Laura Bispuri’s first film, “Sworn Virgin,” was presented in Competition at the Berlinale and received the Nora Ephron Prize at Tribeca Film Festival, the Firebird Award at Hong Kong Film Fest, the Golden Gate New Directors Prize at San Francisco Film Fest, the FIPRESCI at Off Camera International Festival of Independent Cinema in Krakow, and a Globo D’oro. Her second film, “Daughter of Mine,” also screened in Competition at the Berlinale. Variety included it in its “10 Directors to Watch” list and the film was selected for numerous festivals around the world, winning awards at Shanghai and Haifa.
“The Peacock’s Paradise” will premiere at the 2021 Venice International Film Festival on September 5. The fest is taking place September 1-11.
W&H: Describe the film for us in your own words.
LB: It’s a long day, a long trip inside the characters of a community, a family. During this day, they are “forced” to stay together and when an unusual event happens it completely changes them. They find themselves naked in front of the others, they discover their real relationships, they deconstruct the traditional model of family, they learn the feeling of loss and of things that go away.
It’s about the discovery of the intimacy of human beings, the naïveté, the leaps, the secrets, the eternal search for love.
W&H: What drew you to this story?
LB: The peacock is a mirror of the beauty and the vanity of the human being and it helps this family discover the real meaning of life and of death that lies in life. I had been working for two years writing a big political movie, but I had to stop because of COVID. I had read [“The Peacock’s Paradise” co-writer] Silvana Tamma’s script some time before and I kept thinking about it, feeling that this story could be an interesting and original way to go inside the human being. When I had to stop the political project, I suddenly thought about the story of the peacock that always stayed in my mind, so I called Silvana and we started to work on it.
W&H: What do you want people to think about after they watch the film?
LB: I would like people to feel they really know these characters and this family. I would like the viewers to reflect themselves in those characters and in these relationships, to understand more about themselves and the others.
I also would like the audience to feel that life is very deep but it’s also just like a gust of wind.
W&H: What was the biggest challenge in making the film?
LB: The biggest challenge was having 11 actors of different backgrounds and ages and having to direct all of them in a very natural way. I wanted a natural feeling of life in this family, this house, this lunch. I wanted the actors to slip into the atmosphere of the movie without thinking a lot. When I first spoke to my director of photography [Vladan Radovic], I told him that I wanted the camera to move around them like in a documentary, but with the intension of making cinema.
This relationship between 11 actors and the camera was not an easy challenge for the staging. Plus, I wanted the house to feel open and not only like a closed space.
W&H: How did you get your film funded? Share some insights into how you got the film made.
LB: The budget of the movie is, more or less, 2.5 million euros [about $3 million USD]. I know that in the U.S. this kind of budget is very small but in Italy it is average for a movie like this one. The movie was not so expensive because it was shot mainly in one location.
The film’s producers [also worked on] my other movies: Vivo Film (Italy), Rai Cinema (Italy), and Match Factory (Germany), who is the co-producer and also the International Sales agent. They financed the film very fast. Everything was a rush!
We also had contributions from MIC (Italian Ministry of Culture), Regione Lazio (Italian Regional Fund), Film und Medien Stiftung NRW (German Regional Fund), and more.
W&H: What inspired you to become a filmmaker?
LB: My inspirations were real life and the cinema that I watched. The relationship between real life and fantasy/dreams is the mix that has nourished my inspiration since the beginning and still does every day.
W&H: What’s the best and worst advice you’ve received?
LB: The best advice was from one of the biggest Italian directors, Ettore Scola. He told me, “It is important to always have doubts.”
I don’t remember the worst advice — maybe because I didn’t want to keep it with me.
W&H: What advice do you have for other women directors?
LB: To be the directors they want to be.
W&H: Name your favorite woman-directed film and why.
LB: It’s not easy to choose one. Maybe Jane Campion’s “An Angel at My Table.” It was a very free and complex movie, with a lot of layering. I loved her gaze, the protagonist, and the balance of the world this great director built around the protagonist.
Lately, I also loved Maren Ade’s “Toni Erdmann.” It has an emotional, natural, and ironic atmosphere that is so different from other movies.
W&H: How are you adjusting to life during the COVID-19 pandemic? Are you keeping creative, and if so, how?
LB: During the difficult lockdown in Italy, I worked a lot. I had to change the project I was working on because of COVID so I started to write “The Peacock’s Paradise.” I also started to write a series that is now in development. It was a very creative moment, the heart of the series exploded suddenly and in complete isolation. In less than a year I wrote [it], and I prepared the shooting, I shot the movie, I edited and did the post-production, and also I started to work on my next movie.
In the end it was and it is a very busy and creative period.
W&H: The film industry has a long history of underrepresenting people of color onscreen and behind the scenes and reinforcing — and creating — negative stereotypes. What actions do you think need to be taken to make it more inclusive?
LB: About this huge problem, the underrepresentation of black people, of women, and of minorities in general, I always answer that it is not only a problem in cinema but in the whole system, in the world. Cinema is a mirror, but the problem is bigger. I think that the real challenge is to start to speak about lives that are different in a very authentic and sincere way and to try to go inside these characters without any fear. We must try to show all the stratifications, all the nuances, all the contradictions.
We can also try to research history and [unpack] how history was unjust for these minorities and why. But the most important thing for me is that we can do it only if we truly believe in it and not because now that is what is politically correct. You have to do it only if you really feel it.