The Return of Italian Exploitation - The Manetti Bros Interviewed

With the UK release of sci-fi shocker THE ARRIVAL OF WANG on DVD by Saffron Hill Films and the growing cult following for horror gem PAURA 3D it looks like filmmakers the Manetti Bros are working all out to revive the Italian exploitation movie scene. Join our very own cult movie maniac Stu Willis as he catches up with the brothers for a chat…

The Manetti Bros

Stu: Hi, thanks for affording us the opportunity to speak with you about your excellent films. First up, could you fill our readers in on your film careers prior to THE ARRIVAL OF WANG and PAURA 3D? There appears to be a whole host of early short films, movies and TV work which you’ve made that people are not familiar with.

Manetti Bros: It’s difficult for us to describe ourselves but in Italy we actually have a long career made of music videos, movies of low and high budget and TV series. We’re mostly known for our 4 seasons long TV serie "L’ispettore Coliandro" based on a character created by famous Italian crime novelist Carlo Lucarelli, and among others, two movies: the big budget "Zora la Vampira" and low budget crime movie "Piano 17" that is probably the movie we’re mostly fond of and the first one we also produced. Last year we started a more international journey with multi award winning "The Arrival of Wang" and "Paura 3D".

Stu: Despite an extremely polished look, THE ARRIVAL OF WANG was clearly shot on a low budget. Are you able to divulge just what that budget was?

Manetti Bros: We’ve specialized in producing and directing low budget movies which gives us a bit less comfort when we’re shooting but a priceless creative freedom. We noticed that the miraculous budget of our movies often got more attention than the content, so we decided to keep it secret from then on. But we assure you it was very small.

Stu: It’s very ambitious to set out to make a genre film with such limited means. Especially at a time when the Italian film industry doesn’t appear to be supporting genre fare much. How did you plan your film around its budget? And were you met with much resistance from investors etc?

Manetti Bros: It’s a very hard struggle and we fight every day to keep Italian genre movies alive. We’re almost the only ones left, but we keep on fighting to make the kind of movies we love, hoping to open up a path for many others to follow. Because even if Italian industry doesn’t seek genre movies anymore and it doesn’t know anymore how to handle them, the country is still full of fans and potential directors and screenwriters ready to bring Italian Genre Cinema back to life. The secret, at the moment, is by using a low budget it gives us little to answer to our investors and therefore almost total creative freedom.

Stu: The film is as interesting for its political subtext as it is for its sci-fi/horror tone. Can you speak a little about the social commentary that the film offers?

Manetti Bros: More than a social commentary we used the science fiction theme to reflect about the difficulty of communication that affects human beings today that are still prisoners of dogmas, prejudices and ideologies that maybe belong to history in the fast changing world of today. We consider this more a psychological and cultural commentary than really a social one. Of course it carries some social references with it. But we expressed doubts, more than an opinion. This, we think, is the most important ingredient of a good genre movie: use a spectacular plot with over the top emotions (Fear, anguish, adrenaline, catharsis) to look deep in human emotions, with more questions than answers. We can leave answers to politicians.

Francesca Cuttica

Stu: Francesca Cuttica is a fantastic lead, serving well as the film’s heart and conscience. How did she come to be involved in the shoot and what did she bring to it of her own?

Manetti Bros: Francesca is probably the biggest strength of the movie. We found her through an audition, it was actually the first audition we had for the film and when we saw her we didn’t want to any audition anymore. She brings all the human intensity of her expression giving the movie a heart and the craft of her acting to tell the story of an emotional journey. Her task was three times more difficult. She had to face two heavy challenges as an actor: being on her game to act with Ennio Fantastichini, probably the best Italian actor of today, who faces her with a violent, compelling performance and then to act with an empty chair where Wang was going to be added digitally in post-production. And we shouldn’t forget that she had to act 50 % of her lines in Chinese, a language she didn’t know at all.

Stu: The FX are highly impressive come the finale. Are you two satisfied with the end results?

Manetti Bros: The quality of the special SFX, given the budget and the time given to first assignment Digital FX company Palantir Digital, is a miracle. Nobody believed we could make it at the beginning of the journey and many investors and coproducers abandoned the ship thinking the task was impossible.

Stu: If the film carries one message above all others, what do you feel it is?

Manetti Bros: We think our duty, as filmmakers, is to ask questions more than to give answers. But if a message must be found then it is an invite to communicate to each other more and more peacefully. And the message is of course for planets, nations and ideologies, but also for husbands and wives, fathers and sons and friends.

