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Faces of the Festival: Ferzan Ozpetek

Meet Ferzan Ozpetek, the director of the delightful Italian family comedy Loose Cannons. Lovely southern Italy landscapes + swoony Italian actors—sounds like a recipe for La Dolce Vita. Tell us a little about Loose Cannons.


Ferzan Ozpetek
Loose Cannons is a film about family secrets, some of which are open but unacknowledged, others that are truly hidden and very surprising when they finally surface. Tommaso, fantastically interpreted by Riccardo Scamarcio, who has created his own life in Rome, goes home to Lecce in Southern Italy for a family party where his father intends to hand over the family firm to him and his brother. But as it turns out, not everything is what it seems. Not only does Tommaso have to stay for much longer than he had thought, he also has to come to terms with who he is and who he wants to be. What inspired you to tell this story?


A lot of my work deals with different angles on the concept of family, both the biological one you are born into and the one you build for yourself as you grow up. Loose Cannons began with an idea about something that actually happened to a friend of mine. It started off with a confession-revelation between two brothers, an event which almost destroyed my friend. Loose Cannons is a very personal film. I have dedicated it to my father who passed away a year ago, perhaps because having reached 50, I felt some kind of need to look back, to re-evaluate my relationship with my own parents and family that shares some aspects with the story I tell. What's the craziest thing (or "lightning strikes" moment) that happened while making the film?


There wasn't so much a particular moment, but rather an intense process of falling in love. The film is set in the Apulian town of Lecce, a place I visited for the first time eight years ago and simply fell in love with. There is a marvelous atmosphere in Lecce with the beauty of its architecture, the surrounding landscape, and the excellent food, all of which chimed with the story. It is very rich in traditions, just like the family in the story, and the setting became almost an additional character. I have to say that following this Lecce experience, I feel stronger; so many new people have entered my life, many new friends from the Salento area who I hope will continue to be a part of my life for a long time.


Loose Cannons What's the biggest thing you learned while making Loose Cannons?


You have got to trust your actors! I didn't exactly learn this only now, but the sense of the script as a collaboration was especially strong with Loose Cannons. Before starting the shoot, I wrote the screenplay with Ivan Cotroneo, who came to the set while I was filming in Apulia, and together we changed some dialogue and scenes according to the mood on the set. There were various modifications and rewrites as well as a fair amount of improvisation. I was lucky to have such a stellar cast of actors who I could sometimes tell to run with their scenes, and some of the funniest scenes are theirs as much as mine or Ivan's. What's your advice for aspiring filmmakers?


Put your heart in everything you do and take the long view. I was fortunate to have a long apprenticeship as assistant directors with many outstanding but very different filmmakers from Mario Bava to Marco Risi or Massimo Troisi. But I also had to wait into my mid-thirties for the chance to direct my first feature, Hamam (The Turkish Bath). Sometimes, it takes patience. What are your hopes for the film at Tribeca? How do you think New York audiences will respond?

FO: New York is one of the big creative centers of the world, and to me it has always felt like a special privilege to be represented here. Most of my films were released in the US, and New York especially has always been very hospitable to my work. I hope the same holds for Loose Cannons. There is a specific Mediterranean atmosphere about the film that I hope the Tribeca audience will relate to. At the same time, its story is universal—everybody has a family, and everybody has to realize who they are in this context, positively, negatively, or ambiguously. And I hope people will laugh because even though it deals with serious issues, the film is a about life's absurdities, too. It is a true comedy of manners. If you could have dinner with any filmmaker (alive or dead), who would it be?

FO: If I can dream, it would be two of the greats: Michael Powell and Vittorio de Sica. That should make for very interesting dinner conversation. What piece of art (book/film/music/tv show/what-have-you) are you currently recommending to your friends most often?

FO: Well, let's do the first three: Hungarian-Swiss writer Agota Kristof's trilogy The Notebook, The Proof, The Third Lie, an amazingly evocative novel about Central Europe at war; French director Jacques Audiard's tough film A Prophet; the song Kutlama by Turkish pop diva Sezen Aksu.


Loose Cannons What would your biopic be called?

FO: An Italian critic recently was kind enough to call a monograph about my work so far Ad Occhi Aperti (With Open Eyes). I hope that is true about my life, too. What makes Loose Cannons a Tribeca must-see?

FO: It's a comedy, and audiences in all screening so far laughed a lot, but it's not an escapist fantasy. I certainly don't try to teach anything in the film, but in addition to being amused, the audience might still learn something – about their own relationships with their family and their friends, about what it means or does not mean to be gay in a society that still has problems to come to terms with homosexuality. And last but not least, I think Tribeca audiences cannot afford to miss the performance of the ensemble cast. Most actors in Loose Cannons are major stars in their own right in Italy, and the way they pulled together really made the film.


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