61st Montecarlo Television Festival: in conversation with Darko Peric

Most of you know him as Helsinki: the big man with the kind soul of Money Heist; but in the last two years, Darko Peric has shaken off the Netflix series and has built a strong link with Italy. After being a guest, in June 2021, at the AmiCorti Film Festival in Peveragno (where he started talking about a collaboration with Italian singer Zucchero Fornaciari), he shot two films in Italy, one of which will be released tomorrow in all Italian cinemas.

The First Rule is a film directed by Massimiliano D’Epiro, set in the peculiar historical period we are living in. In a suburban high school, students and teachers are the mirrors of a social and economic depression that seems irreversible. To make matters worse, a few meters from the school, between the houses of the neighbourhood, there is the “Zoo“, a centre of assistance for migrants that has become a permanent refugee camp over the years. A professor is called to hold an extra course for six students suspended for disciplinary reasons. They meet each afternoon, when it is already dark outside, in a classroom in the suburbs where, after the initial hostility and distrust, the professor manages to win the boys’ trust and achieve amazing results. But when clashes break out between the population and migrants, the situation quickly gets out of hand. The city is invaded by the military, journalists, and protesters. The tension is growing. All the contradictions of a society left to itself come out. In this bleak picture, the conflicts that develop in the school and students’ minds explode tragically.

Alongside Darko Peric (Milan) we find Marius Bizau (Behind the Night, Family Novel), Luca Chikovani (House of Gucci, Happy as Lazzaro), Antonia Fotaras (The Name of the Rose), Fabrizio Ferracane (The King, The Girl from Tomorrow, L’Ora – Ink against lead, The Inner Cage) and Haroun Fall (Zero).

We met him at the 61st Montecarlo Television Festival where he talked about his Italian experience over a glass of white, in a mix of Italian and Spanish.

D: Nice to finally see your face. Last year we all had masks, now it’s nice to see those eyes known last summer and be able to associate them with a beautiful smile. This year everything is fantastic, there is a magical air worthy of this wonderful location

How are you living this first experience here as a juror?

D: Well. We have just sent our decision to the organization; just before I showed up for the interviews here, and I’m very satisfied with the work we’ve done.

As a jury member, what do you look for in a television series?

D: As for me, there are three things I focus on: a good script, without that nothing, works. You can have an endless budget, but if the script sucks, your job will still suck. Then there are cinematography-photography and editing in one block. Each country has its own photography that defines its products: there is Italian photography, French photography, Spanish photography, Scandinavian photograph and so on but it is one of the most important aspects to define a television production. And last but not least, there is interpretation. These are the three most important things for me. Of course, there are many other things: the sets, and the music, … but screenplay, realization (which includes scenography, editing and photography) and interpretation are the three, for me, most important.

  Without a spoiler, is there anything in the competition that left you stunned?

D: Yes, there is. You have to consider that I work in television series but I don’t watch many series. So having the opportunity to see Danish, Norwegian and, of course, American and British series was a wonderful opportunity. In the end, we decided on a very interesting screenplay for the films (the award went to the German Martha Liberman for best film and the English The Tourist as best series, ed)

Before you told me: “when it comes to television series, of course, there are Americans”; however, in recent years, the Spanish…

D: True,… I’ve always said that. I always like to tell this story about my relationship with American products. In the 90s, my country, Yugoslavia, was at war; a catastrophic war. However, I remember that when the war started, I was 14/15 years old, and the Bruce Willis film, Die Hard, was released at the cinema. I have always defined these kinds of films that Americans make, as invasion films: Vietnam, Yugoslavia, Iraq, and now Syria, Afghanistan,… Anyway, back to Die Hard. In the late 80s, Yugoslavia produced a lot of cars under FIAT license and in my country, they produced a car called Yugo Florida which had become one of the best-selling cars in the United States. And there’s a scene in Die Hard where Bruce Willis is driving a broken Yugo. He calls customer service and on the other end of the phone answers the Serbs, introduced in a scene similar to the one in which today they represent the terrorists, the Taliban. I was 15 years old and from that moment I stopped watching any American products; I just watched more Tarantino movies. So, looking for films from other countries, I discovered filmmakers who told wonderful stories, so far away from US patriotic invasion films. I discovered Danny Boylee and his TrainspottingPedro Almodovar, and Giuseppe Tornatore with his extraordinary Cinema Paradiso, … and another world opened to me. I was a child, indeed a teenager who, like all European boys of his age, had known only American cinema. To me, however, at that moment, the European world opened up and I saw its value, I knew that sooner or later it would make its way, and the platforms made all this possible. I was talking about it with Benicio Del Toro. And then, after Spain and Italy came to the love for the French film. But the big revelation was Luis Bonuel, my favourite movie is Belle de Jour. I believe that coincidences do not exist, nothing happens by chance and what Pedro Almodovar did 30 years ago: becoming international is what Money Heist did just five years ago. Now with Netflix, the whole world discovers you, not just those like me looking for an alternative to American television on purpose. The older I get, the more I realize America isn’t that interesting. There are so many beautiful products in Spain, Italy, France,…thanks to their precious cultural background.

What can you tell us about your Italian projects?

D: I made two films in Italy and I’m super happy. I am so happy. I made a film with the director Berardo Carboni (Greta and the real fairy tales, to be released on 31 December with Raul Bova, Sabrina Impacciatore, Donatella Finocchiaro and Federico Cesari ) crazy like all directors but a really wonderful person and then I discovered Bari, the beautiful Puglia and I fell in love thanks to Massimiliano D’Epiro and to a fantastic script. At the end of November, I will shoot another film in Italy, this time in Calabria, the first work of a young director with a legend of Italian cinema as the main character, I am enthusiastic but I cannot say anything more.

     We adopted you…

 D: And I couldn’t be happier.


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