity of your child’s heart, before it was ever broken. 

By Tommaso Cartia

Joanne Rogers
Joanne Rogers

“Fred used to say that the space between the television set and the person watching it was holy ground. And I believe that it is true in this theater today. And may I add that I know that Fred would be thrilled to have Tom Hanks representing him on the big screen.” Joanne Rogers – Fred Roger’s widow.

It couldn’t be introduced in a more sweet and yet powerful way the press screening of A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, as that day I was truly looking for a holy ground to unwind. It was a dark and stormy day… in New York City when I walked to the movie theater, one of those days where the spirits of the island of Manhattan seem to get together to conspire against you, possessing your umbrella that cracks and blows away, your traveling Starbucks that spills, your subway ride that gets delayed for a police investigation. It seemed all very gloomy and moody until I comfily sit, and Mr. Rogers appears on the big screen. Thoughtfulness, brightness, charm, acumen, all that Fred Rogers was for generations of kids and young/adults, wrapped up the audience with a pitch-perfect classical narration that still can perform that cathartic little miracle to turn your day around and make you think of the beauty and goodness in people with the purity of your child’s heart, before it was ever broken. 

The miracle is served by the exquisite touch of Marielle Heller who, after the lyrically riveting exploit of Can You Ever Forgive Me? last year, has continued to craft her voice, establishing herself as a contemporary poetess of the silver screen. As she turns the pages of the encounter between Mr. Rogers and Lloyd Vogel (Tom Junod in real life, played by Matthew Rhys), the Esquire journalist who in 1998 was assigned to write a profile on him; Heller gently paints them in pastel-colors dreamy frames. She elegantly orchestrates the camera to embrace the audience as she gets into the fairytale world of Fred Rogers, and out in the more grainy-grey world of Lloyd Vogel, who struggles with a life filled with anger, cynicism and the unresolved issues with a complicated father figure (Chris Cooper).

Heller has the best crayons box in her hands, a cast of stellar actors. Tom Hanks is giving us his boy-next-door charm, playing both the Fred Roger’s inner child and enlightened young/adult with all the complexity, and apparent naivete, that reminds you of his Forrest, and reminds you, he will be probably get that Oscar nomination he has been missing since 2001’s Castaway. Matthew Rhys is strongly believable, neurotic, strong and fragile, dark and lightened at the same time, he is the audience, he is me on my stormy and cloudy day… until he is rescued by the least expected of the Wise-Men. Other notable performances are the ones of Chris Cooper, the despicable and yet tenderly human Lloyd’s father figure, Susan Kelechi Watson (Lloyd’s wife), and Wendy Makkena, in the pivotal role of Cooper’s girlfriend. 

In a movie world saturated of superheroes that are, at times, less heroic than the stuntmen playing them and the special effects acting them under the table; A Beautiful Day is here to remind us of the simple magic of good storytelling and a real, empathetic hero and role-model like Fred Rogers was for his time and Tom Hanks can still be in the entertainment business. 

And if this movie can brighten up even a stormy and cloudy New York’s day, it is indeed that holy ground we’ve been waiting to face the midst of Winter and enjoy our cozy times under the Christmas Tree’s lights. 

Be ready, set and imagine with A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood and our upcoming exclusive interview with Actress Wendy Makkena. Thank you Integrated PR and Monique Moss for the coordination of the piece and the interview. 

Marco Bellocchio’s The Traitor – A Maxi Trial Act of Beauty Unlocking Mafia’s Code of Silence

The Traitor

Exclusive interviews with Maestro Marco Bellocchio and Actor Pierfrancesco Favino, presenting The Traitor (Il Traditore), in New York at the 4th edition of Italy on Screen Today Film Fest directed by Loredana Commonara. The biopic depicting the life of Tommaso Buscetta – the Italian mobster who became one of the first Sicilian Mafia members ever to turn informant – is the Official Italian Entry for the Best International Feature Film at the 2020 Academy Awards, and will be distributed in the U.S. by Sony Pictures Classics from January 2020. 

By Tommaso Cartia

Is there an answer or a possible resolution to the atavic questions and paradoxes that a phenomenon as complex as the Sicilian Mafia still hides in its secreted code of honor? How can we even remotely conceive two different mobsters accusing each other of their lack of morality; or picturing them living and suffering for love, from the loss of a child, or happily appreciating the simple joys of life while living in the constant trepidation to kill or be killed? “We have to think of Mafia, like if it was a foreign country, with its different culture, different language, a country that is completely different from ours,” Pierfrancesco Favino, who stars in the complex role of Tommaso Buscetta, arguments, giving me a brilliant angle to reflect on. It’s through the larger-than-life profile of Buscetta that one of the most prominent Masters of Contemporary Italian Cinema, Marco Bellocchio, reflects on the Maxi Trial (1986-1992), the largest anti-Mafia process in history and on that pivotal moment of Italian history when for the first time ever, Judges Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino, broke through the underworld of the Sicilian Mafia and unlocked its code of silence, changing it forever.

