Hand Gestures

Not available for screening anymore

Hand Gestures (Il gesto delle mani)

Directed by Francesco Clerici

  • Italy 2015; 77 min
  • Original version: Italian
  • Genre: Documentary
    • FIPRESCI Award - Berlin IFF


This documentary film follows the process of creating one of Velasco Vitali's famous dog sculptures, from wax to glazed bronze, at Fonderia Artistica Battaglia (Battaglia Artistic Foundry), in Milan. The film observes the work of a group of skilled artisans in this 100-year old foundry and reveals the ancient traditions of bronze sculpture making, unchanged since the Sixth century B.C.

Director's Statement

HAND GESTURES wants to be both scientific and (or rather: especially) narrative: it describes the life and work within the Fonderia Artistica Battaglia, a historic place in Milan and currently under the management of the FAI - Italian Artistic Foundation-, which looks after historic and artistic sites. This film describes the noise and the passing time of a working day in the foundry. The artisans who work there are depicted only through their work, their faces and their movements.

The process of “giving birth and re-birth” to the dog sculpture, which is the process of the red wax dog turning into the bronze one, is fascinating to me because it looks like an ancient holy ritual in an old church. An abstract gospel to life and to birth.

Velasco Vitali’s sculptures of dogs are famous in Italy, and to me seemed a perfect vessel by which the viewer can travel through the process of it being made.

This journey is possible thanks to these artisan’s culture, knowledge and love of their craft. As the Italian historical sculptor Giacomo Manzù once said, «Sculpture is not a concept. Sculpture is the hand gesture. A gesture of love. In the gesture of the body lays the relationship with the world, the way you see it, the way you feel it, the way you own it».

During the shoot we didn’t want to disrupt the artisan’s work, so initially I was alone filming. I spent days in Fonderia Battaglia as a foundry employee and I confess I wondered if I should stop shooting and apply for a job, as I was completely hypnotized by their rhythm of their gestures whilst working.

After five years of working with Velasco Vitali and constantly sharing ideas, I decided to shoot some footage in the Foundry and after he loved the initial cuts we decided to create a feature documentary based on capturing the various artistic and scientific processes.

Velasco supported me in various roles on this film - as producer, advisor, sculptor and “actor”. In the beginning of the process, everything starts from modelling the dog sculpture in wax and ends with the finished sculpture joining a “pack” of other dog sculptures.

I involved other “artisans” such as five young sound engineers, a physic and bass player - Claudio Gotti-, my high-school classmate Giacomo Tincani who is great designer and wine producer. At the end I showed the documentary to Jon Barrenechea and to Ena Dozo: they accepted to be our executive producers.

This film is very much a “family business” production, with a very low budget and a very high level of cooperation. We refused to give the project to bigger film companies that were interested as Velasco Vitali and Matteo Visconti di Modrone wanted to produce the film themselves, allowing for more freedom. The production started in February 2013 and finished in November 2014.

I didn’t want to provide narration or any chapter interruption (as production companies would have asked me to): I wanted the story of the “birth” of the bronze dog to pass in front of the spectator as a unique flow, where this process becomes an abstract presence lost in the gestures of the job and in this medieval location.



    Francesco Clerici