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Thursday, July 2, 2015

Catching Up with Neapolitan Artist, Musician and Filmmaker- Riccardo Zinna

Born in Naples in 1958, Riccardo Zinna truly is a jack of all trades. He's a natural born artist who does it all. He's an actor, musician and visual artist with no formal training. Yet, he has risen to the top of his game in each of his artistic fields. He credits his mother's passion for life and her support and confidence in him to live his life freely and do what makes him happy. 

Zinna is best known in Italy as a television and film star. He has done many supporting roles in high profile films such as Gabriele Salvatores' thriller, "Io non ho paura" and Nanni Morretti's, "Caro diario." However, he’s proven that he can carry the lead role as well. He did so with great success in Toni D'Angelo's 2008 breakout hit, "Una Notte." The film follows a group of old friends who were brought together by the sudden death of one of their comrades. Zinna takes on the role of a musician who gave up on his dream for a more realistic career in finance. He rediscovers his passion for music after spending a night traveling the streets of Naples with his beloved old friends and an eccentric taxi driver played by the director’s iconic father and Neapolitan crooner, Nino D'Angelo.

Read my interview with Toni D'Angelo

In addition to film, he has been a key player in an elite group of Neapolitan artists who go between cinema, television and theatre. That group includes what I like to call, maestros in the making; Silvio Orlando, Toni Servillo, Paolo Sorrentino and of course, Riccardo Zinna. These filmmakers, full of Neapolitan pride, have taken the stories and landscapes from their historic homeland and transmitted them throughout the world through their passion and their art.

Riccardo and moi at his art exhibit in Rome
I spoke with Riccardo Zinna about his career and the famous Neapolitans with whom he collaborates.

It seems that you have been acting nearly all of your life. Have you always felt that your destiny was to be an actor?
Absolutely not!  When I was 16 years old, I was in a band where I sang and played guitar. Silvio Orlando, who went on to become a famous actor in Italy, was also in the group. He played the flute. From there, we took part in a theatre production under the direction of maestro, Roberto De Simone, writer and director of the now legendary production, "La gatta cenerentola”. After that experience, I became busy with theatre and founded a company in the 70's that collaborated on productions with other companies in the community. So everything just fell into place.

Read my interview with Silvio Orlando.

Have your Neapolitan origins influenced your work as an artist? 
Yes, Naples has definitely influenced my work as an artist.  It's a magical city, rich with inspiration. Life is sometimes difficult in Naples, but it has a unique vitality that really cannot be found anywhere else in the world.

Video Clip from "Nessun messaggio in segreteria" - Scene with Pierfrancsco Favino


Tell me about your experience working on "Una Notte".  What was it like working with someone as experienced as Nino D’Angelo while also working with his son Toni, who is a new filmmaker?
It was such a joy to work on this film. It took about a month to shoot, and to go through Naples at night for four weeks, is already an experience in itself! (Even if most travel agencies would not advise it!) Then if you have a taxi driver named Nino D'Angelo driving you around, it becomes an exceptional experience!  Nino D'Angelo adores Naples and to spend time driving around with him at night really heightened the experienced and showed Naples for the amazing place that it is. Perhaps because it's an independent film, there was a perfect harmony between cast and crew, something rarely found on the set of bigger productions. The crew faced many challenges in making this smaller production reach the standards requiring it to be viewed in a competitive arena with other big budget movies. It ended up being a huge success and has been recognized all over the world. The film's success can be attributed to the director's passion, enthusiasm and determination to tell this story and turn his dream into a reality.  With a low budget film like this, it was interesting to see the creative process take over where the expensive technical equipment couldn't otherwise provide.  It's a combination of the atmosphere on the set, the beautiful city of Naples, the intensity of the subject matter and the great company of the cast and crew that makes me feel privileged to have worked on this film.

Tell me about your experience working with another one of your Neapolitan counterparts, Toni Servillo.
In one half of its 90 years,  I have participated in the show "Zingari" by Raffaele Viviani under the direction of Toni Servillo. We took part in a major tour, which brought us all over Italy and Europe.  It was an interesting experience to work with such a talented director and cast. Toni is a highly respected actor and director with a deep respect for his profession.  He has a clear vision of what he wants to achieve through cinema, and he obtains those goals through hard work. He is always studying his craft.

You've also built a name for yourself in the music industry.  How long have you been playing?   Do you usually play professionally, or is it a hobby for you?   
I have always been involved in music. I started playing guitar when I was 12 years old. Then I started to play the trumpet. I never intended to make a profession out of it, but through the years, I have composed music for theatre productions and radio broadcasts.  Recently, I did the soundtrack for Toni D'Angelo's latest film, which was in competition at last year's Venice Film Festival. The film is a documentary about poets living and working in Rome.

You're also a visual artist... When did you begin to paint
When I was a teenager in high school, I took some art classes but it's only been within the last 10 years that I picked up a paint brush and started to paint again. It's something that I really enjoy. 

Are there any artists (visual, film or music) that have influenced your work?
Well, I imagine that everything that I've gone through in life, all of the experiences that I've had are reflected in my work. However, I recently saw something on You Tube that really moved me.  It was an old film choreographed by Pina Bausch for "The Man I Love" by Gershwin. It's just fantastic!


Are there any filmmakers that you'd still like to work with?
Yes, there are many, such as Martin Scorsese, Quentin Tarantino, Aki Kaurismaky, Emir Kusturica, Kim Ki Duk, Milos Forman and Pedro Almodóvar.. just to name a few!

Riccardo Zinna has already achieved so much in his life and career as an artist, but he's just getting started. He continues to paint, compose music and explore his Neapolitan roots in film and theatre. Many of Zinna’s films are available for purchase through Amazon, including "Benvenuti al Sud", "Io non ho paura" and "Caro diario".

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