We caught up with the fantastic Director Aldo Iuliano to talk about his award winning film, Penalty.
Penalty shares the story of a group of guys playing football in the middle of nowhere. There is a much more than a simple victory at stake.
Italian director Aldo Iuliano began his career as a cartoonist. Since graduating University this talented director has already been recognized for his work. His award winning short films include Fulgenzio, Natalino, Tattoo, La lezione and Haukna Matata. Aldo has also worked in Television, is a directing professor at the Film Academy Romeur and is currently working on his first feature film.
The actors in the film are not professionals, but men who the director got to know after living alongside them. Cinematographer Daniele Ciprì is best known for his film It was the Son and was nominated for a David di Donatello award at the Italian Academy for Cinema. Award winning editor Marco Spoletini won the David di Donatello award at the Italian Academy for Cinema, for his work on Gommorah and he edited this special film. Producer Andrette Lo Conte studied in Italy and went on to obtain her masters degree in TV and Cinema at the Royal Holloway University of London. In 2013 she launched Freak Factory production company and is now in development for her first feature In Utero, a psychological horror.
What gave you the idea for the film?
It’s based on a story written by my brother Severino. We wanted to use soccer as a metaphor for an endless and yet very contemporary affliction: in a soccer field, you find your friends, your enemies, rules to follow, cheating, winning, losing. Just like you do in your everyday life. I found myself shooting the story in my mind as I was still reading it, so we started developing at once. I consider Severino my main screenwriter not because he’s my brother: we share the same crave to tell stories about primordial human feelings and the same effort to be able to take a still of what surrounds us. Penalty is not a story about migration: it’s a story about humanity.
Please describe your film for people who may not have seen it yet?
Penalty tells a story about 10 men playing a football match in the middle of nowhere. As a storm breaks above them, the referee finds himself having a tough decision to make, as there is much more at stake than a simple game.
Where did you shoot the film?
We shot in Italy, in Crotone, my hometown, a city that has a long tradition as a multicultural pole.
Pitagora, a migrant, father of the music and mathematic, founded there his school. It was important to me to shoot my story there for this symbolic heritage as much as for its qualities as a location. This choice gave my story a “nowhere” environment that could be ancient, far and evocative.
We are in the middle of a very specific “nowhere” with a specific character of its own. The mind of the audience could place the story everywhere: I just gave them the specific taste of the place.
What feedback have you been getting from audiences?
We received a huge feedback from all around the world and I must say I am very happy about it. Every time lots of people decide to stay after the screenings in theaters to discuss the movie with us and they always seem to express the same emotions that I felt building the story: humanity, people and struggle for survival more than politics, guilt or immigration. To me, that’s the real achievement. That’s where we score our goal as storytellers: encouraging empathy, not just simple opinions.
Please tell us about your previous work?
I shot several short films before doing Penalty. I love to investigate human emotions from different points of view and I like to experiment it through different genres: Dramedy, drama, comedy, thriller, horror. Most of the times are not even my choice: is the story that suggests to me the best “tailoring” to use with it.
What have you got coming up?
The script of feature “In Utero” is ready. It’s a great script, the same crew of screenwriters from Penalty. It will be “The Shining meets Rosemary’s Baby”. With “In Utero” I want to tell how terrible and empty life can be without hosting love. It’s going to be a touching psychological horror: I consider it a very stimulating challenge for a first feature. And then I’m working on the script for “When The Man Comes Around”, a dramedy about galactic ecology. It’s going to mix Groundhog Day with Back to the Future in the flavor of, let’s say, a Cohen Brothers’ story. I have indeed a lot of stories that want to be told. Lucky for me, I have a faithful crew on my side that wants to tell them at least as much as I do.
How did you choose the actors for the film?
I spent three months in migration facilities before realizing that Penalty could have been where fiction meets reality. So I spent three months with my actors, listening to their stories and understanding their lives. We built a great team, just like you would do in sports.
That’s one of the reasons why I deliberately wanted to work with non-trained actors: I wanted the story to express itself through real eyes, eyes that saw things we can’t even imagine. With eyes like that, you don’t need to stress out nothing. The naturalistic frame did the rest, providing a silent and discrete environment that lets us concentrate on what’s going on in this game.
What advice would you give to new directors?
Love your Cinema, study your Cinema and shoot a lot of it. Confront yourself with people that you esteem. Defend your ideas, but listen carefully to what your crew advises you. Building a great team is the key to your work: if you really believe in your story, they will too. And if they believe, the story will be told.
What was your best experience when making this film?
It’s been an incredible human and professional experience. I had the chance to work with Daniele Cipri, one of the best and most daring directors of photography in Italy. He believed in all my ideas and visions: I had his support even when I decided to shoot during a storm. And I loved to work with a great editor such as Marco Spoletini: he followed my storytelling setting the right pace for the story.
But my best personal memory of this film is the time spent with my actors. They changed my life: I keep within me every single detail of the stories they’ve chosen to tell me. We shared sacrifice, emotions, work and today, we share a real friendship.