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Interview – Aldo Iuliano – ‘Penalty’ – A Short Film


Posted September 6, 2017 by

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Interview – Aldo Iuliano

Aldo Iuliano’s award winning drama Penalty has been making waves in the film world, as this wonderful film has received nearly thirty awards and has been selected for five Academy qualifying Film Festivals. Now this exciting film will open in theatres in Los Angeles.

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.

Interview - Aldo Iuliano

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.

Penalty opens at the Arena Screen in Hollywood on August 4th and then in Santa Monica from 11-13th August.



To being with, tell us about your latest short film ‘Penalty’…

Penalty tells a story about 10 men playing football in the middle of nowhere.

As a storm breaks above them, the referee is faced with deciding the outcome of the match, but there is much more in the running than a simple match.

It’s not a political film, it’s not about immigration: it’s a film about humanity, survival, people.

How did you get involved with the film? Where did the idea come from?

My brother Severino is a screenwriter and he had the first idea. He uses the pen, I use the images, we always work together.

He had the idea of using football as a metaphor to represent human beings and it’s contradictions, social rules, and mistakes. While he was telling me about his idea I was clearly visualising the movie and the images we needed to chase. We started from that point to develop the rest.

We like to investigate human emotions, by using always different movie genre.

We discovered a lot of stories of survival that inspired us, but we didn’t want to make a work which “documented” something, we wanted to give the audience a strong emotion to make them think about a contemporary human condition. In the end, working on the plot and the next visual writing, the story became something more than a simple football match.

Tell us about the cast, who is starring in ‘Penalty?’

I wanted to choose non-actors who have had meaningful lives.

I found my actors in Crotone, my home city in Italy, in the immigration centre. I was there looking for the right faces and souls for my story.

Once I found my 14 protagonists, I chose to be always with them for 3 months in the immigration center where I found them. We were working as we were a football team.  We became friends, we worked hard , every day we had script rehearsal and physical rehearsal in the field. In the end, we were ready for 4 days of shooting. The main thing was not the nationality or the colour of the skin of my actors. In the plot, they are a group of men who come from the same place and become friends. All people in the world have to be able to identify themselves with the protagonists, each of us could live an emotion like that, in a similar world, together with other people.

I love cinema because it speaks to everybody. It’s universal.

And what about the location?

We shot in Crotone too, my home city. One of the most important migrants of the history, Pitagora, founded his school there. Crotone is the place of cultural contaminations, arrival, and departures of people. Symbolically it was important for me to shoot there, even if in the film it’s not important the place, it can be anywhere. The audience can decide by itself where this place is.

We have been shooting in really difficult conditions, but all that preparation together, the thing of having created a group, allowed us even to challenge a real storm. It arrived on that isolated field and it was really difficult to shoot, but it was a perfect storm for our story. It made nature itself a character, crying for what’s happening.

What are your influences as a filmmaker?

I was born as a cartoonist, and I fell in love with cinema thanks to Steven Spielberg, Federico Fellini, Stanley Kubrick, Sergio Leone, Martin Scorsese, Vittorio De Sica, Giuseppe Tornatore, the Cohen brothers, Tim Burton, David Lynch.

I make accurate storyboards by myself and I like to work with actors, adding the right shades to the script through their humanity. This is impossible to do in the comic strips, but they still are my first love.

When I speak about the director work I always like to quote my favourite super hero, Spiderman: “with great power comes great responsibility”. Who works in the film industry should always remember that, because we open people’s eyes and touch their soul, that’s a big responsibility.

What advice would you give any up-and-coming filmmakers, trying to crack the industry?

Don’t be afraid of telling stories you believe in. Even when everybody else tells you that “it’s too much”. Cinema allows this magic, to give “too much”, both positive or negative. The rest is not going to touch anybody. In Penalty, I defended strong narrative choices and few people believed in my ideas till the end. An important person I have to thanks is the producer Andrette lo Conte, who let me shoot everything I wanted, and Daniele Ciprí, great italian DOP who believed in every opinion I had.

Through the protagonists eyes, without many words, we built images which increase  the psychological pressure  in 14 minutes, until we get a punch in the stomach which awakens the conscious and makes you think about what’s left of humanity in this world.

Cinema has this big power, and each young filmmaker must be ready to defend his/her ideas, if it’s clear what the audience will receive at the end.

What is the next step for you? Do you have any other films in production?

I have different ideas in mind, I would like to go on with the investigation of human being and feelings. I have different movies of different genre, from fantasy to dramedy. But as the first one, “In Utero” is ready. I would like to talk about love through the nightmare of a single mother. I want to show through a psicological horror, style rosemary baby and shining, how life is empty without love. The final goal won’t be to scare, but to touch people.


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