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Sunday, July 26, 2015

Vittoria Puccini Becomes Oriana Fallaci in Marco Turco's "L'Oriana"

“There are moments in life when keeping silent becomes a fault, and speaking an obligation, a civic duty, a moral challenge, a categorical imperative from which we cannot escape.”

Those words come from a woman who dedicated her life to finding and exposing the truth, no matter how ugly it was. She defined the expression, "getting to the heart of the matter". She didn't give a second thought to risking her life in order to bring humanitarian stories to the front pages of newspapers all over the world. Oriana Fallaci, the journalist, was a respected professional that fought passionately for gender equality and human rights by going directly into the line of fire and confronting the sources. Now, filmmaker Marco Turco shows us the human being behind this iconic journalist in his television film that recently made its North American premiere at the Italian Contemporary Film Festival in Toronto.

"L'Oriana" is a thought-provoking portrait of one of Italy's most famed and controversial journalists. I discovered the work of Fallaci upon the publication of her final book, "The Rage and the Pride", which she wrote in response to the terrorist attacks of September 11th. The book is a confirmation of the themes carried throughout her career and further explores her beliefs and fury on Islamic terrorism, Jihad and the lack of reaction from the Western world. At the time of her death in 2006, she was facing charges of slandering Islam under Italian law following the publication of that book. I remember watching Paolo Virzì's film, "Caterina va in città" during the Open Roads film series at Lincoln Center that year when Margherita Buy's character made a reference to her. Then just a few months later, she was gone. But her legacy lives on in her novels and iconic interviews with numerous international pillars of pop culture and politics including Ayatollah Khomeini, Henry Kissinger, Anna Magnani and Antonio De Curtis (Totò) just to name a few.

During the entire span of her career, Fallaci received both praise and criticism, so it's no surprise that Turco's film garnered the same reactions. As an American watching, I definitely had a different perspective than Italians. So, I really had no criticism of the movie. In fact, I loved it. I laughed, I cried, I felt empathy and sadness. She had a hard life. She was in love a couple times, she had a miscarriage, she was always traveling, and ultimately she died alone. However, she lived a life full of passion and rich experiences. She felt that her career was her child and she never really got over the one love of her life, Georgios Papadopoulos, the subject of her novel, "Un Uomo". Turco's film shows her professional side just as much as her human side, and I really appreciate this quality. The screenplay was co-written by two of the best television writers working in Italy today- Sandro Petraglia and Stefano Rulli. So, you really can't go wrong with a team like that.

I spoke with director, Marco Turco over the phone while he was in Toronto presenting the film. He explained to me the most important aspect of Fallaci's character that he really wanted to capture with this film was her enormous passion for life. Much of his research included interviews with Fallaci's colleagues and friends. Then when casting an actress to portray Fallaci, he turned to Vittoria Puccini. The two had already worked on two films together, so she was his natural choice for the role.

Journalist, Maria Ilenia Crifò Ceraolo
Oriana Fallaci had such a complex career and international presence, I did not feel at liberty to write this article from my perspective alone. So, I enlisted the help of a young Sicilian journalist I met through social media. Her name is Maria Ilenia Crifò Ceraolo. She works as a print and online journalist. Her work has recently been published in "Il Lucano" Magazine of Basilicata and the website, www.gioiosatoday.it. I interviewed her in Italian and made an English translation, so I am publishing both versions.

Let's start at the beginning. What are your thoughts on the work of Oriana Fallaci?
I became familiar with Oriana Fallaci’s work a few years ago when I began reading her novel "Penelope at War" and I immediately became passionate about her. However, I really fell in love with her work after reading ,“A Man” earlier this year. That led me to start looking for interviews and articles written by her, and I was literally kidnapped. I think that Oriana Fallaci was far ahead of the time in which she lived. With her work ethic and insight, she opened the doors for not only journalists who came after her, but also for women in general.
Quali sono i tuoi pensieri sul lavoro di Oriana Fallaci?
Ho ‘conosciuto’ Oriana Fallaci qualche anno fa, leggendo il suo romanzo “Penelope alla guerra” e mi sono subito appassionata a lei. Ma l’ ‘amore vero’ è scoppiato leggendo “Un uomo” quest’anno. Da lì ho iniziato a cercare interviste e articoli da lei scritti e la sua figura mi ha letteralmente rapita. Penso che Oriana Fallaci fosse molto avanti rispetto ai tempi in cui viveva e che con il suo modo di lavorare abbia sfondato tante porte per le giornaliste che sono venute dopo di lei, ma anche per le donne in genere.
What did you think of Marco Turco's film, "L'Oriana"?
The film received its share of criticism. Although I am not in total agreement with all the critics, there were different aspects of the figure of Oriana Fallaci and her life that were not developed enough or were fictional. With that said, the film by Marco Turco allowed me to add some pieces in my personal journey of discovery of Fallaci.
Ed il film di Marco Turco? Ti è piaciuto?
Ho letto molte critiche negative su “L’Oriana”
di Marco Turco, tuttavia io non sono completamente d’accordo in merito. Sicuramente diversi aspetti della figura  di Oriana Fallaci  e della sua vita non sono stati sviluppati a sufficienza o sono stati romanzati, ma ricordiamoci che si tratta pur sempre di una “fiction” e, come suggerisce il termine stesso, quindi non si tratta di realtà. Inoltre, credo che ci siano delle esigenze cinematografiche che non consentano di essere del tutto fedeli al ‘vero storico’. Ad ogni modo, il film di Marco Turco mi ha permesso di aggiungere dei tasselli nel mio personale percorso di conoscenza della Fallaci.

