CICI Film Festival + Venice Film Festival 2015 / by Ash G

Back in mid July, I woke up one morning to an email from the CICI Association telling me that I am 1 in 10 filmmakers from around the world selected to go to Italy to make a film in 5 days. Garson and I spent the rest of the month planning the film, getting our crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo live so we could get funds to book tickets/rent equipment etc, and all this while I was packing and having to deal with the heartbreak of leaving Austin/Garson and moving back to Singapore.

When mid August rolled around, I flew into Naples from Singapore - I had only just got back from Austin - and Garson flew from Austin; we had a tearful (on my end) reunion at the airport - yes, very cliché - and it made an old lady smile. From there, we took a shoddy looking train to get to San Potito Sannitico, the little mountain town that all this shebang was taking place at.

San Potito Sannitico is absolutely stunning: winding cobblestone roads, old rustic two storey houses, all surrounded by the epic mountains. It's such a small town that it was frustrating at first not being able to eat anywhere, but we fell into the swing of things in no time. There is only ONE cafe open ever (at least to our knowledge) and that is where all the townspeople congregated. Within the week that we were there, we pretty much met everyone, and would see them at this cafe/bar all the time.

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We got to work with our film right away. Piero, our translator, turned out to be an amazing producer/AD and kept all of us in line and on schedule, on top of translating my directions to Luigi, our actor. Speaking of Luigi, I swear to God, he is the best actor I've worked with ever ever ever, and we just bumped into him at the cafe and asked if he would be interested in helping out. A total natural. There were so many people just leaping to help us with anything and everything. Chiara and her boyfriend Elio offered us everything from their home to their hands (they climbed up a mountain with us with our prop mirrors) to their cigarettes. We had all our meals at Pasquale's bed and breakfast, all made by his mother - grandma food is always the best, even if I wasn't used to the bread on bread on cheese on bread Italian diet. I also remember having to sit at his place for his wifi to talk to Carlos in LA because he scored the film for us, having to struggle with the time difference and the imminent deadline. It all worked out though. And Cristian and his girlfriend, who helped us on the mountain and acted for us... This film absolutely could not have been made without all of these people, and more.

After 5 tireless days, we finished the film. Luigi on the Rocks premiered right there on the cobblestone roads of San Potito Sannitico to the townspeople, the other 9 filmmaking teams and the panel of judges. It was something, seeing the manifestation of 5 days of hard work on the big screens. I am actually so happy to be able to say that that is my proudest work yet, and knowing that so many people were behind it is so incredibly humbling and gives me so much joy. 

AND... WE WON THE FESTIVAL!

I remember being in numb disbelief. It's crazy how things work out. Back in Austin, I made Intimate Detachment the semester just past and I submitted it while applying for the CiCi Film Festival as a showcase of my ability. I got accepted, and we went to Italy. In 5 days and with a collective support from all our friends, families and the town, we made Luigi on the Rocks... And it won us a prize money of €1000, which we used to buy Garson's plane ticket to come see me in December. We're going to try and make a film. One thing leads to another, even if you don't know what it will be. and because of this, I will always believe in the Universe.

WATCH LUIGI ON THE ROCKS HERE.

We left filled with shock and an ecstatic joy - we won the film festival? we won the goddamn film festival! -and headed to Naples. It was bittersweet though, because Garson was going to leave the next day, and I would be heading up to Venice to catch the Venice Film Festival and meet up with Max.

We spent our last day together walking around Naples aimlessly, eventually retreating to our private room at the really dope ArtHostel with wine and beers, trying to make those final moments last forever. I have said good bye many times to many people and places I loved... And it never gets easier.

Hopped on a train to Venice - met Max!!!!! Venice was honestly a selfie stick tourist hell hole, I'm sure it would've been a lot nicer if I wasn't there during the peak of tourist season. Took awhile for us to get used to the dead ends and canals, and although I might not be down with suffocating tourists I was totally down with €1.50 gelatos. 

Films we watched:
1. Winter On Fire by Evgeny Afineevsky: An intense documentary about the Ukranian revolution that made me cry all the way through. After the screening Max and I sat by the sea wordlessly, emotions tumultuous. It's out on Netflix October 18, everyone should watch it.
2. L'Attesa by Piero Messina: Fucking beautiful masterpiece. Effortless, poignant, touching. Definitely ranks high up in my favorite films of all time.
3. Francofonia by Aleksandr Sokurov
4. Marguerite by Xavier Giannoli

Was so fun chilling with Max, exploring a new city together and watching some sick films. Max left Austin a month before I did to move to France permanently, and we never thought we would see each other again so soon, in Italy no less! So happy because I love Max to bits, and our bicycle adventures (especially the impromptu 3am ones) around Austin were some of my favorite memories from living there.

I guess some people just stick around in your life in the most unexpected and lovely ways. Here's a reminder to self to never take them for granted.