“I had read an article that informed me about the children of some convicts who are born and live with their mothers in prison for a few years,” Italian helmer Andrea Magnani told me. Variety, ahead of the international premiere of his second feature film, “Jailbird”, which will be screened in the main competition of the Torino Film Festival. The film centers on young Giacinto (Adriano Tardiolo), the son of two inmates, who struggles to get out of prison until he takes part in a foot race that promises to change his life.
“This law is not intended to break the bond between these children and their mothers. I realized this was a really interesting premise to tell a story of a different type, that of a boy who grows up but fails to get rid of his own fears and ‘cages’. […] This is something that any of us can relate to.”
When asked if he had already thought of Tardiolo and Giovanni Calcagno [starring as Jack, the only male officer within the walls of the female prison] as its leaders during the writing phase, Magnani said, “No, when I’m writing I can never think of a face. That process will take place later. Of course, Adriano already possessed some of the qualities I was looking for in Giacinto’s character [such as] his look, his wonder at the world and its order of things… […] It’s the look made of innocence I’ve been looking for.”
“With Giovanni, we created his character from his appearance: his moustache, which looks almost fake, is real; his thick eyebrows… The idea was to make him look almost like a monster, even though he will turn out to be an endearing father figure.”
Speaking about his second time filming in Ukraine and directing a cast of both Italian and Ukrainian actors, he revealed: “It was pretty easy. The interaction between cast and crew is natural. We worked with the same co-producers and some of the crew members who worked on ‘Easy’ [Magnani’s debut]. Many of the Ukrainian actors didn’t even speak English, so I had to work with a translator, but sometimes I simply explained myself with gestures. Despite the language gap, I have always been aware of their great talent.”
“Jailbird” went into production in the late summer of last year and finished filming after five weeks, with most of the interior scenes shot in Kiev. The most obvious references to stories that viewers may notice in Magnani’s fairy tale are Robert Zemeckis’ “Forrest Gump” and “Pinocchio.” “’Forrest Gump’ has been an important reference, and it’s one of the films that has inspired me from the beginning. But gradually I realized that there were similarities with ‘Pinocchio’,’ he admitted. “Two other elements worth mentioning are the symmetry within the shots and the chosen color palette, which can also be considered a tribute to the cinematography of Wes Anderson’s films,” he continued.
Magnani never thinks about the score while writing or filming: “Before I add the score, I first finish the cut and then I ask the composer to participate. It is quite unusual, as composers normally start working on the score at a much earlier stage. I’m afraid that music can hide some issues with tempo, which I think needs to be solved first.
For this occasion, Fabrizio Mancinelli made a very original score of only two voices (a soprano and a tenor) mixed with some ambient sounds (such as footsteps or handclaps).
The production design work, courtesy of veteran Aleksandr Batenev, brought to life the bizarre world of “Jailbird”, and in particular that of the remote prison complex where most of the action takes place.
Magnani is currently developing a new photo based on his father’s life. “It is a challenge that I now have to take on. It will be a ‘on foot’ road movie, set within a radius of a few kilometers,” he revealed.