One Kiss (Un Bacio) by Ivan Cotroneo: a slap to bullying and homophobia (UK release this November)

Sold out screening at Genesis Cinema on Sunday, November 6th for the London Premiere of  One Kiss (Un bacio) organised by Cinema Italia UK.

The rain and the usual London-November-ish weather, could not stop the desire to attend the screening of the latest highly acclaimed work of the Italian writer, screenwriter and director Ivan Cotroneo; a loud and clear scream against fear, bullying and homophobia.

Based on Cotroneo’s book published in 2010 and on the story of American student Larry King (2008), One Kiss tells the story of three teenagers: Antonio, Blu and LorenzoAntonio (Leonardo Pazzagli) is basketball player in high-school team, a rising star, but it doesn’t make him popular in the school in small northern Italian town. He is a closeted kid, most of time silent and grieving over older brother’s death (Alessandro Sperduti, Medici – Masters of Florence). Most of his teammates consider him a dumb. Blu (Valentina Romani) is a sharp and smart girl, who, after been discovered to have sex with her boyfriend Giò (Eugenio Franceschini, Medici-Masters of Florence) and three of his friends at the same time, is fighting with graffiti, calling her slut and sprayed on the school walls. The new kid Lorenzo (an outstanding Rimau Grillo Ritzberger) is openly gay. He is just adopted from orphanage in Turin and guards himself by extravagant behavior and extreme sense of fashion. The three teenagers starting an unusual, but good friendship, fighting back bullying schoolmates with immense success. But, then, one single kiss changes their future, leading to a great tragedy.

We met screenwriter and director Ivan Cotroneo few hours before the screening.

I’d like to start from the end. From the moment Blue says, “It wouldn’t have taken much.” What is for you the little that would be enough?

That was a part of the script on which, with Monica Rametta (his co-writer, en), we thought very hard. There has been pressure to change the ending of the film; but I wanted to tell the story of Larry King so I would not have given up that moment for anything in the world. At the same time, however, I wanted to add something, say something to the young people this movie is intended to talk to. The audience I meet touring to present my book few years ago; an audience terrified by bullying and scared. So I wanted Blu to tell them that things can be different, that they don’t have to be petrified by what is different or by others opinions about themselves  as happens to Antonio. Unfortunately, however, this little is so much in the society we live in. A society dominated by fear of what is different, the fear to break the mold both ways: fear towards the one who breaks the mold and fear to be the one who breaks the mold.

Have you noticed a change in the teenagers between when you have presented the book in schools (it was 2010) and today in which you have presented the film?

The screening of the film started from the schools. We preferred instead of sending him to a festival and to show it to critics and journalists, starting with a small tour in the schools and to show it to the recipients of the story: the teenagers because I wanted to understand if the film was able to speak to this kind of  audience and there I realized I succeeded. With my 48 years I was an adult who was able to talk to the teenagers. When I wrote the book I didn’t think of making a film of it but talking about the book in schools I understood  that it was necessary to making a movie based on it. I changed the story a little. Blu, for example is not in the book but comes from the stories of many girls who came to me during the book tour in the schools. Since 2010 the society is becoming more violent. We are at a time when Italy is doing much to discuss the law on civil unions with public demonstrations of extreme violence. And then we have to take into account, in fact in the book was hardly considered, the trend in recent years of cyber bullying. What I find improved is that the young people are very tired. Tired of feeling on themselves these labels, too tired to find it in the adult world against women and people with a different sexual orientation; and they are more curious towards what is different. The young people are ahead of the people who govern us.

We talk about the role of adults. We have seen in One Kiss that not always behind a troubled son there are inattentive parents and behind a bully one abusive ones. But in the school we see two different types of teachers: the teacher in the class in the violent ending (very close to Elena’s character in the book) who is close to the children and, on the other hand, the teacher who wants to suspend Lorenzo because he went to school with his nail polished wreaking havoc among the classmates, she is so frightened by this rupture “of quiet (for her) life”.

We tend to think that these tragedies always happen in other people lives. We think bullying-victim boys have parents who are not aware of what is happening and that the parents of bullies are violent in return or are missing parents. In truth, the reality tells us something much more worrying: that these tragedies occur even in homes with careful parents. This is because young people feel the pressure of the society. Teenagers are scared of what they can find outside of the friendly – family walls, for example in the square where people hold a sign depicting two men with the word “wrong” below. A world that rejects them. The school is very important. I met many young people who have told me that they had been saved from the attention of their professors. I think, though, that we ask to the same professors, at this time, too much. There is a scene in which a third professor, the P.E one (Denis Fasolo, en) tries to stay close to Lorenzo and his father  in his own way, perhaps naively. In the scene he sits next to Lorenzo on the bench in the locker room and he puts in a very natural way a hand on Lorenzo’s shoulder while he is talking to him; but when the door opens and the janitor sees his hand on the shoulder of the only one declared gay student in the school, the teacher  knows that that thing will be rumored, will be tittle-tattled, and he is afraid. He is afraid not because he is a coward, but because it is immersed in this society of fear. I understand his feelings, and I also think that we can not delegate everything to the teachers; also because, as in the families, there is a society that speaks louder and which expressed itself in more violent words.

“Days like these, which are one in a million…Days like these stand out. If life were full of days like these, it would be unbarely beautiful” (Blu) 

One Kiss will be out in DVD in UK on November, 21st and you can watch here the trailer

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