Focus on Io Sono Li (Shun Li and the Poet)

Focus on Io Sono Li (Shun Li and the Poet)

Io Sono Li (Shun Li and the Poet) is one of the films of the Official Selection of the LUX Film Prize 2012. Italian documentary filmmaker Andrea Segre's first fiction feature is about the story of a special – and disapproved of – friendship between Bepi, an old fisherman of Slavic origin whom people called “the Poet” (Croat actor Rade Sherbedgia), and Shun Li, young and meek Chinese bar worker (Zhao Tao, starring in Still Life), against the background of a melancholic Venetian lagoon exceptionally well captured by Luca Bigazzi (This Must Be the Place). 

The film must have captured the hearts of all those who participated in making it, each one of them having worked on it with the same intensity and passion for months. "I had to learn the dialect of Chioggia", said Giuseppe Battiston, who here plays the arrogant young troublemaker, "and rehearsals were exhausting. But it is one of the most beautiful films I have ever taken part in". "I was forced to go out on the boat even though mine was the only character who wasn’t a fisherman”, raised “lawyer” Roberto Citran, giving a laugh.

"I’ve made more than a hundred films", commented the charismatic Sherbedgia, "and the onscreen result is not always what you expect. In this case I was really proud, because we made something that comes close to art ". "In the first draft of the screenplay, Bepi was Italian", Segre says, "then I thought of Rade and I found him perfect: he is the only one to understand Shun Li because he is also a stranger". 

Presenting his Io Sono Li, director Andrea Segre says:

"Two needs gave rise to the idea of the film: on one hand, the necessity to find in a story, at  -the same time both realistic and metaphoric, a way to speak about the relationship between the individual and cultural identity, in a world that increasingly tends to create occasions for contamination and identity crises; on the other, the desire to talk about two important places in my life that are very emblematic of Italy today: the multiethnic outskirts of Rome and the Veneto, a region that underwent extremely fast economic growth, which has gone from being a land of emigration to one of immigration in a very short time. In particular, Chioggia, a small lagoon city with a large social and territorial identity, is the perfect place to narrate this process with even more emphasis." 

"I still remember my encounter with a woman who could have been Shun Li. It was in a typical Veneto pub, where local fishermen had been going for generations. The memory of this woman’s face, so extraneous and foreign to these places weathered by time and worn by habit, has never left me. There was something dreamlike in her presence. Her past, her history, the inspiration for the story all came to me just looking at her. What kind of relationships could she build in a region like mine, so little accustomed to change? This question was the starting point for trying to imagine her life."

"Io sono Li is also a synthesis of my work as a director of documentary cinema, in which I have been dealing with mainly two themes over the past ten years: migration to Europe and the social and geographic territory of the Veneto."

Watch the video interview with the Italien director in the 2011 Venice Days edition.

Produced by the Italians from Jolefilm and the French from Aeternam, the film was co-produced by Arte France Cinéma and Rai Cinema, and supported by Eurimages.

Source: Cineuropa