This film must be a reaction, a challenge, an act of love, a questioning.
It’s a reaction and a response to the “Old Europe” and
to the “New America.” A bottle thrown in the sea.
Set in the early 1900s, this is the story of one family who, along
with a million other families, decides to abandon their native soil
in order to establish themselves in another world.
These are good-willed people and, when put to the test, are immune
to manipulation and exploitation. They are people who, despite everything,
still have faith: they are gullible, hopeful and are equipped with
too great a faith in mankind until finally, during the long crossing
to America, they are stripped of that faith.
They are men and women of another time who are forced to live a new
life, far away, in cities and factories...inspired by the promise of
progress. An entire “old” generation—whose survival
depended for centuries on their native soil, their animals, the sun
and the seasons—disappears with their departure.
They move towards a “virgin land,” immense and rich, where
everything is yet to be built and cultivated, where the ground impatiently
awaits the arrival of the men and women ready to sacrifice themselves
for what will certainly be a better life, certainly an easier life,
certainly a more human life, certainly...
The first time I spoke about this film, I called it “Titanic
of the Poor.” The challenge consisted of carrying out a production
that looked very expensive for very little money. This choice was not
imposed on me by the industry, but instead was an artistic and stylistic
choice for the way I wanted to tell this story.
This is a story about the power of imagination, a journey guided by
a dream. I wanted to imagine a world as it was imagined by those who
left their homes: a world where giant potatoes grew, where milk flowed
in rivers, where roads were made of gold and buildings of silver. America,
for me, was not just a nation, but a state of mind, a desire, an adventure…America
was an idea!
The challenge was stylistic. The restrictions to overcome were technical.
I wanted to shoot the film like a director from the 1920s; I wanted
to go back in time by using the most fundamental elements of filmmaking:
the frame, the lighting, the mise-en-scène, the sound. I wanted
to travel light on this voyage: few instruments but used to their fullest, “less
I wanted to create and reproduce, not reality, but the suggestion of
an intimate and personal reality. Accuracy does not interest me. I
was not seeking to recreate a historical period meticulously but rather
I wanted to find the spirit of the early 1900s: How did these men speak?
What did they think and experience? What were the challenges they faced
a hundred years ago?
AN ACT OF LOVE
An act of love for all those who uprooted their
lives and gave up their native land in the search of a better life.
Seen as deserters in their native country, they became foreigners in
the country that took them in. The immigrants were and still are at
an impasse as they are trapped between their past and future.
than give answers, I prefer to raise questions: What would America
be like without Europe? And Europe without America? Indeed, history
has never witnessed a migration as massive as the one that took place
in America between the end of the 1800s and the beginning of the 1900s.
A CHOICE OF LANGUAGE
The dialogue must correspond to the overall style of the film: bare,
concise, focused on the essential. Our heroes are not talkative; they
reveal their emotions through their body language in keeping with the
universal tradition of art, which is expressed initially through images.
I am not a filmmaker who makes a film at any cost. A film must have
its own raison d’être. For me, this film does.