I’m Sicilian, and I’ve witnessed the Mafia operating a couple of blocks from my house in Sicily, probably that’s why I’m usually very cautious, and I dare to say intolerant when I experience some of those clichés and simplifications of that reality fictionalized on the silver screen. I’m also talking about masterpieces like The Godfather, which is a grandiose, epic movie that I perceive though as something to watch for its filmic beauty more than to find answers to those Sicilian Mafia’s atavic questions. Maestro Bellocchio’s The Traitor, is something different, is something that accelerated my heartbeat, chained me to the chair and gave me an unprecedented look on what used to happen a couple of blocks from my house in Sicily: it’s a testimony. I couldn’t expect anything less from the movie painter of Italian cinema, the anarchic poet and intellectual who is as powerful when he is probing of the societal mores of the Italian family and institutions as when he investigates his own autobiographical universe.

Editor in Chief of Creative Pois-On, Tommaso Cartia, interviews Maestro Marco Bellocchio at The Italy on Screen Today Press Lunch. Photo by Francesca Magnani.

The ideas for his movies often come dressed up in imaginative suggestions, in pictorial epiphanies, and that is no surprise as indeed the director of Fists in The Pocket , started out as a painter. “If I have to think of an imaginary, this story reminds me of the art of the American Realism, in particular, the Maxi Trial,” Bellocchio tells me when I asked him about the inspiration behind the movie. “We were able to shoot in the real courtroom where the trial was held, that’s the heart of the movie. I was very interested in the discreetly, conflicting lights of the room, very diffused. And also, spatially, I was attracted by the different point of view of the Mafia convicts within their cages and how we look at them from outside.”If Bellocchio’s imaginary inspiration comes from colors and spatiality, for Favino, it did come from Buscetta himself: “Before studying for the role, I knew a little bit about his story and how he has always been different and unique from the cliché of the typical mob guy. Thinking about the theme of image, in the case of Buscetta, it is particularly interesting, because he has been always obsessed by his own image and looks – he had so many face lifts – I would call it a form of dysmorphophobia. He was also obsessive in the way that he needed to constantly reaffirm his own identity, ‘I am Tommaso Buscetta,’ was one of his signature saying, and again it is paradoxical if we think that he grew up in a family of glassworkers. He also had a maniacal care for his hands and the way that he dressed, such a vanity. He so wanted to see himself in a different way, to adhere to a model of elegance and social status that it didn’t belong to his upbringing.” 

Pierfrancesco Favino
Consul General of Italy Francesco Genuardi presents the Wind Of Europe International Award to Pierfrancesco Favino. In the picture, Oscar-winning Director James Ivory, special guest of the Italy on Screen Today Film Fest Award Ceremony held at the Walter Reade Theater-Lincoln Center in New York. Photo by Jeff Smith

Starting from that imaginary, Favino really did transform and almost transfigured himself into Buscetta, he was also able to perfectly modulate and emulate his voice and that specific Sicilian dialect, and for someone who is not Sicilian, like Favino, ad even for the Sicilians themselves, it is definitely an epic undertaking with a surprising result. If Favino worked as a biographer with the subject matter, Bellocchio tried to find that something in his autobiographical experience, that he could have made him feel closer to the world of the mobster: “At first it was very difficult to enter that world, starting with the Mafia language, that I didn’t know, a language of few words. Then, getting closer to Buscetta I was fascinated by his love for music, opera, melodrama, and even pop music. That made him closer. Also, the theme of betrayal is something that I can definitely relate to. I’m not ashamed to say that I did betray in my life. I betrayed because I wanted to separate myself from certain situations I didn’t agree with anymore. So, I betrayed with the hope to operate a positive change. Even though this is not really the case of Buscetta, he betrayed not to change but in order that he could have preserved who he was.”

Marco Bellocchio
Artistic Director of Italy on Screen Today Film Fest Loredana Commonara with Marco Bellocchio and Pierfrancesco Favino, recipients of the Wind of Europe International Award at the Walter Reade Theater-Lincoln Center in New York. Photo by Jeff Smith.

