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Paola Bernardini wonderful short film Citta' dei Sogni (City of Dreams) Premieres at the New Jersey Film Festival on Saturday, February 27, 2016!

By Al Nigrin

originally published: 02/25/2016

Paola Bernardini wonderful short film Citta' dei Sogni (City of Dreams) Premieres at the New Jersey Film Festival on Saturday, February 27, 2016!

Paola Bernardini wonderful short film Citta' dei Sogni (City of Dreams) Premieres at the New jersey Film Festival on Saturday, February 27, 2016!

Here is an interview I did with Citta' dei Sogni (City of Dreams) Director Paola Bernardini:

Nigrin:  Your touching film Citta' dei Sogni (City of Dreams) tells the story of Giovanni and Ernesto two brothers who run away from home and go on an adventure in search of a place where all their troubles are going to be solved. Tell us what motivated you to make this film.

Bernardini: I read a short script that Dylan Gantz had written about two boys riding their bikes, playing baseball and then talking about a parent that passed away. I loved it, it was real and simple so I asked him to write me a longer story based on that. ?While developing the story I realized that the most important thing I wanted the film to have was this idea of passionately holding onto a fantasy no matter how unrealistic it is. They grow from their experience and it’s a coming of age story I can personally relate to and setting it in my hometown just made it all very personal.

“I love to write about kids, boy’s that aren’t teenagers yet but also not too young where they can’t make their own decisions. I believe that no matter where a child is from they all have very similar wants and needs at the core. Love and family and stability, I wanted to portray a relationship between the brothers that made them an unstoppable force as long as they were together. I took huge influences from films like Stand By MeThe Sandlot, and The Goonies. The setting was like a writers dream, I had written a couple drafts in New York and felt really good about the script, and then I went to Puglia. The script then truly came to life for me, as I was walking the same paths and smelling the same air as the boys were. I think it’s my best work and I am extremely proud to have been a part of this wonderful film.” - Dylan Gantz

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Nigrin:  The two boys who play the brothers are really amazing. Tell us more about them and how they came to be in your film. 

Bernardini: We held casting sessions with the help of a local casting director, Daniele Cascella, his help was crucial since he knows how the area works. The younger boy, Mattia Guarini (Ernesto) was the first kid to show up. We understood he was an incredibly smart and talented kid after the first reading. I speak Italian with my family and friends but I had never studied it so when I translated the script from English to Italian I made lots of grammatical errors. Mattia always corrected my errors.

Luigi Chirenti (Giovanni) came that same afternoon. He was very confident and fit the part. My biggest issue was that the kids had completely different accents, if you’re Italian you could tell they were from different parts of Puglia, they couldn’t have been brothers. During call backs we worked on Luigi softening his accent and Mattia thickening it. We were also fascinated by Mattia that while rehearsing we kind of molded his character to fit his personality more. They were working hard and I was fortunate to cast them.

Nigrin:  I think the other stars in your film are the cinematography and the Italian landscape where the boys travel through. Where did you shoot this film and who did the amazing cinematography?

Bernardini: I shot the film in different towns of my home region of Puglia, Italy. The location is in fact another character of the story. It works as a motherly figure that guides them through their adventure. It was important for me to have that nostalgic and dream like feeling, because that’s how I personally feel about the place and I think it fit well with the story also. Yana Karin did the cinematography, she was so thrilled to shoot in such a beautiful location that she also invested in the project. I also worked with Wayland Bell to color the film, he was able to give those final touches to give the film this specific look.

Nigrin:  The music is also a wonderful part of your film. It really adds to the atmosphere you create. Tell us more about the soundtrack and who created it.

Bernardini: Robert Burrell created the music. Dylan and Robert had previously worked together and when I asked Dylan to write the story he agreed to do it and asked me to have Robert compose the music. That was a no brainer for me since I was already a fan of his work. We already had an idea of the type of music we wanted to support the visuals while writing the script. He was able to sympathize with the story and his work came out better than I could have ever imagined.  I actually still have never met him in person. He lives in LA and we worked together through video chat.  He’s incredibly talented, I have the soundtrack in my phone, I still listen to it sometimes.

