«Santocielo» with Ficarra and Picone, a comedy in a different way. Director Francesco Amato speaks

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By John

A mix of comedy and fantasy genre with a focus on the problems of our time and paradox as a narrative strategy «Santocielo», return to cinema by Palermo artists Ficarra and Picone directed by Francesco Amato. Produced by Attilio De Razza for Tramp Limited in collaboration with Medusa, the film brings the ironic and paradoxical story of Aristide (Valentino Picone), an angel who, sent to Earth to mother the woman chosen to give birth to a new Messiah, becomes pregnant by mistake Nicola Balistreri (Salvo Ficarra), a bigoted professor obsessed with the prejudice of others. Dragged by events, the two will end up forming a team, or rather a family, in the hope of getting out of trouble without causing too much damage. “My goodness” it was filmed between Catania, Rome and the medieval village of Montalbano Elicona, in the Messina areawhere the two actors were highly applauded protagonists of a special screening.

«The film was born from two subjects written by Salvo and Valentino and me, dedicated to the presence of angels on Earth – says director Amato –. We had dealt with the theme of spirituality in their “The First Christmas” and in my “18 Gifts” and our editor Claudio Di Mauro brought us together, pushing us to write the screenplay, starting from scratch and taking into account the poetry and irony of cinema of Salvo and Valentino”.

The plot suggests that humanity has reached the end of the line and a new Messiah would be needed to put everything back in order. Is it a metaphor to call everyone to greater responsibility? And what could be identified with a new Universal Flood?
«“Santocielo” tells of a world close to decay and above all speaks of the need to rediscover a relationship with spirituality. He suggests how the relationship with God through prayer can be a tool for living with hope even in this complex era. Regarding the universal flood, we have already gone through the Covid era which I think has made us think and scare us enough. Maybe some trace of that fear is inside the films we make. In fact, comedy also aims to exorcise our fears, placing us in contact with situations that can recall hope.”

Another theme of the film is the relationship between the male and pregnancy, very “heartfelt” in an era in which men are finally asked to take on equal responsibilities to women in the family…
«We talk about new families and how family exists where there is love and respect. In the twentieth century, men had the sole task of supporting the family economically. Today things are changing and the film tries to tell them, talking about the love of a father for his son and therefore the need for affection on the male front, which is requested and demanded by both mothers and children. It’s a bit challenging to get this message across, because we grew up in a different culture, and “Santocielo” tries to make a contribution in this sense.”

You are from Turin with Palermo origins on your father’s side and you shot the film in Catania and Montalbano Elicona. How was this “homecoming”? Which Sicily is represented in the film?
«I had a great desire to shoot in Sicily and through Salvo and Valentino I met cinema professionals of extraordinary humanity: actors such as Mimmo Mignemi, Valentino Pizzuto, Clelia Piscitello, Luciano Messina and Antonello Puglisi. The Sicily in which we filmed is not the one we know. I wanted it to be understood that we were in Sicily, but the location should also have evoked universality, because this type of story could have been set anywhere. In the film Catania is a metropolitan and modern city whose name is never spoken, without scenes with historical monuments. The same goes for Montalbano Elicona, which was a cinematic revelation: a mountain place with an incredible view of the Aeolian Islands and a unique welcome from the inhabitants. The embrace between the production of the film and the city was truly special, of those things that you carry with you throughout your life.”

Supported by the Department of Tourism, Sport and Entertainment of the Sicilian Region and Sicily Film Commission, the film also stars Barbara Ronchi, Maria Chiara Giannetta, Giovanni Storti and the Catania actress Manuela Ventura.