What is “4:44 Last Day on Earth” writer-director Abel Ferrara doing in a silent Italian film? Only filmmaker Davide Manuli can say for sure.
“It’s a gamble, an experiment,” Manuli told Indiewire recently about his new project, “Haiku,” which is currently being crowdfunded on Indiegogo. “After ‘[The Legend of] Kaspar Hauser’ I was so tired that I couldn’t really sit down and write a conventional, dialogue-based screenplay. I have already worked with Abel as an assistant, but I believe that he is also a great actor and I have always wanted to work with him.”
As funding opportunities shrink by the day in a Europe ravaged by the financial crisis, austerity threatens to become a new aesthetic movement as well as the ruling economic imperative. Perhaps this is just the environment in which Manuli should thrive.
A creative anomaly, a beacon of visual insolvency in a sea of aesthetic compliance, Manuli’s work resists rational descriptions while evoking (im)possible universes. With only three feature films under his belt, the Italian director possesses a forceful and utterly unique style. Unlike anything else in the marketplace, Manuli’s work defies formal clichés and expectations.
His debut dates back to 1998 with the film “Girotondo, Giro Intorno al Mondo” (“Ring a Ring-O’World”). After a 10-year hiatus, “Beket” (2008), his second feature, premiered in Locarno, where it was awarded the Independent Critics Award. In the meantime, he set up his own production company, Shooting Hope Productions, and filmed a documentary on how the North Pole Inuit tribe is cured via tele-medicine titled “Inauditi Inuit” (“Uneheard Inuit,” 2006). One year ago at the Rotterdam International Film Festival, Manuli presented his third film, “The Legend of Kaspar Hauser.” Shot on minimal budgets in a matter of a few weeks, his films are like mirages, making brief if intense appearances in the desert of the real.
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While presenting “Kaspar Hauser” in Rotterdam last year, Manuli saw and subsequently met Isidora Simijonovic, the young protagonist of Maja Milos’ “Clip,” which won the festival’s main prize, the Tiger Award. She is now set to play Ferrara’s daughter in “Haiku” — a young woman who reunites with her long-lost father on the day of his suicide.
Manuli continues to look beyond crowdfunding for sources of funding both private and public. “We are like artisans working in a world that does not need artisans anymore,” he jokes ruefully. “I’m an open-minded prostitute willing to walk down any street. I was talking with Abel [in Paris] and he told me that he was having a hard time finding money for his movies. Can you imagine? If Ferrara can’t find the money, let alone someone like me!”