Q&A: writer/director Alessandro Grande on short film BISMILLAH

By Josh Muchly

This short film from writer/director Alessandro Grande follows SAMIRA — a 10-year and Tunisian immigrant —  as she attempts to find a doctor who’ll help her sick brother while navigating the complexities of living undocumented in Italy. Allesandro was kind enough to answer some questions about the film.

Informer Media Group: Hello, Alessandro – I enjoyed your film very much; what inspired it?

Alessandro Grande: Thank you so much! I was inspired by the dramatic and social situation we are experiencing right now in Italy. I wanted to make a film that talked about hospitality and above all about human relationships and feelings of brotherhood.

Informer Media Group: In which ways would you say this story reflect current events in Italy?

Alessandro Grande: In Italy, immigration is at the center of the political debate, the government is trying to curb it in a strong and unscrupulous manner. It is important to remember that we have been immigrants too in the past and that is why we should know the suffering these people experience and how fundamental it is to be welcomed and build a new life.

Informer Media Group: And why was exploring this from a child’s perspective important?

Alessandro Grande: Because it is the point of view of a naive and innocent human being. Children do not have filters and live emotions fully, whether joy or pain. Italy registered the highest number of illegal immigrants in 2011, around 12 thousand. Among these, there were many children.

Informer Media Group: The majority of the film is in Arabic; do you speak the language? If not, how difficult was that language?

Alessandro Grande: To tell their story I studied a lot. Deepen a culture before filming it, I think it’s a natural path; I’ve also studied a bit of Arabic to direct them to the fullest.

Informer Media Group: It shows! I gather the name of your film is from the song Samira is singing; can you tell me more about the song?

Alessandro Grande: “Bismillah” means “in the name of the merciful God”, and it is the word with which the suras of the Koran are opened, it’s very important for Muslims. The song “Bismillah” really exists and it is sung not only to make children fall asleep but also to give strength in times of need.

Informer Media Group: It definitely sounds sweet when Samira sings it. Samira is played by Linda Mresy in what looks like her first acting role; why was she best suited for the role?

Alessandro Grande: Linda was chosen for her great talent and desire to make this film, not worrying that there were scenes at night; she is only 10 years old but she already had clear ideas. I chose Basma Bouhali (for HALIMA) because I needed a figure so reassuring and impressive, that could initially reassure and give strength to Samira, to have a more emotional crescendo later. Belhassen Bouhali plays JAMIL, the sick brother, without falling into stereotype and cliché, so I entrusted the part to him. ‘Bismillah’ was the first cinematic experience for all of them.

Informer Media Group: Was this your first time directing a child actor? What is that process like?

Alessandro Grande:  In the past, I directed other children actors, but each time it is always a new and magnificent experience. You have to introduce them to the film slowly, avoiding making them learn things by heart to avoid losing their naturalness and spontaneity, which can give a lot to the film.

Informer Media Group: Interesting. So, what’s next for you?

Alessandro Grande: At the moment I am preparing my first feature film and I am in the pre-production phase, but I continue to follow the amazing path that it is having in the ‘Bismillah’ ‘world.

Informer Media Group: Where can people learn more about you / your projects?

Alessandro Grande: They can stay up-to-date by following me on social media. I also have a personal website which is constantly updated by my collaborators.

For more information visit here.

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