Stu: PAURA 3D sees you delve into more overtly horror territory. Is this where your hearts ultimately lie, in the field of horror cinema?

Manetti Bros: Different moments in life make us flow between one genre and the other. We passed a very difficult period, personally and professionally, learning that the path of Italian genre cinema is a path of sacrifice. But our mood isn’t always dark. At the end of November we’ll start shooting a crime comedy in Naples. Maybe the international success of our last two movies gave us a more optimistic mood. But the dark side of our creativity is ready to come back!

Stu: What prompted the decision to work in 3D?

Manetti Bros: Our wish to experiment, fascination with the 3D as audience and, of course, the feeling that the added dimension could give the claustrophobic plot a good twist.

Stu: … And tell us about some of the biggest challenges that stylistic choice posed for you?

Manetti Bros: Shooting in 3D is very stimulating but also very difficult, as filmmakers, at any given moment. So we can say we were challenged in every single shot. Especially for directors like us that like to keep our camera free and mostly handheld. The result is very satisfying and after a week of shooting of total panic we are ready, if the right story comes, to make another movie in 3D. But is there a right story and a wrong story to shoot in 3D? We’re not sure, most probably not: everything could be done in 3D... but we have to wait for the eliminations of the 3D spectacles to make it really universal.

The Manetti Bros

Stu: Build-up to scenarios appears to be paramount to you in both films. Can you elaborate on the emphasis you have on careful build-ups?

Manetti Bros: Working on the build-up of tension is always good for a movie; it’s essential for a genre movie and is a matter of life and death for a low budget genre movie. So it’s probably where our concentration lies, mostly.

Stu: Both films – PAURA 3D and THE ARRIVAL OF WANG – played at FrightFest 2012. I understand they were received very well. Were you there for the experience?

Manetti Bros: Yes we were there in both Glasgow Fright Fest ("The Arrival of Wang") and the London Fright Fest ("The Arrival of Wang" and "Paura 3D") and they have been two different great experiences. In Glasgow, after meeting Alan Jones in Trieste, where he selected "L’Arrivo di Wang" for the Fest, we bonded with the remaining three of the quartet behind the Fright Fest: Greg Day, Paul McEvoy and Ian Rattray. We had a great time also with the fans and with our colleague and Friend Federico Zampaglione that was there to show the promo of Tulpa, the movie that later premiered at the London Fest. In London was especially great to have our movie screened in the mighty theatre 1 of the Empire Cinema in Leicester square: our favourite cinema since, as teenagers, we used to frequent it in the 80’s dreaming to have, one day, a film shown there.

Stu: Working together, as brothers and co-directors, must result in the occasional artistic conflicts? Can you elaborate on any such differences of opinion? … And, who’s the dominant force – who gets their own way the most?

Manetti Bros: Difficult to say. It’s difficult to describe not just our relationship on set, but also before and after the shoot. Maybe our crew could tell you more about it, but yes, we argue a lot. Sometimes, we suppose, it must be very embarrassing for our crew. But we’re brothers; we have exactly the same background so at the end we always find a common solution. Maybe, in this compromise, lies our style. But on set we also a have a division of tasks that helps us argue a little bit less. Antonio (being the camera operator) takes mostly care of the camera movements and angles; Marco concentrates more on the actors.

Stu: Saffron Hill Films are releasing THE ARRIVAL OF WANG onto UK DVD. Any news on a UK domestic release for PAURA 3D too?

Manetti Bros: We didn’t close any deal yet, but we’re sure it will be released. Hopefully with the same guys since it was great working with them on Wang.

Stu: What are your views of the Italian film industry at present, in terms of genre pictures being made and distributed?

Manetti Bros: The state of Italian genre movies is very bad at the moment, almost non-existent. Our country is having a cultural breakdown and we lost the biggest components that made Italian genre movies great: bravery and guts.

Stu: What’s next for the pair of you?

Manetti Bros: We are about to shoot a crime comedy temporary titled "Inside Napoli" but we’re also writing our first English language movie, together with our American counterpart: the Thornton brothers, a couple of screenwriters brothers and future directors from Hollywood. It’s a creature movie that we believe a lot in. Hopefully it will be our next project. But we’re also trying to set up a movie with English producer Jonny Armstrong from a great script by Joe Lansdale out of his novel Nightrunners, that could also be our next and it would be great!

Stu: Thanks again for your time, and best of luck with these two films and future productions.

Manetti Bros: Thank you.

THE ARRIVAL OF WANG is out now on DVD from Saffron Hill Films.

Special thanks to the Manetti Bros, Saffron Hill Films, Peccadillo Pictures and Paul Smith.

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