How was the project about the Armada Latina gang born and why? How did you approach it?
Just over three years ago I started to write the script for a feature film about young gangs.
At the beginning, the script was quite blurry and needed to be contextualized and updated in order to become a real product.
I then started researching the phenomenon of the pandillas in Italy. It seemed like a world that was both interesting and unexplored.
Walking through the streets and the parks of the suburbs of Milan, I got in touch with some of these guys to gather their stories. Later, I was like the social services and associations that followed their cases.
I also went to visit the juvenile detention center and the police station. It was a really long and intense survey that took me about a year.
I found that the stories of these boys, many of whom are second generation immigrants, had many common characteristics. First of all, they came to Milan from South America to reunite with their parents and on their arrival, their expectations were totally unmet.
Milan was much tougher and unwelcoming than they expected; then there was the difficulty of learning a new language and the solitude in which they found themselves since they were left alone most of the day while their parents were at work. This experience sharpened their sense of rejection from a society that eventually led them to see integration as an impossible thing.
Pushed by a desperate need for inclusion and by an urgency to find their own identity, they saw the gang as a solution to all these problems and a form of rebellion towards those who let them down.
The gangs were a new “family” to substitute their real one, with a series of rituals, signs, symbols, and rules that would give them a new purpose to their lives. It goes without saying that all of this was wonderful material for a movie.
Talking about “El Nudo”, how are you going to introduce the story? Why did you think this was the right start?
El Nudo began as an experiment. On one hand, it allowed us to start the gears moving that prepared us to shoot “Bautismo”, a short film that will talk about Roman, a young immigrant from El Salvador, and his “baptism” into the Armada Latina.
On the other hand, I wanted to create a teaser that showed the cinematographic potential of that world.
I use the term experiment because, with Luca, we decided to write just a draft of the story, not a real screenplay, in order to get the actors to improvise.
It was really complex, but it was something we wanted – to try them out and see their potential.
The story of El Nudo introduces us to the Armada Latina, a gang that was just formed in Milan and that is quickly gaining influence in the pandillas of the city.
Everything takes place in one long night. After a violent fight with a rival gang, some leaders of the Armada hide in an occupied apartment that they usually use as a meeting place.
The police are looking for them. They are locked in this claustrophobic place, surrounded by the police officers that haunt the streets nearby, and are perpetually waiting for their friends that are still missing. The night never seems to end.
It’s the story of their bond, the knot (the tattoo from which the film takes its title), which is not always as brotherly and sincere as the rules of the gang would want.
El Nudo is a sort of spin-off inside the Bautismo project. First because Roman, the protagonist of Bautismo, isn’t present in El Nudo since he’s not affiliated with the gang yet. But it’s going to happen in those days, that’s why Bautismo and El Nudo are recurring at the same time.
And El Nudo moves away from that intimate and focused on a single character story that you see in Bautismo. It outlines more generally the main members of the gang that we’ll see in Bautismo.
The idea to create a straight continuity between the short films and the film wasn’t planned; it was born by chance. Without even realising it, we were creating something more than a simple story. As you suggested, it could indeed become a saga.
How will this project continue? What are your plans for the future?
The ultimate goal would be to produce both a film and a series. My hope is that it could become something similar, in terms of operation, to the This is England series.