Director Roan Johnson

<em>Piuma </em>

This frenetically paced, dialogue-packed comedy follows a young, completely unprepared couple in Rome debating amongst each other and with family and friends whether to have their child. The themes are universal, though many of the details and much of the style is uniquely Italian.

What made you compelled to tell this story?

Everything started four years ago when my girlfriend and I started to ask the question of whether we should have children or not. Why were we so scared of having children? We weren’t the only ones asking these questions. We saw everybody of our generation have this kind of fear.

We understood that something had drastically changed in our society. Until 50 years ago, having children would have been the most natural thing in the world, but now it was starting to seem like a huge challenge, something to be afraid of, something that had become a choice. So we wanted to make a comedy about this.

But we also understood that we had to put a distance between us and the characters in the film: the conflicts would be better, the drama would be more intense, and the family scenes would be more funny.

The characters are quite exuberant as is the dialogue, reminiscent of Woody Allen.

It’s not the first time that somebody mentions Woody Allen. We are obviously grateful, but we never thought about Woody Allen as one of our models. Actually, we tend not to have a model. The closest thing would be the American independent comedies.

Probably the resemblance is that the movie has a lot of dialogue in it. I like to write dialogues. I’m not the guy that gets thrilled by action or special effects. I really appreciate when the actors and I work deeply on each line. The movies that I prefer are always mades out of very real characters that can get funny or even surreal, but without being unreal or fake.

Italy is very Catholic, and this film touches on unwed mothers, abortion, and other hot topics. How was that received?

I was quite scared that the movie would get pro-life sympathies or get into a political debate. But I don’t think the movie is about abortion. We tried to get past that by having the girl choose between having a child during the not-perfect moment or not to have children any more at all. So the choice is much more difficult. It’s not about abortion. We made a movie about becoming parents and coping with the expectations and fears that you have.

How has this film been received in Italy?

The biggest thing was going into competition in Venice. That was a huge surprise for us. I’ve made two other movies, but I’m not a name like Sorrentino, and there were no top stars in this movie. At least until five years ago, it was unusual in Italy to have a comedy like this. In Italy, in the 1980s and 1990s, you had just auteur, very niche, difficult movies or really stupid comedies, and there is a very narrow space between those two poles. Things are changing, and Piuma is a part of this. There was some complaining about a comedy in competition in Venice. It’s a taboo. But this is the battle that we are fighting in Italy.


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