Maestro Bellocchio’s words seem to echo one of the most significant books in Sicilian and Italian literature, The Leopard by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa, when addressing the change in Sicilian life and society during the Risorgimento – the time that consolidated the Kingdom of Italy in the 19th century – the author writes: “if we want things to stay as they are, things will have to change.” That’s somehow Buscetta’s philosophy and the possible reason behind his decision to turn informant, and not really pentito (repented), because he never wanted to deny or betrayed what for him were the real Mafia values, against his enemies within the organization of Cosa Nostra. “Buscetta will never be either a hero or an exemplary,” tells me Bellocchio, “he is a man who has been defeated, but that never really wanted to quit being a mobster, on the contrary, he was proud of his princely way of being a Mafia boss. Someone who would respect the core values of the Mafia, with that sort of Robin Hood ideal to help the poorest class, also looking after and never touching children and women. He is a conservatory man in the Mafia organization, he didn’t want their rules to change the way they did because of the explosion of the heroin market and that race to the absolute power that it suddenly invested his enemies, the Corleonesi and specifically Totò Riina. Buscetta comes back from his exile and turns informant because he is forced to, but his courage and loyalty towards his relatives and also the institutions it’s respectable. This way, he was definitely instrumental for the fight of Judge Falcone, that he greatly respected.”

James Ivory
James Ivory with Marco Bellocchio on the stage of Italy on Screen Today Film Fest at the Walter Reade Theater-Lincoln Center in New York. Photo by Jeff Smith.

It is sort of hard, still, to understand the different sets of rules and codes of the Mafia, a world where every common-known value seems to be overturned. Mafia is indeed a criminal organization as well as a way of thinking that is not just of Sicily or the South of Italy, it’s a contemporary world-wide phenomenon; although: “its code of honor is millenary,” argued Favino, who really dig into the Mafia history, “the first traces of the Mafia movement are attributable to the Saracens, an Arab tribe that invaded Sicily and that needed to escape from the Normans who were trying to conquer the island. The Saracens hid in the most remote villages of the island where they started communities in groups of ten. The Mafia’s Decina (the ten in Italian), is still today a branch of the Sicilian Mafia family. And so probably the function of Mafia is rooted in a society that feels far away from the central power, and that needed to come up with its own inner rules.”

Pierfrancesco Favino stepped into the Sicilian Mafia world with the same grace and intellectual honesty and respect that he put in embracing Bellochio’s world: “It was incredible, to be a part of his cinema, which is really art, he is an artist lived by his poetical, philosophical world. The moment that he opens you the door to that world, it’s pure magic. To have gained his trust and his listening is something that will definitely divide my career in before and after Bellocchio.”

Our Editor in Chief Tommaso Cartia interviewing Pierfrancesco Favino.

The Traitor has already been a massive success in Italy, it has been already distributed in 100 regions, it was acclaimed and praised at the Cannes Film Festival this year, won several awards at the prestigious Nastro d’Argento, including Best Film, Best Director, Best Actor and Best Score – Nicola Piovani – and it is now nominated for the European Film Awards in all of the most glamorous categories. And so, there’s naturally a lot of expectation and trepidation for the Best International Feature Film submission at the upcoming Academy Awards and the distribution of the movie in the U.S. that will start tip of next year thanks to Sony Picture Classics: “Of course to have a powerhouse like Sony behind the film it gives it a lot of credibility,” told me Bellocchio, “based on the audience reactions we believe the movie is getting a lot of positive hype, so we can just wish for the best.” Someone who has been experiencing the jolts and sparks of the big Hollywood productions is Favino who was recently cast in movies like The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince CaspianAngels & DemonsNight at the Museum and World War Z; so it is interesting to understand his preferential point of view not only on the U.S. journey of The Traitor but on the today positioning and success of the Italian cinema in the American Market: “I believe that the history teaches us that we Italians need to stick in doing our own cinema.

The Traitor
The Traitor Official Movie Poster.

We can’t bend to the codes of the American movies, a cinema that ultimately, we are not able to do, but that doesn’t mean that we have less cards left to play. Actually, The Academy always awarded our cinema when it was authentically Italian. We have two completely different ways to make movies because our cultures are very different. Our hero, is a hero who carries doubts and looks for his deus ex machina, the gods, the fairies, to solve his problems. We come from the spiritual Greek and Latin tradition, from that way of constructing a drama and that fatalistic sense of life. The Americans’ premise is in the Protestant philosophy of the self-made man, the super-hero. It is very different.”

Wishing all of the good luck to The Traitor for its American release; I was happy to have been stimulated to revisit my own doubts, questions and unresolved paradoxes of the Mafia phenomenon that this movie beautifully processes in a maxi trial act of Beauty.

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