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Antonella Attili's cinematographic journey from Palazzo Adriano

Friday 22 january 2021

Palazzo Adriano is a piece of Italian cinema history and the place where a beautiful young actress, Antonella Attili, made her debut.

Antonella Attili's cinematographic journey from Palazzo Adriano

Palazzo Adriano is a small town in the Sicania region, between the provinces of Palermo and Agrigento, nestled on the slopes of Monte delle Rose at 695 metres above sea level. It has less than two thousand inhabitants but a large green and ancient heart, where a project combining biodiversity, green development, traditions and history is in full growth.
Palazzo Adriano was once a crossroads of peoples and cultures, and even today architecture and religions mingle. A large part of the population here preserves the Byzantine rite of the Albanian exiles who once founded this small town, which is concentrated in Piazza Umberto I.
A large, harmonious square with a 17th-century octagonal fountain. The atmosphere in this small Sicilian corner is almost surreal. Although the town is small, there are several churches and the castle. There are ancient citadels and arches that reflect ancient defensive needs.

Palazzo Adriano

Palazzo Adriano is also part of the history of Italian cinema, it is the town where Giuseppe Tornatore decided to shoot "Nuovo Cinema Paradiso" in 1988, the Sicilian director's masterpiece won an Oscar in 1989, and the images of Palazzo Adriano went around the world.
The story of a child with a passion for cinema and his mother in despair after her husband disappears during the war, told against the backdrop of a small town devastated by the bombs of the Second World War, is the film debut of a young and beautiful actress: Antonella Attili, who in "Nuovo Cinema Paradiso" is Maria, the mother of little Totò.

Nuovo Cinema Paradiso, Palazzo Adriano
“Nuovo Cinema Paradiso”

Many years have passed since her debut, and Antonella Attili's cinematographic journey continues, her career boasting many roles and many important directors. Tornatore himself directed her twice more in "L'uomo delle Stelle" and "Stanno tutti bene" with Marcello Mastroianni.

In 1994 she was in the cast of "Dichiarazioni d'amore" by Pupi Avati. Ettore Scola directed her in "Concorrenza sleale" where she played the wife of Sergio Castelletto and then in "Che strano chiamarsi Federico" Scola's homage to the master Fellini. Stefano Incerti directed her in "Prima del tramonto". She was also in the cast of Margareth von Trotta's "The Long Silence" and Antony Minghella wanted her for a small role in his "English Patient". She starred in Antonello Crimaldi's "Caos Calmo" and Marco Ponti cast her as Matilde, Michele Placido's wife in "Io che amo solo te" and "La cena di Natale". For the direction of Stefano Sollima she is in the cast of "Romanzo Criminale" where she plays the mother of the Lebanese, she is again a mother in "Cuori Puri" by Roberto De Polis. In 2020 she played the role of Checco Zalone's mother in "Tolo Tolo", an interpretation that earned her a nomination for the Nastri d'Argento as a comic actress.

Antonella Attili, from Rome but considered by many to be Sicilian, is an actress of great talent and skill. She is a fascinating, expressive, beautiful woman with deep, black eyes, capable of moving on stage even in silence, making her performances and characters unique. The role of the mother has often been designed for her by many directors, and she has been able to give each mother her own particular style, her own social, cultural and emotional connotation.
For three seasons she has been one of the protagonists of the Rai Uno soap "Il Paradiso delle Signore". Her character is Agnese, a Sicilian woman who lives in Milan where, embracing social and cultural evolution, she has become an icon of female emancipation, strong and combative, capable of giving great emotions. A character in continuous emotional and social change, brought to the stage by the actress in a masterly way, declining with enthusiasm and technique joys, sorrows, anxieties, fears and changes. Antonella Attili on stage is pure emotion. Hers is a silent artistic journey full of important experiences that has its roots in that small town, Palazzo Adriano, which has always remained in her heart.

Your Oscar-winning debut with Nuovo Cinema Paradiso, filmed in Palazzo Adriano, what memories do you have of that first film?"

I remember arriving in Palazzo Adriano between May and June 1988, the town was the square, the one where the cinema was built in the film. There wasn't much, the whole crew was housed in houses scattered around the town, there were no hotels or restaurants. There was a small bar where we went to have breakfast. Philippe Noiret and I were put up in a sort of building equipped for the occasion, in the rooms there was a bed and a very basic bedside table, then Noiret left because the bed was too short for him, and I stayed there for the whole period.  I came down in the morning and I was on the set. I was inside the film. The square, the streets of that village were my own, Maria my character walked along them, it was pure magic, there was no detachment from reality. I was immersed in a dream. A total, unforgettable experience. On weekends I would take the bus to Palermo to get a bit of city life around me and slowly I began to visit the surrounding area, Monreale, Cefalù. Every weekend was a discovery.

Since Nuovo Cinema Paradiso, you have made other films in Sicily and you play with a perfect Sicilian accent, do you have a special bond with this land?

Yes, I have a special bond with Sicily and special Sicilian friends, so I have often come back for pleasure and for work. I have toured a lot with the theatre, visiting it far and wide.

Your film career is long and full of important experiences, how do you define your artistic journey?

Eclectic, non-uniform and unclassifiable. The fact that I am not classifiable is fortunate for me, because I have been able to tackle all genres across the board and I have tried to diversify as much as possible in both acting and the medium. I have done theatre, radio, cinema and TV. My only priorities were to transform myself and to meet directors who would give me the opportunity to discover something else from me and about me. It may have been an uphill struggle at first, but I stuck it out and the rewards came.

The journey you carry in your heart?

Africa. I was there for three months when I was 18, it was the "trip" of my maturity. I went to Kenya and it was an unforgettable experience. The sky was lower and the colours dazzling, everything more vivid. You are immersed in a state of mind full of emotion for nature, smells, animals, natives.
A kind of continuous ecstasy, of course now everything will have changed and that is why a part of me would like to go back while the other prefers the memory of Africa that I experienced.

She is currently enjoying a moment of great popularity thanks to her role as Agnese Amato in the RAI Uno soap "Il Paradiso delle signore", this strong Sicilian woman, what can you tell us about her?

Agnese Amato is a bit of a compendium of the roles of my life, of all the mothers I have played up to now. Mainly my relationship with my children, being a mother is sometimes totalising and cumbersome. Love justifies everything. Agnese is a woman left alone but who has the strength to go on, a woman who doesn't feel sorry for herself but who fights to go on, all this in the 1960s, expressing an idea of female emancipation that is certainly not conscious but which she perceives to be necessary even with her few intellectual means. I am totally in love with Agnese and I am so involved in her that I no longer recognise the boundaries between actress and character. I have been involved in it since the beginning, I felt that the role was mine. Agnese was waiting for me and I was waiting for her.

Will we see her in anything other than Ladies' Paradise?

I will be in the cast of "Makari", a fiction filmed last October in Sicily, in the tuna fishery of Scodello, a magical place. In the new fiction that will be broadcast on Rai Uno, directed by Michele Soavi and inspired by the novels of Gaetano Savatteri, I will be Marilù, the owner of the restaurant of the tonnara. This drama was also filmed in Sicily, and there too I was lucky to have stayed and worked in the same place, and what a place it was.

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