VERA Austrian Oscar Entry directed by Tizza Covi and Rainer Frimmel, is about the actress Vera Gemma who lives in the shadow of her famous late father, the Italo-Western actor Giuliano Gemma. She drifts through Roman high society, tired of countless plastic surgeries and superficial relationships. When, after a car accident, she takes the injured son of a working-class family to her heart, a moral parable unfolds that is as fascinating as it is tragic, trying once again to unite the rich with the poor, the lost with the found. The fact that contradictions are not only admitted but embraced reveals the tender humanism of the film.
The following is our interview with directors of VERA Tizza Covi and Rainer Frimmel:
Bijan Tehrani- What motivated you to make VERA?
– You read and hear everywhere that new faces, authentic characters, and, above all, more roles for strong women of all ages in the film industry, are needed. However, it becomes apparent that there are far too few compelling female roles in contemporary cinema. When we first met Vera Gemma, we were shocked by the unwarranted negativity surrounding her appearance and the harsh criticisms directed at her without any knowledge of her as an individual. We were also misguided by our prejudices, but as we got to know her better, we realized that such a fascinating personality finally deserves a leading role in today’s cinema.
BT- How challenging was writing your screenplay?
– Writing a script for people who really exist is a very sensitive matter. You can use their true story, but you shouldn’t expose or hurt them. So the work has to be very precise because you want all the protagonists to be able to recognize themselves in their roles.
BT- How did you convince Vera Gemma to accept playing her role in the film?
– Vera was enthusiastic about the idea right from the start, we didn’t really have to persuade her. What we appreciated so much about working with Vera Gemma is that she also shared painful truths from her life with us because she loves truthfulness (veracity) more than anything else.
She really hoped that the film would be made, because the only director who offered her an important role was Sergio Leone, but he passed away before he could start shooting.
BT- How did you develop the other characters and how did you work with your actors?
– We write for our protagonists, individuals whose life stories we are intimately acquainted with, so that we can integrate many facts from their lives into the story. It’s also important that we shoot our movie chronologically. This ensures that each actor can evolve alongside their character, allowing the emotions cultivated on set to organically infuse the film during the shooting process.
We usually rely on the emotional memory of our protagonists. They perform something they have already experienced and we give them the opportunity to express themselves with their own words and movements and to improvise.
BT- How did you develop the visual style of your film?
– Our visual aesthetic is distinctly defined by the use of 16mm film and Rainer’s handheld Steadycam, always skillfully maintaining the appropriate distance.
We work in a very small team, usually it’s just the two of us on set, that allows us to create a very intimate atmosphere. And we usually shoot with natural light to achieve a documentary style of storytelling. Italian neorealism has a great impact on our work.
BT – Please discuss some of the themes of the film.
– The main theme of this movie is the impossibility of stepping out of the shadow of a famous father.
The movie also deals with the standardized concept of beauty, which is inevitably linked to youth. But it is also a story about desperate search for recognition, but even more for love.
BT- How do you feel about being chosen to represent Austria at the Oscars?
-It is an incredible honor for us to be nominated by Austria. We make films because we want to share our stories with an audience. That’s why we are particularly pleased that after an incredibly successful year at international film festivals, VERA now also has the opportunity to be judged by highly appreciative international jury members.
Directors – TIZZA COVI and RAINER FRIMMEL
Born in Bolzano in 1971, Tizza Covi lived in Paris and Berlin before studying photography in Vienna. Rainer Frimmel, born in Vienna in 1971, also studied photography in Vienna. Since 1996 they work together on films, theatre, photography. In 2002 they founded their own film production company Vento Film. They received numerous awards for their documentaries DAS IST ALLES and BABOOSKA, including the Wolfgang-Staudte Prize at the Berlinale. LA PIVELLINA, their first feature, was awarded the Europa Cinemas Label at the Quinzaine des Réalisateurs in Cannes and was Austria`s offical entry for the Oscars 2011. Their second feature film DER GLANZ DES TAGES (THE SHINE OF DAY, 2012) received the Silver Leopard for best actor in Locarno and the Max Ophüls Prize in Saarbrücken. Their third feature film MISTER UNIVERSO (2016) also premiered in Locarno where it received the Fipresci Award. Like all their films it was realised with non-professional actors and it was shot on Super 16mm film.