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“In terms of the score I felt that there were elements of the story that reminded me of old western films. These two young brothers running away from home in search of their aunt, there's something inherently scary and daunting about a journey like that, but it's also such a big part of growing up (leaving home). In terms of my influences, I've also considered myself a guitar player first, composer second, so I really dig what guys like Nick Cave have done with the guitar. His score for the movie "The Proposition" was definitely playing on repeat during the writing process. So for me I found that my job was trying to implement instruments and melodies that captured the essence of The Italian countryside, while also supporting the evolving relationship between these two brothers.” - Robert Burrell

Nigrin: How long did it take you to make this film and were there any memorable stories while you made this film or any other info about your film you can rely to our readers?

Bernardini: The film took around ten days to shoot. The crew was composed of five people, everyone worked a little extra to make this film happen. Some memorable moments were when I arrived to Puglia with the screenwriter a month before shooting. I wanted him to experience the place since he had never been and refine the script so it would feel more authentic. He’s also my boyfriend, this is our first collaboration and the first time he met my family.

We went location scouting together and a couple of friends took us to see this abandoned villa. It was the most gorgeous and intimidating place. When we first opened the front door the first thing we see is a plastic chair with a red wig nailed to the wall, then all the blinds shook and we all run back to car… When we figured out it was only the wind, we made it to the roof where we found a Ken barbie doll sitting in front of the roofs door. Weird things definitely happen there.  Dylan was so fascinated with the place he decided he wanted the kids in the story to find this place, he believed that the villa was what the kid were all about. Broken, abandoned yet still full of hope.  We then kept adding scenes at abandoned places, the area is full of them, especially of these traditional Apulian dry stone huts with a conical roof called Trullo. They are definitely a landmark image for the region. I truly believe this part of Italy is a playground for filmmakers.

Another memorable moment was the day we had to shoot the egg scene. We were convinced we would fake the egg eating but it wasn’t working out. The kids then told me they would eat an actual raw egg if I ate one too. They ate two eggs each and made the whole crew eat one. That was our second day, since then everything they had to do, I would do it with them. 

While shooting the long shots, for example when they are walking on the dry wall or by the castle, I was always near them hiding somewhere in the frame. When I had to cover their faces and clothes in dirt, swim or play soccer, they made sure I did it too. This was their first independent film experience and shooting was truly an adventure of its own.


The feature film Love Among the Ruins will be screened after City of Dreams. Here is more info on this screening:

Citta' dei Sogni (City of Dreams) - Paola Bernardini (New York, New York)? Giovanni and Ernesto are siblings who must escape from their own mother.   As they embark on an adventure across the Italian countryside, and the reality of their situation begins to take hold, the myth of their "City of Dreams" begins to crumble. In Italian, subtitled. 2015; 18 min. ??

Amore tra le rovine (Love Among the Ruins) - Massimo Alì Mohammad  (Ferrara, Italy) 
?A mock-documentary  about the miraculous discovery and restoration of a long-lost Italian silent film. More than a parody, the film celebrates the joy of discovering lost art, a rich tradition of filmmaking in Italy, and how a young filmmaker can recreate the artistry of silent film. A meta-commentary on cinema preservation and wartime storytelling, this film is a treat!  In Italian, subtitled. 2015; 68 min. Co-sponsored by the Rutgers University Italian Department!

Saturday, February 27, 2016 at 7:00 p.m.?

Voorhees Hall #105/Rutgers University

71 Hamilton Street, New Brunswick, New Jersey?

$12=General; $10=Students+Seniors; $9=Rutgers Film Co-op Friends?

Information: (848) 932-8482;

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Free Food courtesy of Jimmy Johns of New Brunswick will be given out prior to this screening of the New Jersey Film Festival!

Albert Gabriel Nigrin is an award-winning experimental media artist whose work has been screened on all five continents. He is also a Cinema Studies Lecturer at Rutgers University, and the Executive Director/Curator of the Rutgers Film Co-op/New Jersey Media Arts Center, Inc.



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