Spettacolo & the power of art to transform

Jeff Malmberg

Fri, Oct 13, 2017

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This weekend, as part of the debut of our new nonfiction film festival Unorthodocs., we're thrilled to host a number of visiting filmmakers including Jeff Malmberg and Chris Shellen, co-directors of the award-winning documentary Spettacolo, which chronicles how the residents of the small Tuscan village of Monticchiello turn their lives into theater. The Wex also hosted the local debut of their amazing 2010 doc Marwencol, about a trauma survivor and the miniature WWII-era town he builds in his backyard, and though the stories shared in the respective films are literally miles apart they share a particular focus. Below, Jeff discusses that link, and how he formed a connection with the Italian townspeople to help tell their story.

(Spettacolo, image courtesy of Grasshopper Film)

Both [Marwencol and Spettacolo] tell the stories of quietly remarkable people who have responded to their circumstances in unusual, creative ways—ways that challenge viewers to shift the way they look at the world. One aspect we are really interested in with both films is people who can demonstrate for an audience the true power of art to transform lives. Usually that's such an abstract concept - art having the power to change your life. But with both Mark in Marwencol and the townsfolk in Spettacolo, they've managed to do it. And so we wanted to study what that concept really means.

To connect with [the people of Monticchiello], our first steps were to learn the language and move to the town for six months. At a certain point we felt like they weren't understanding what we were trying to do. And to be honest the footage wasn't very intimate or interesting. So we translated Marwencol into Italian and projected it for the whole town in their little theater and had a discussion afterwards. From that day forward, something clicked. They relaxed and showed us their true selves.