Phi was lucky enough to interview him as part of our Urban Profiles series in our Urban Issue, chatting about his role at the Workshop, British and Italian cinema and what life is like in London as a migrant.
You work at The Workshop in Lambeth, an exciting pop-up venue for all sorts of exhibitions and events. What has your time there shown you about the varieties of cultures and interests of a city like London and beyond?
Oh well, I joined The Workshop in May 2017, and I was fascinated to work in a space where so many things were joined together. Because here we have a lot: the Migration Museum, a museum projecting into the future of the city and the country. You have the London Fire Brigade Museum which is temporary and quite small but it is interesting because it comes to celebrate a very popular part of London life (and it’s interesting because it was part of the old museum in Southwark which closed and to avoid any gap in the spreading of the knowledge of London Fire Brigade activities before the new museum starts in 2021 they decided to put this small museum here). So it is great to see how a tradition – a 150 year old tradition – still is alive and kept for the future generations – children especially really love it!
Then we have the activities: The Institute of Imagination which runs activities for children, we have the studios of various artists – and what I like is to see people from different parts of England or even different countries working together here. And sometimes, with the guests that come from outside, to serve the community of Lambeth by spreading a sense of community, a sense of creativity and fantasy, in working all together to provide entertainment but also knowledge to our visitors. So that’s what fascinated me.
The Workshop is now home to the Migration Museum of Britain – a partner you have generally collaborated with during your time here. Can you tell us a little more about them and their new exhibition: Room to Breathe?
I very much like the exhibits of the Migration Museum, I liked the way that they wanted to push through certain kinds of questions and issues in a time in which migration is a key theme of the life of the entirety of Britain, with Brexit too.
So, this is the third exhibition. The first one was Call Me By My Name and it was a sort of recreation of the conditions of life in the camps in Calais. The second one was a bit more historical, No Turning Back, was a history of migration from the time of the Huguenots to the contemporary times. Room to Breathe is a bit more immersive because we are talking about rooms, a space divided into rooms, in which lots of details bring you into a story of migration. Clothes, food, everything has a label telling a story belonging to the person who brought it here. And all these small parts, all the small histories come together to create an entire room where you can really lose yourself and explore not only migration but what living in a another country means – which really fascinated me with this project.
In terms of my collaboration with Migration Museum, it has been very enthusiastic because I feel, coming from a country also made of migration, that I should give a personal contribution in spreading the word. So, I was happy to have involved them with the screening of CinemaItaliaUK’s A Ciambra because I wanted to bring their presence to the attention of the wider community, and Italians in particular.
I’m happy to spread the word now about their new exhibition because I’ve never liked the concept of seeing myself, for instance, as an Italian living in London, in the sense of staying only with Italian people, going only to Italian restaurants and going only to Italian events – I mean if I moved here, I moved because I wanted to explore a different country. So, I’m really happy to work in a place where a lot of nations are brought together. So it’s important for me to – this concept, now that I am a migrant, is even more personal. And, this Museum allows me to help people understand – even if I think of people from my own country who have very questionable views about migration – it helps me to remind them I’m a migrant too!
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‘Room to Breathe’ opens today! An immersive exhibition @migrationmuseumuk (in Vauxhall @theworkshopldn), sharing migrant experiences through a series of rooms and objects. I had the pleasure of animating several food stories, to be viewed while seated at a communal dining table. #roomtobreathe #migrationmuseumproject #animation #digitalprojection
In relation to this, your role as CinemaItaliaUK’s Programmer must have exposed you to many films about city life – how do Italian depictions of cities differ from their English or even American counterparts?
Well, we have to think about the fact that the majority of Italian films are set in Rome so you see how life is in Rome. Which actually gives you a really good spectrum on how life is in Italy, even if some regional differences are set aside. I’ve always loved British cinema because of the way actors and screenwriters build characters. Italian cinema, actually, has has an increase of good movies in the last twenty years or so. I am very supportive when it comes to those Italian directors or screenwriters that want to do something different – like for instance They Call Me Jeeg Robot, or the Invisible Boy, or Cinderella’s Cat, the animated movie. Because while we do have a lot of dramas and comedies, sometimes we tend to focus too much on dramas and comedies. One of my favourite directors in Italian cinema at the moment is Stefano Sollima – I’ve always liked his approach – he really took a very American approach when filming Romanzo Criminale, the TV Series, but he really took the best of it. In terms of choice of actors, choice of soundtrack and a certain kind of direction. And I really think that sometimes Italian cinema should really be a bit more ‘international’ – not sacrificing those parts, those characteristics, a certain kind of wit, a construction of the characters which are its greatest pros, but sometimes I would like to see a bit more bravery.
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Thank.you to everyone who joined our special preview of #TheCiambra at @regentstreetcinema in collaboration with @peccapics. Thank you #AssuntaNicolini and @migrationmuseumproject for your support and thanks to our sponsors @etnacoffee and #ConsolatoItaliano. Photo Credits: #AnitaCorapi.
Word on the street says you’re quite the cinefile – what is the best film depicting city life in your view? Why?
It’s a good question – there are many. If I think about one, and it’s talking about a culture I never explored, is Lost in Translation. Because I have never been to Japan but when I saw it I has just recently come to London for the first time and I really felt that sense of being placed in a different part of the world even if just for a few days. In a different kind of city, which is very big with a lot of sensory stimulations. It’s a great example of being lost in a very big city, especially if you come from a different one.
What the best song(s) to commute to?
Oh my god. When the connection works(!) the people I usually listen to are the great composer Hans Zimmer and Sia. Which are quite different but I need something that doesn’t make me think about where we are stuck!
What is your go to place in London?
I would say Tate Britain or Regent’s Park – go there just because they are amazing places.