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Italy On Film: Exploring the Space Between

Lisa Portolan

In a world where female role models are often of the reality television, Instagram-famous variety, Ruth Borgobello, is a stand-out creative talent.

It’s time women like Borgobello are celebrated for what they bring to the film industry – not just because it’s a male-dominated industry, but because she’s a kick-ass talent. Driven, determined and creatively inspired she’s a new breed of woman who kicked their stable job to the curb and embarked on a creative journey which has seen her write and direct the new Italian-Australian film, The Space Between.

I stumbled across her at the Palace Cinemas at the launch of the Italian Film Festival – and it was official, she was my new girl crush. We had, after all, lived a very similar experience. Both children of Northern Italian migrants (Borgobello’s father is from Friuli Venezia Giulia, and both my parents are from the same region) brought up in multicultural metropolis’ in Australia and having returned to the mother-country at some point to discover creative directions previously unconceived of … there was an uncanny affinity.

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Ruth Borgobello (standing)

Borgobello is pioneering new ground here as the writer of the first Australian-Italian co-production. Marco (Flavio Parenti) the main character in the movie, is an ex-chef, who gives up his career to move up to Northern Italy (Friuli) to care for his ailing father. In this spiritual darkness, Olivia (Maeve Dermody) is the spark of life, an Australian chasing her dreams in Italy. The dramatic romance is set against the rugged beauty of Friuli Venezia Giulia.

There are some strong parallels between Borgobello’s own life and The Space Between. She herself met her husband, Davide (the producer on this film) in Friuli Venezia Giulia whilst on holiday. He is an ex-chef who has moved with her to Melbourne. Just as there are parallels with any creative project and the developing artist, there are also dissimilar components – Borgobello was also inspired by Italian friends and how they were living their lives at the time. In effect, The Space Between, is a socio-political snapshot of Italy today – describing the landscape of Italians’ lives. Borgobello felt Friuli was the perfect ‘dramatic’ backdrop to support this story.

For those unfamiliar with Friuli Venezia Giulia (Friuli) – it is a region in the north-east of Italy – it often doesn’t get a wrap when it comes to the tourist mine-field that is Italy. It’s one of those ‘best-kept’ secrets, which always, somehow remains, a ‘best-kept’ secret. But Borgobello thought it was an ideal location for her film, the Space Between.

“There’s an emotion in the landscape,” she says. ‘”I’m creatively inspired in Friuli. It’s something about the contrast within the regions, the mountains, sea, vineyards … there’s an incredible energy there.”

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When I asked her about how she felt about being a female director in Australia and whether she saw herself as an anomaly, she said that she had, “never really thought about it in that way … Of course when I did go to film school I was surrounded by men, mostly they were the stereotypical director-types. You know, they looked a lot like (Jean Luc) Godard … sunglasses indoors that sort of thing. They always made me laugh … It is a male dominated industry, but going to Italy and directing a film there was very different. Italians are more secure about the concept of the artist. They don’t have to dress a certain way or look a certain way to be an artist … they just are artists. There have been a few dominant female directors in Italy who were incredibly courageous and they’ve paved the way for others.”

Now Borgobello is paving the road for female Australian directors with courage and verve.

What struck me about Borgobello was her boldness and braveness. Two qualities often shunned in women. Not only has Borgobello embarked on a brave career of writing and directing movies, she’s established her own company (Mondo Studio Films), and directed a feature film in Italy which is receiving rave reviews. She’s the go-getter, the trailblazer. In a world where Australian women are described as ‘throwback people’ (Cohen, Vanity Fair, The Summer of Margot Robbie) she presents a challenge to the description. Borgobello is luminescent in her drive and creativity, an inspiration for women looking to follow their creative dream.

Would she change anything about the movie? “Of course there is always something you would change … I watched the movie with the audience at the Melbourne premiere. That was an experience … It’s impossible to be completely happy with a project but it was the culmination of that creative dream.”

If you haven’t seen it yet, check out The Space Between, which is at the Palace Cinemas in all capital cities as part of the Italian Film Festival. A not to be missed first Italian-Australian collaboration written and directed by the outstanding Ruth Borgobello.

the essentials

What: The 2016 Lavazza Italian Film Festival, driven by Fiat
Where: Palace Electric, Nishi Building, Phillip Law Street, NewActon
When: On now until Sunday 16 October
Tickets and session times: See www.italianfilmfestival.com.au/sessions/canberra

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