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HEDERA - Volume I: An Interview with Angelo Chiacchio

Please tell us about the projects you worked on before making ‘HEDERA’. How did you start, and how did you learn to make films?

I was born in Episcopia, a small village in Basilicata, so I didn’t have much access to movie theatres. However, VHS, satellite TV and later the Internet gave me the possibility to discover tons of movies. Watching them I unconsciously learned about cinematic language.

I started shooting short videos with my friends when I was 16 years old, and continued exploring the medium later during my design studies, working on documentaries, stop-motion and CGI animation. 

My first filmmaking project that took a lot of effort and reached a wider audience was Italia Senza Tempo, that I started in 2013 with Walter Molfese, another filmmaker from Episcopia. We set on long journeys around some of the most beautiful Italian natural parks to tell about the Italian natural heritage.

This gave me a taste for exploration but also a necessity to add the human part. All this later inspired the documentary project EPHEMERA (, a solo journey around the world to tell about disappearing cultural and natural diversity. In 2018 I traveled solo for 300 days to experience and document culture and ecosystem endangered by environmental and socio-economical shifts. This is still a work in progress.

Director Angelo Chiacchio

Tell us about ‘HEDERA’. How do you describe it?

HEDERA is the intimate story of seven dancers, from the company of Balletto Lucano (Luana Filardi, Antonella Fittipaldi, Maria Focaraccio, Teresa Morisano, Sara Pennella, Antonio Polito, Agnese Trippa), rediscovering and reuniting with their homeland after developing their art around the globe.It is an experimental project in both the way it is imagined and produced. It’s something between a documentary and a dance film. It’s a sort of documentary because it’s rooted in reality, it shows real places and tells real personal stories. It is a dance movie because the stories are told through the movement of the body. The 8-parts film captures the improvisational performance of the dancers almost like a live show. Each performance was shot only twice, with two long takes : one with a 14mm lens and the second with a 50mm lens to capture details. Each chapter is the expression of only one dancer and only one filmmaker who let their artistic souls vibrate with the location. Each place is a main character as much as the dancer.

Where the storytelling gets more cinematic compared a typical documentary is that we decided to have the dancers writing and reading a poetical text expressing their feelings, instead of simply interviewing them. This allows for a deeper connection between the audience and the dancers, I think.


What was the hardest part of making ‘HEDERA’?

The whole production took place in eight locations during only one week, and the budget was less than 12000 USD. Therefore it was very difficult to have the whole cast in Basilicata at the same time and then moving from one place to another while getting there with the best lighting conditions. I like using natural light as much as possible and the budget and timing didn’t allowed for more gear anyway. Sound was also a challenge, because I wanted an intimate sound, feel the breathing of the dancers without having a sound guy limiting the movement of both the dancer and the camera. The best compromise I could find was setting a lightweight wireless Lavalier mic on the dancers, which is inevitably visible in some shots.


Please tell us about your favorite filmmakers.

I always liked the works and the approach of Italian neorealism masters such as Fellini, Rossellini and Visconti. They were able to create masterpieces using what they had at hand, without fancy productions. As a designer, I also love how Peter Greenaway uses colours and composition in a really graphic manner. Also, he was a pioneer in using digital cameras, formats and editing tools.


If you were given a good budget, what would be your ideal project?

The company of Balletto Lucano directed by Loredana Calabrese has a peculiar way of working, that they call “danse terroir”. It means that they use the natural and urban landscape of Basilicata as their raw material and scene, in the same way “cuisine terroir” makes dishes inspired from and made by local produce.

I’d like to continue experimenting with the company on the Volume II of HEDERA. A proper budget would allow us to work on a film at the level of our ideas and, let’s be honest, to give each artist a pay at the level of their talent. I would also love to be freed of the limit of logistics. There are a lot of beautiful natural scenery in Basilicata that would make incredible film locations but are difficult to access for a low-budget production.


Describe how you would ensure that production is on schedule. What steps would you take?

For HEDERA Volume II, I think developing a detailed schedule with additional buffer days and using a small, agile crew with lightweight equipment would allow us to stay efficient while improving the final quality of our production. Ensuring health and safety through adequate first aid and hydration, along with contingency plans, would mitigate the risks associated to reaching and performing on remote locations. In post-production, reviewing dailies on-site and backing up data would prevent delays and errors. Finally, having alternative locations and a reserve budget would provide some flexibility.


If possible, tell us about your next work. What plans do you have for your future work?

I would love to have a proper budget and the time to finally be able to finish writing and post-producing “A World of Difference”, the documentary series based on the EPHEMERA project. It would be a 4-parts miniseries that tells about the diversity we are losing in the world. It does so by crossing the stories of two Angelo Chiacchio: my grandfather who spent almost his entire life in Basilicata - a region which culture is also threatened  by globalisation - and myself, who have visited some of the most unique and endangered places of the planet. The series would merge all the footage and pictures shot around the world in 2018, with personal and public archive material from Basilicata and original animations.


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