Selfie

France, Italy 2019

Synopsis

Alessandro and Pietro are 16 years-old and live in Naples, district of Traiano where, in the summer of 2014, Davide Bifolco, also 16, was shot by a policeman who mistook him for a fugitive. They are inseparable friends, Alessandro works as a waiter in a bar, Pietro dreams to become a hairdresser. Alessandro and Pietro accept the director’s proposal to shoot themselves with an iPhone, commenting live on their own daily experiences, their close friendship, their neighbourhood – now empty, in the middle of summer – and the tragedy that ended Davide’s life.

Directors Statement

Gianni Bifolco, the father of Davide Bifolco, agreed to meet me at the Cocco Bar in Naples’ Traiano district, one of the city’s many rough neighbourhoods. I had asked him to tell me about the tragic death of Davide, his innocent son who was killed by the police. While speaking with this desolate father, I explained that I wasn’t interested in doing an investigation into what happened, but narrating the context in which that absurd tragedy came to pass. What I wanted to do was meet some kids the same age as Davide when he was killed and, using his story as a starting point, ask them to talk about themselves and their world.

While I was telling him about my project, Alessandro, the bar’s waiter, came over to us carrying a couple of coffees. A teenager with a thin adolescent face, he was in a hurry because he had to get ready for the celebrations for the Madonna dell’Arco. I asked him if he was interested in filming the ceremony with the smartphone I gave him, requesting that he always keep himself in the frame. He accepted, and the result made an impression on me, because during the procession he was moved to tears but didn’t stop shooting himself, with the statue of the Virgin behind him. The next day, back at the Cocco Bar, a chubby kid with a moustache walked up to me and introduced himself as Alessandro’s best friend. This was Pietro. He looked much older, but he swore that he too was 16. I asked both of them to ‘shoot themselves’ with my iPhone as part of an audition, at a school that had just been renovated but was already run-down. I’d asked a few other kids from the area to come to the auditions as well, mostly Davide’s close friends, along with a few girls and a couple of kids. But things were already clear to me: the two of them, Alessandro and Pietro, were going to be the film’s protagonists.

What I was trying to do was give a voice to some kids who normally aren’t able to speak out, inviting them to film themselves with the technological prosthesis they were most comfortable with, a smartphone. So my idea was to delegate the shooting to them, and to think of the phone as a mirror that doesn’t only reflect themselves, as is the case with the millions of ‘selfies’ now found on social networks, but to look at the image in the display – which then turns into the cinema screen – in order to see (and let us see) themselves reflected and also the reality behind them: their social and human context, their world, their life.

So I didn’t want to entrust them with directing the film. What interested me, rather, was conveying the look in these kids' eyes, concentrating not so much on what they see (which, by now, we all know perfectly well) but on their way of looking. What comes through in Alessandro and Pietro’s eyes is their desire for a normal life, and consequently their conflict with the world they live in, where normality almost always consists in being enrolled in criminal groups and almost being considered a deserter if you try to find a way out.

The neighbourhood, seen subjectively by the two youths who tell us about it, becomes both a safe haven where they can feel at home and the place where they play out their emotions, between fear and naivety, resignation and desire. This neighbourhood, like many others, has no theatres, cinemas or libraries, and the few parents that actually find a job don’t have the means with which to help the teenagers who drop out of school. Here, all kids have scooters and billiard halls, like the one in front of which Davide was killed, and the few volunteer associations that try to change things, like the one now dedicated to Davide Bifolco, are never given enough credit by local institutions.
I cannot forget that the story that sparked off my project, the tragedy of Davide’s death, is all about injustice and the pain and marginalisation felt by a boy, his family, his friends and their neighbourhood.

Director's Biography

Born in 1971 in Cerignola / Italy, Agostino Ferrente is a director, producer and artistic director. Before becoming involved in cinema, he was an editorial co-ordinator for magazines and news programs addressed to communities of Italians living abroad. After gaining a degree in the DAMS in Bologna and attending Ermanno Olmi’s Ipotesi Cinema, he directed short films and music videos and produced them with his company Pirata Manifatture Cinematografiche. He’s also part of the multi-ethnic band L'Orchestra di Piazza Vittorio.
In 2001, collaborating with ten accomplices, he founded the group "Apollo 11" in Rome, which saved the historical Apollo cinema theatre from becoming a bingo hall. By promoting film, music and writing,
the group turned it into one of the liveliest cultural centres in Italy’s capital city, the first with an ongoing program dedicated to cinema of the real.
He is currently working on his first non-documentary feature film.

Filmography:
2019 SELFIE, doc.
2013 LE COSE BELLE, 88 min, doc, with Giovanni Piperno
2006 L’ORCHESTRA DI PIAZZA VITTORIO, 93 min, doc
2004 SCUSI, DOV’È IL DOCUMENTARIO?, doc, collective
2000 INTERVISTA A MIA MADRE, 52 min, doc, with Giovanni Piperno
1999 IL FILM DI MARIO, 45 min, doc, with Giovanni Piperno
1994 OPINIONI DI UN PIRLA, short film
1993 POCO PIÙ DELLA METÀ DI ZERO, short doc
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Cast & Crew

Directed by: Agostino Ferrente

Written by: Agostino Ferrente

Produced by: Marc Berdugo, Barbara Conforti, Gianfilippo Pedote

Cinematography: Alessandro Antonelli, Pietro Orlando

Editing: Letitzia Caudullo, Chiara Russo

Original Score: Andrea Pesce

Sound: Cristiano Defabriitis, Benni Atria

Nominations and Awards

  • EFA Documentary Selection 2019