In the film, Oriana Fallaci equates her career with having a child, explaining that she takes care of it, nurtures it and makes it a priority in her life. What do you feel are the challenges that women face in balancing a demanding career like journalism while having a healthy, fulfilling personal life?

Surely managing a career of any kind while simultaneously pursuing a family is not easy for women, who are 'multitasking' and facing various commitments in a single day. The main challenge is precisely being able to cover both sides of the coin, family and work. It is difficult, but not impossible.
Nel film di Marco Turco, Oriana Fallaci parla della sua carriera," è come avere un figlio", nel senso che si prende cura di lui e lo rende una priorità della sua vita. Quali sono le sfide delle donne che devono affrontare nel conciliare una carriera impegnativa come quella del giornalismo, e avere una famiglia?

Sicuramente gestire una carriera lavorativa di qualsiasi tipo (e non soltanto quella giornalistica, seppur sia fra le più impegnative) e portare avanti contemporaneamente una famiglia non è semplice per le donne, che sono ‘multitasking’ e devono affrontare impegni di vario tipo nel corso di una singola giornata. La principale sfida è quindi proprio quella di riuscire a far convivere bene le diverse facce della medaglia, famiglia e lavoro. Difficile, ma non impossibile. 
In this time of social media and selfies, do you feel that people tend to write the truth, or in many cases, journalists and bloggers just want to be accepted, so they'll get followers and retweets, sacrificing their true feelings and opinions for the sole purpose of gaining popularity?
This is a sore point. I think there's a good chunk of people riding the wave of popularity and therefore often, especially on social media, write what they think will please the public and will gain more popularity. However, in the midst are genuine voices. We just have to make more of an effort to find them. I think anyone who wants to be a journalist should know Oriana Fallaci’s work, not necessarily to love it, but to understand how much time, commitment and sacrifice it takes to become a true professional and how always being honest, even at the risk of sounding conflictive, can go a long way.
In questo storico dei social media e selfies, sente che le persone tendono a scrivere la verità o in molti casi i giornalisti e blogger vogliono solo essere  apprezzati e accettati in modo che otterranno  seguaci e retweet? Se fosse cosi, quindi, i loro veri sentimenti interiori, vengono messi da parte per il solo desiderio di ricercare popolarità.
Nota dolente questa. Penso che ci sia una buona fetta di persone che cavalca l’onda della popolarità e che quindi spesso, in particolare sui social media, scriva ciò che ritiene possa compiacere il pubblico dei lettori e far ottenere maggiore popolarità. Tuttavia non bisogna arrendersi perché in mezzo al frastuono di certi ‘tam tam’ esistono ancora voci genuine ed incondizionate: bisogna solo ricercarle con maggiore attenzione rispetto alle altre. Penso che chiunque voglia fare il giornalista dovrebbe conoscere la figura di Oriana Fallaci, non necessariamente per amarla, ma per capire quanto lavoro, impegno e sacrificio occorra per diventare dei veri professionisti e quanto l’essere sempre sinceri, anche a costo di sembrare spietati, possa portare lontano.


A scene from "L'Oriana"
At the end of the film, Fallaci gave advice to a young journalist, saying "Write the truth. It’s like a surgical instrument. It hurts, but it heals." What do you think of this advice?
I think it's good advice. In addition to being a journalist, I am also a writer and often write for the need of pulling something from inside me that I cannot express verbally. It makes me realize how sometimes it is not easy to deal with the truth, but it is very important personally and professionally to find a way.

Alla fine del film, ha dato consigli a un giovane giornalista, dicendo di "scrivere sempre la verità .. è come uno strumento chirurgico .. fa male, ma si guarisce." Cosa ne pensa di questo consiglio?
Credo che sia un ottimo consiglio. Oltre a svolgere il praticantato da giornalista, io sono anche una scrittrice e spesso scrivo per la necessità di tirare fuori qualcosa che ho dentro e che non riesco ad esprimere a voce. Mi rendo conto quindi di quanto a volte non sia facile confrontarsi con la verità, ma di quanto tuttavia scrivere il vero serva molto sia a livello personale che a livello professionale.
In your opinion, what are the innate qualities of Oriana’s personality and work ethic that have contributed to her legacy as a journalist?
Oriana Fallaci had lots of innate qualities. Her insight, tenacity and great intelligence are a few that immediately come to mind. Her legacy will be the example that she made in facing life’s challenges without surrendering, without being influenced, and trying to make society understand that we must see a woman’s potential rather than her weaknesses. Her legacy will also be in her encouragement to follow our instincts and to believe in ourselves.

Secondo lei, quali sono le qualità innate  di Oriana Fallaci e mettendo da parte ciò, qual è la sua eredità?
Oriana Fallaci possedeva tantissime qualità innate: la perspicacia, la tenacia ed una grande intelligenza, fra quelle che mi vengono subito a mente. La sua eredità dovrebbe risiedere nell’esempio che ci ha dato affrontando le sfide sia lavorative che della vita senza arrendersi e senza lasciarsi condizionare, cercando di far comprendere alla società che bisogna considerare l’essere donna una potenzialità e non una debolezza ed insegnandoci inoltre a seguire il nostro istinto ed a fidarci sempre di noi stessi.

Nearly a decade after her death, Oriana Fallaci's work is as relevant as ever. There are countless video clips, photos, articles and quotes on the internet. Her books are also easily available. Check back here for news on the international distribution of "L'Oriana".

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