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Vanessa McMahon

Vanessa is a novel writer, screenwriter, rep and a film producer. She shares her discoveries and film surprises. :-)



Interview with Director Alessandro Soetje for 'Tomorrow and the Butterfly' (2019)

Interview with Director Alessandro Soetje for 'Tomorrow and the Butterfly' (2019)


Award-winning Italian documentary director Alessandro Soetje’s film 'Tomorrow and the Butterfly' (2019) is Alessandro's latest work; others of which include, 'Matera. Mother of Stone' (2019), 'Valtellina, the Roots of Love' (2017) and 'Old Wild Lorenz' (2015). 'Tomorrow and the Butterfly' (2019) was filmed in six vignettes that tells stories of sustainability, beauty, tolerance and diversity around the world that converge with Davide Bollati, chairman of professional beauty company The Davines Group, and his vision of business and brand ethos. The film has been making its international film festival tour, scooping up award nominations, including three awards in the Cinefashion Film Awards by Cinémoi. Produced by Italian beauty brand The Davines Group, the film had its LA premiere on November 4th at Laemmle Film Center in Santa Monica. 

Check the trailer 

In an interview with the director, here is what he had to say:


How did you begin your career in directing documentaries?

ALESSANDRO: In 1998 an Italian producer, Annamaria Gallone, asked me to shoot ten documentaries in Burkina Faso for the Italian TV Network Sat 2000. At that time as a film director, I had only one shortcut fiction movie in my portfolio, but I was a well experienced cinematographer, and Annamaria was sure I could do a good job. One of the documentaries of the series was awarded in many festivals, so she probably was right! After that I worked with Italian journalist and director Sergio Zavoli, one of the most important documentary directors of Italian industry. A real mentor for me. 

Do you think documentaries are having a golden currently age?

ALESSANDRO:  Yes, I do. In the fall, the best Italian blockbuster was a documentary. People watch more documentaries now than a few years ago. In the last years even the advertising industry has understood that this can be a very interesting and popular form of communication. The so called “branded content” are an important part of my business nowadays.

How did you meet Davide and what led you to the journey of telling the story of Tomorrow and the Butterfly?

ALESSANDRO:  I was first contacted by Jorge Blanco, who had the idea of the documentary and then wrote the film with me. I was very intrigued by the concept of making a creative documentary having a ‘benefit corporation’ as main subject. At the time, I did some research and did not find anything like that. I told Jorge that I found his idea pioneering and challenging, which made me enthusiastic about it. Since the very beginning we thought that we had to put the human side at the center of the story. That’s why for me the prismatic personality of Davines chairman Davide Bollati, a reluctant, yet very interesting protagonist, had to be at the center of the tale. I met him for the first time in Parma and I was completely charmed by his volcanic energy. I then understood that I had to find a way to tell him also through the voice of those who know him very well, like his sister Stefania, who gave me the idea for the film’s title.

Can you tell people who haven't seen the film how you make the link between eco and human beauty you made?

ALESSANDRO:  I did not create the link. The protagonists did. Especially Davide Bollati, who is deep into creating a bond between beauty and sustainability. “How can you have beauty without sustainability?”, he says, “They go well together because you cannot have one without the other.” That became the log line under the title. Another protagonist who gives an important contribution to this link is Matthew Fairfax, chairman and founder of Justice and Soul Foundation, a hairdresser school for sex traffic survivors. In the Cambodian episode, he talks about the power of beauty, which is also the title for the story, as a power who can “polish all the crap” that someone’s life can have accumulated.

Why do you think the message in your film is such a crucial one to tell?

ALESSANDRO:  I don’t like to speak about “messages.” I prefer people to have more questions than answers after having seen one of my documentaries. Good questions can be stronger than answers. Answers can be wrong, questions can’t. That is one of the reasons why I like Davide’s line “How can you have beauty without sustainability?”, It’s a question and not an answer, and I think it fits very well to his personality. What I really like about him is that, despite the impressive energy he gives to the company, he is rarely fanatical about things. He likes to question himself about everything, which is something you probably must do if you live in the future rather than in the present, like he does. He is a visionary man and a very curious person.

Was it difficult to film an independent film in multiple countries? 

ALESSANDRO:  It is always difficult to film independent films. Yet I am quite used to travel and shoot abroad, and this production was not more difficult than others. Also, because it was a very good travel companion for three years. I do like to work on long time projects.

When you shoot a film like this, how many people travel with you in your crew?

ALESSANDRO:  My typical crew is composed by me (I do both cinematography and direction), an assistant and a sound guy. Some documentary filmmakers work alone, while others have with huge crews. I prefer this size which allows you an interaction and a feedback from the crew, but it is small enough to become invisible when it is necessary. Invisibility is something you need to learn if you want to shoot documentaries!

What are you plans for distribution for the film?

ALESSANDRO: We are screening the documentary in several countries, and it has already been screened in NY, LA, Seattle, Cleveland, London and Berlin. Cinemoi TV is broadcasting the episode “The Power of Beauty” and had chosen the documentary in the official selection of the 2019 Cinemoi CineFashion Film Awards. We were selected in some other festivals and competitions and we’ll probably be on Amazon Prime next year.

How are audiences reacting to the film?

ALESSANDRO: The very first screening was a shorter version of the film in Reykjavik. It wasn’t an official premiere, yet we had 1.600 people watching the movie at Harpa Concert Hall. A unique chance for a documentary filmmaker! The reaction of the audience was amazing: laughs, tears, applause. I’ve never felt such an energy from an audience. It was really touching.

What will you be working on next?

ALESSANDRO: My father in law, Piero De Bernardi, who died ten years ago, was one of the best Italian screenwriters ever. He wrote, among others, “There Once Upon a Time in America”, the last movie by Sergio Leone, and his movies are still very popular in Italy. I am trying to build a portrait of him which is also a family tale. It is a very challenging project, as I am personally involved, but I am really into this story.



Interview by Vanessa McMahon



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