Jacopo de Bertoldi

Jacopo de Bertoldi

I have had a love affair with Italy since I was 12. I can remember the particular instant stuck in traffic along the Tiber River in Rome on a family trip when I determined my soul belonged there.  Since then, I have studied Italian language, have studied, worked and lived there and most importantly, have established lifelong friendships in Italy that provide sustenance, support and reflection in the constantly changing landscape of my life.  Nearly sixteen years ago, I met Jacopo de Bertoldi at his parents’ restaurant on their farm in Belluno, Italy. Ironically, I was going to school in Italy at the time and he was visiting home from Los Angeles, the city where I grew up and where he was working in film.  There was an instant and deep connection that we both recognized and have nurtured. In the years since meeting, our relationship has run through many phases from dating to friendship to familial, but regardless of what point on the spectrum we land, we continue to show up for each other and reflect back the beauty and inspiration we have always seen in one other.  My recent trip to Italy was so much about re-connecting with Jacopo and other dear friends who have traveled with me through so much of life. I allowed myself to be seen in this new iteration by those who have held me, loved me, supported me and cheered me on through many evolutions. It was such a pleasure to ask Jacopo, a filmmaker and fellow artist, these questions and to have a conversation about truth and reality and our desire to keep showing up for our art and for each other. Towards the end of our conversation, he turned the mic on me. 

What matters most to you?

Jacopo: "What is very important for me is the understanding of reality. We happen to be here. I happen to be here in this world, if I am here (he laughs), and I have to understand. Since I don’t believe in God. I mean I don’t believe in [one story of] the creation, perhaps there was a creation but who knows what it looked like. I don’t have a reference point. I don’t have deep-grounded roots, somewhere secure from where I can build up a sure reading of reality. So for me the understanding of reality is the most important thing. It is important to me to try to understand what is the world, who I am and who I am in relation with the world."

How does that tie into what you do and thread into your life?

"When the meaning of the world was becoming the main focus of my life, I started studying philosophy. But, philosophy for me was not enough to understand the world. Then I thought that possibly through art, you can understand the world better, because art does not pretend to give a full explanation of reality. So I thought maybe art can get closer to the truth---closer than philosophy probably and science. It can give you a closer idea, a more full idea of reality than science or philosophy. So I started painting, then writing and then I started studying the works of the big masters in film that I was fascinated by. Now, I think that movie making is not necessarily a way to know reality better, but it is a form of art and, as a form of art, it can give you a good hint of what reality is. 

But at the same time, what I want to say is that, when you look through the viewer of the camera, you do analyze reality. You are forced to analyze reality and to think about it. I like to do that, because I am personally forced to understand what I see in the viewer. When you walk around, there is more time. It flows so you have time to understand, look and process. When you look in the viewer, there you are watching something and you have to decide what is that thing and what does it mean in that moment. So it is a very important moment to understand what is reality in a basic manner." 

What do you do to stay connected and quiet the input that is everywhere?

"Today we are so connected that we are overwhelmed with input. It is rare to have time completely with yourself. You have to create it. The creative part of our thinking is reduced with the net. You don’t have dark spots, dark areas of your knowledge. In some ways you can only have surface knowledge unless you go deeper. In the past, if you didn’t know something, maybe it was difficult to get information about that matter so maybe you were forced to invent. Now it is different. You mentioned what happens inside of yourself and what happens outside so I started to think about how connected we are and how much information there is out there."

How do you feel that you find your creativity if you are constantly bombarded with the external input?

"In the past when we were not as hyper-connected, in order to understand reality, you had to fill those areas of your perception where you did not have information. In order to fill those areas, you might have to invent or make up something to fill that spot. Today, if you don’t know or can’t understand something, you just open the computer and go online and you have access to tons and tons of information. So you are not forced anymore to invent. I don’t know why, but I am thinking now about Don Quixote. I am imagining him in his library, reading all of these books. What he was reading was only novels and literature about medieval love and war. Then he goes out into the world and what he sees in the world is what he has been reading in his library. He imagines that the world is a reflection of what he read.  If he had had access to Internet, maybe we would not have had the beauty of his imagination and he would not have had a chance to see the world with fresh eyes if he had researched it all differently." 

I think film or a painting or anything else captures that moment that you are trying to reflect upon and hopefully it makes another person contemplate the reality you were trying to capture and highlight.

"When you watch a piece of art, you are seeing the reality as seen from the point of view of the artist. At this moment you understand immediately that the big masters, the big artists, are those that are able to give us a universal view of reality that anyone can share from any corner of the world." 

Let’s tie that back to Don Quixote and the noise that exists in life that distracts us from honing into what we want to see and reflect.  There are so many external influences and a raining of imagery and sound and noise. How do you create the dark space, the quiet, the time to even know what it is that you want to show the world? How do you figure out as an artist what you want to share with the world?

