Hand Gestures

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    Hand Gestures

    Il gesto delle mani

    Directed by

    Italy

    2015

    77 min

    • Italian

    Documentary

    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.

    Awards

    • FIPRESCI Award - Berlin IFF

    Festivals

    Credits

    Cast
    Andreas Boccone
    Nicolae Ciortan
    Mario Conti
    Luigi Contino
    Simion Marius Costel
    Ilaria Cuccagna
    Lino De Ponti
    Tommaso Rossi
    Caled Saad
    Antonio Serra
    Elia Alunni Tullini
    Velasco Vitali
    Screenplay
    Francesco Clerici
    Cinematography
    Francesco Clerici
    Editing
    Francesco Clerici
    Music
    Claudio Gotti

    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.

    Production
    VELASCO VITALI
    Production
    FONDERIA ARTISTICA BATTAGLIA
    Francesco Clerici

    Francesco Clerici

    Italy

    Francesco Clerici (Italy, 1983) earned a Master’s Degree in Art History and Criticism from the University of Milan. Since 2003 he has taught Film Language, presented a film club and led filmmaking workshops for children, and worked for Barz and Hippo society as an Education and Film Forum Coordinator. Francesco is the artistic assistant, writer, filmmaker and project manager for the Italian artist Velasco Vitali. For Vitali's last exhibition catalogue Foresta Rossa: 416 città fantasma nel mondo (Skirà, 2013) he published a series of short novels Città Fantasma (Ghost Cities). Since 2009 Francesco has collaborated with CICAE (International Federation of Arthouse Cinemas), documenting and developing training for exhibitors in Venice each year. His 2011 short film CEMENT STORIES won the of the FAI -Italian Artistic Foundation- prize at the Milano FF and was selected for various documentary film festivals. He's published multiple articles and essays on cinema and art in various Italian magazines and journals. In 2012 he published his first book, 24 Fotogrammi: storia aneddotica del cinema (24 Frames: the Anecdotal History of Cinema) (Secondavista Editions, 2012). 24 short stories on cinema stories based on true stories. HAND GESTURES is first feature documentary.