Interview: Monica Mazzitelli, the director of “The Wedding Cake” (2020)

Monica Mazzitelli is a feminist director and novelist from Italy, now residing in Gothenburg, Sweden. Her shorts have participated at over hundred film festivals where they gained some recognition. She says that her goal is to make the planet a place where women (and men) can live without fear of being abused. What she doesn’t say is that she is too humble to discuss her previous filmic work. In her mindset there are “three films worth mentioning”, which is why her imdb profile lists only those.

With her latest short The Wedding Cake, Monica Mazzitelli has won the international short film competition at the RVK Feminist Film Festival, which kicked off in January this year. Immediately after, the film was screened in Gothenburg, and it has prospects of becoming a well-traveled festival regular.

Ubiquarian was in Reykjavik, and it is there we saw and reviewed the film. The interview with the director, who couldn’t attend the festival, was done via Skype.

Congratulations on the Sister Award for The Wedding Cake, which won the RVK Feminist Film Festival international competition.

I am so excited about this, because this victory has layers. Number one, I was working on this short which was a pilot for another project that I really hope I can do sometime in the future: a docudrama about prostitution and pornography. What my goal is, is to be able to tell stories that are really hard to listen to. I want to make them available for anyone who is willing to listen and see without being too shocked, and from my part, I don’t want to directly involve the women that have suffered in these situations. I wanted to make it an artistic docudrama that will make the audience take on this information without finding the expression form unbearable. I had the material and I was working on it to make a pilot and to find a producer, when all of a sudden the WIFT president Helene Granqvist posted about the RVK Feminist Film Festival on the Swedish page, and I immediately thought that I wanted to send my film there. I rushed to complete it to be able to submit it on time. And when that happened, I was sort of convinced that it was never going to happen. But then they got in touch with me and said they wanted the film, that was amazing because it almost felt like that it’s for them that I made it. I was very happy that it went the whole way through. The second thing that is very important to me is to participate in a feminist film festival. Winning it is even better (laughs)!

To go back to the beginning – your wish is to expand on the story about women forced into prostitution.

That is correct. For me, being a filmmaker is something that is connected to my deep need of changing the world and making it a better place for women, or for people in general. In the last years, the things got worse instead of getting better. So, contributing to change is my goal, and it’s a political one. I am glad every time I can get my message through and winning the Sister Award for the best international film at the RVK Feminist Film Festival means that “The Wedding Cake” will gain attention. This marks the beginning of reaching my personal goal, and the goal as a director. It’s a sort of double win.

You used the popular Playmobil toys to craft the film. Any particular reason for that?

I never did an animation before, and this is not really a stop-motion because it doesn’t want to give an impression of movement. Every photo is composed to stand out as a hopefully interesting piece of photography rather than serving as a mean to create an animation effect, even though some festivals classify “The Wedding cake” as an “animation”. I personally consider it to be a docudrama. The reason why I used the Playmobil is that I have an artist friend Adriana Rosati (Art Director of the film) whose work I really like. She’s an amazing graphic designer and she sometimes works with icing on cakes and things like that, which I think to be a very interesting form of art. I wanted to work with her, so I thought – let’s just use one of her cakes. Then I went into a toy store and I was looking at what was there, what was available. Because I really wanted to use something that was neutral, and more importantly something that boys and girls use equally, Playmobil felt like a good choice. It’s not like Barbie, that is in a way very gender specific.  All children understand Playmobil and adults do, too. This was a perfect compromise for all the purposes I had.

In your CV available on your official website, we ca read that you’ve made about 25 short films, out of which only 3 are listed on imdb. How come?

I have indeed done all sorts of shorts, including some musical videos and book trailers at the beginning, while I worked on films in parallel with a regular job. So the films that are on IMDb are the few that I consider worth mentioning. But I need to update that! And I will probably add a couple of musical videos that went well. My interest is very broad, and I enjoyed doing all sorts of things. 

Let’s go back to your original idea – the topic of sex trafficking and prostitution.

I work a lot on this issue. I have studied it both theoretically and on field in the last four years, so it feels very natural to me to want to communicate about it in film. This time using something challenging and new: different artistic and handicraft forms, most of them produced by she-artists, like the cake of this short. It is very interesting to explore the various art forms to achieve storytelling about the exploitation of the female body. It concerns its many aspects: pornography, sugar-dating, prostitution. In Europe, the situation is very controversial right now because you have the Nordic model – prostitutes do not face jail sentence, it’s the buyers that do, but unfortunately in Germany there are public brothels that operate their business without any problem. As far as I am concerned, I stand by women’s side and go for what will keep them out of harm.

Was your film concretely based on one story, or was it submerged from many different stories?

This is obviously a true story, albeit I altered some details to respect the woman’s privacy. It is a frequent story especially for women from Eastern Europe. This is what I want to do with other characters as well. I base my projects on true events because there is no need to invent anything, they already exist out there. As I worked many years on these issues in various ways, I have had the opportunity to hear and read many confessions, that often repeat themselves. I would like to have a global perspective. For instance, I composed the lyrics for a four-voices choral about the Nigerian trafficked girls journey to Europe, but I would also like to talk about the Asian prostitution. Europe is very important to me anyway, because laws made in Europe are often influencing the debate in the rest of the world. 

Your film is also in the official selection of the Göteborg Film Festival.

Yes. It was screened in the program “Reality bites”. It had to be a Swedish premiere, but now it can participate to other festivals! The finalization took a while, lots of the post-production work!

It is interesting that your husband took over many roles in the creative process of “The Wedding Cake”. He is the DoP, editor, sound expert and the colorist.

He always enjoyed still photography and he never worked on video-making, but now he started working as a color grader, where he could use his photographic skills. At the same time, he has been a musician for many years – a double bass and bass player – and loved to be involved in audio mixing, so he has a good ear for that, too! He’s been very helpful and very professional on each thing, and I hope that I can continue working with him, at least for editing and coloring.