"Of course, you have inputs and things that you like. There may be other artists that you admire and see their work. We are all influenced by others’ work, the news, social media, the sound of the cicada outside where we are on this farm, the tractor passing by. I don’t ask myself what to do. I just do. Who knows? Perhaps I am not the most convincing. I have been writing a lot of screenplays that have been very hard to get produced. I am writing things that are not very commercial, perhaps too independent or different or particular from the mainstream. For instance, the film that I am working on now has been very hard to produce. Finally I am getting to the end, but it has been very hard to get people to understand the idea." 

As someone who is directing and making movies and trying to express an idea, how do you stay true to that vision?

"There is not an end to what we do not know about the world. So we are constantly asking the questions to fill in the dark areas. If you see it that way, you must act as an artist. You understand that the world is such an unknown thing and it is impossible to not act as an artist. We are all artists. In history, this sharing of viewpoints is crucial. If you are able to maintain your childlike vision of the world, you keep asking".

We all have things that we believe in that determine how we live. Sometimes we come up against moments that require us to ask, cut, shift to live more deeply what we believe in.  There are the last cuts. So what was a significant last cut that you made that brought you closer to this?

"I am so much attached to what I believe in, which is understanding the world, that I have made so many sacrifices in my life to follow this belief. I do last cuts constantly. I left the comforts of a life with a normal job. Even emotionally, I have left behind people I care about [to follow this passion]. I remember very well when the woman I was working for, who is an incredible artist, Carla Accardi, was telling me about her life. She told me that, when she was a young girl in Sicily, she was so in love with this man. They were both madly in love with each other, but she said to herself, “If I stay with this man, I am not going to be an artist. I will lose my drive, my focus.” So she left Sicily and left him to go to Florence and then Rome to become the artist that she became. And then, when she was older, in her 70’s or later, she met this man again and they saw each other for ten years until he died. They were again in love. She would take the train from Rome to Milan at 75 or so to visit this man. It is a beautiful story. If you truly believe in something that is your focus, your motivation, you prioritize that in your life." 

Is it always easy to live that way?

"No. Not at all. Not at all."

Is it worth it?

"Yes. I went through very difficult times—my screenplays were refused--- or problems--- two movies that were up to the production date and then fell. When you do stuff that is not commercial, it can be very difficult, but I am happy because I believe in it. I can do it.

I never made a decision that strongly changed my life completely. I always followed my instinct. If I made big decisions in my life, I didn’t feel as if they were a turning point. I always follow my instinct and so everything was adjusting after that in a very instinctive way. Big changes in my life have come from outside and forced me to make decisions from that point. They forced me to act or react, but I always feel as if I have chosen the best thing for me in the moment.

Human beings have a survival instinct usually. Of course, we might be wrong when we make a decision, but it is usually the best thing in that moment. I think I am a very instinctive person. You can make a decision rationally or you can make a decision from your intuition. I am more of an intuitive person than a rational person. I always follow my intuition and when you do that, you are fine. Yes everything can go wrong, but it depends on how you perceive it too." 

{At this point, Jacopo turned the questioning upon me. From this point forward, the bold questions are directed from him and the responses are mine.}

I think you are a very intuitive person too. So, I don’t understand after you have made a decision, why you say that something went wrong. Do you regret a decision that you have made in your life? 

"No, I do not have any regrets, but what I have learned more in the last couple years is that [in the past] I layered on so many external factors to my decision making process that I was not solely operating from my pure intuition or my own knowing of what was best for me in any given moment.  Often I allowed external factors to influence my decision-making. That is where there is some regret though I don’t have any one regret, because every single moment leads us to this one. So if I had not made every single decision I made, I would not be here. And perhaps underlying there is some instinct or intuition even in the ones that seem “wrong,” because we learn from them. So perhaps we were meant to go down a path even if after we say, “Why the fuck did that just happen?” as it leads us to something better."

What is your biggest regret? You said you did not have one, but I will ask.

"I think my biggest regret in general was not standing up for myself, not speaking up for what I knew to be true for a very long time, not being my own advocate."

And now you are following that process of finding the space for yourself and protecting yourself?

"I don’t even know if is a matter of protecting myself. I think I have gotten to a place of better knowing myself and knowing what I need to feel well and happy and more confident in my ability to express myself and my worthiness to have an opinion and stand up for what I need. In the past, be it from guilt or not feeling worthy, I deferred to others."

What do you dream for yourself? What is the best picture you can see of yourself projected in the future? It’s a difficult question. 

"I think my biggest dream is to love and be loved and see and be seen and to connect and to do all of that openly and honestly and truthfully so that I can be who I know I am here to be and not to hold back. My whole dream is to believe in myself enough to keep growing and communicating what I believe I am here to do."

What do you need to be happy?

"Freedom. Truth. Love. Some vegetables and some good olive oil." 

I agree with that. 

{And for the final question, I turned the mic back on Jacopo.}

What is your biggest dream?

"My biggest dream is to be able to make this film I am doing now in the best possible way and then the next one and the next one and the next one." {Check out Jacopo's current film project, This is Not Cricket, for an insightful look at immigration and assimilation through the lens of a cricket team in Italy.}

Kimmay Caldwell

Kimmay Caldwell

Tania Israel

Tania Israel