Melmaridè is more than a documentary about political action and social justice. It’s a record of women together and individually standing against a system as well as a story of friendship and growth. Directors Elisa Bozzarelli and Alice Daneluzzo talk about how the film came about and the impact it has made.
D&CFilm: How did you come across the women in Piacenza and why did you decide to make Melmaridè?
Elisa Bozzarelli: As the daughter of one of these women, I have always known about this story of political activism of which my mother had been part of in her youth, together with her friends. Since then they have always been in touch and about ten years ago they started thinking about how they could ensure that this story would not be forgotten. So I decided I wanted to try do something to help them. After a while I met Alice Daneluzzo, a friend of friends who worked in video and editing, who immediately decided to join me in this journey. Melmaridè is a story of memories but it is also a biographical and at the same time political documentary.
D&CFilm: Why is it important to tell the story of Melmaridè – what impact did the women make and continue to make?
Elisa Bozzarelli: For these women it is important to have something to remind the world of what they have done, what has been so important for them and actually for everyone in Italy and beyond. For me and Alice it is important because, even if we considered ourselves feminists even before starting the documentary, talking to these women made us realise that feminism is not just a matter of theory, articles and books – and, of course, rallies and activism – but that it is those acts of individual and collective courage that has made our current freedom possible.
D&CFilm: How has their activism changed the women involved in Melmaridè?
Elisa Bozzarelli: Completely! At a very young age they challenged the contempt of their families and institutions joining the voices of the wider international feminist movement. They started a public health clinic and a counselling centre that offered information on birth control and helped to obtain abortion, when abortion was still illegal in Italy. A political act that arose from a profound urgency for personal freedom and self-awareness, which united them and radically changed their personal and political point of view, I think forever.
D&CFilm: Melmaridè means divorce in dialect, what’s the significance of the title?
Elisa Bozzarelli: Melmaridè is a dialect word from Piacenza that means literally “badly married”. At a time when divorce was not yet legal in Italy, people used this word when a woman was unhappy in her marriage (as if just the woman was unhappy in the marriage!!). It was actually also an insult because the woman was the only one blamed for a failed marriage.
D&CFilm: How did you make Melmaridè? How long did it take and did you draw on your design and art director skills?
Elisa Bozzarelli: Filming was possible thanks to the help of many friends who lent us many of the necessary equipment. We also made a crowdfunding to cover some of the expenses. Alice is the main author of editing and I worked on the graphics and communication. Other friends collaborated on the soundtrack and on the search for archive materials. Among them a special thanks goes to Paola Agosti who allowed us to use the wonderful photographs of feminists groups that she took all over Italy in the 1970s.
D&CFilm: What is the role of the artist / filmmaker in society?
Alice Daneluzzo & Elisa Bozzarelli: For me being a filmmaker is the same as all other communicative experiences – a way to deeply understand what is hidden around you, and an act of responsibility through narrative intercourses between subjects and audiences.
D&CFilm: You’ve screened the film across Europe, Italy and in the UK, what has the response been?
Alice Daneluzzo: Always empowering and embracing. Both people who come to the screening with a previous feminist background and the simply curious are very surprised by the freshness of the stories told by these 60/70-years-old powerful ladies. This generates a lot of empathy and a cheerful approach to otherwise quite heavy topics, and to a side of Italian feminist history that is not very well known, also to Italian audiences.
D&CFilm: While making the film – or during the Q&As – what has surprised you, and what has made you smile?
Alice Daneluzzo: In every screening there is always a strong personal connection between mothers and daughters (but also mothers and sons, and fathers and daughters). A lot of people ask how they could show the documentary to their mother, as a way to open a dialogue with them.
My grandmother saw it, she’s in her 80s, and while her daughters were slightly embarrassed by topics such as abortion, sex and divorce, she was very engaged, almost screaming during the projections: “Yes! I remember those days, this is exactly how it was! Well done! Thank you! If it weren’t for them, we would still be struggling a lot!” That was really a thing. Another remark I remember was by a girl in Bruxelles, who told me: “Thanks for that, now I realise that Italian feminism is way more than Silvia Federici, and I want to learn more!”
D&CFilm: Will you be making any more films, where can we catch Melmaridè and what’s next for you?
Alice Daneluzzo: Probably Melmaridè will be made accessible online, so more people can enjoy it. As for a next documentary… addiction, fragility, and perception of the end of the world are all topics that we would like to explore.