Running until June 17, the 12-day festival will unfold across several Sydney suburbs, from Newtown to Cremorne.
Among the international titles on the festival’s program are many Italian ones, as this year there is a special focus on the Belpaese.
One of the leading Italian films to be shown is ‘Beautiful Things’, a hybrid documentary by Torinese composer, director and photographer, Giorgio Ferrero, and cinematographer, producer and filmmaker, Federico Biasin.
The award-winning film is a 93-minute exploration of obsessive consumption and the tendency we have to accumulate things which end up filling the spaces of our everyday lives.
The film is structured in four parts which focus on four moments of each subject’s life.
Each act focuses on a worker operating in a distinct, isolated environment, each challenging from both a physical and psychological perspective.
The first is Van, a maintenance man who works on an oil rig in the Texan desert.
Then there is Danilo, a Filipino man who works in the bowels of a supertanker where an enormous motor is located.
Third to appear is Andrea, an Italian scientist whose life consists of mathematical formulas and the silence of his echo-free chamber, which allows him to block out the sounds of the world.
Finally we meet Vito, a waste plant operative who operates an incinerator.
All four men spend most of their day in a desolate and alienated place, in stark contrast to the overabundance which surrounds the rest of the global population.
“It’s a film about boundaries,” Ferrero said.
“It talks about the people who are metaphorically on the fringe of everyday life.”
All four are real life stories and the subjects play themselves.
This fact allowed the producers to understand in depth the workers’ thoughts and feelings towards their occupations.
“For example, Vito rarely talks about his work, but he’s proud of the fact that he is indispensable even though many don’t acknowledge the importance of somebody like him,” Ferrero said.
‘Beautiful Things’ was initially conceptualised as a series of short films, but soon became a feature film when the need to explore each theme in more depth arose.
Also a professor of music, scientist Andrea lent Ferrero and Biasin a helping hand.
“While the other jobs are relatively intuitable when you think about the lifecycle of a product, Andrea’s is a little-known occupation,” Ferrero explained.
In fact, very little is known about echo-free chambers.
They are rooms constructed in a way that they completely block out any external noise as well as the reflection of any noise made within their walls.
Entering into one of these rooms, we become the only source of sound.
Once our hearing becomes used to complete silence, it begins to perceive all of the sounds produced by our bodies, from our heartbeat to the blood running through our veins and the air going in and out of our lungs.
The experience can be so extreme that it can cause a loss of physical and psychological equilibrium.
These chambers are used to study the sounds of myriad products before they are placed on the market.
Given Ferrero’s experience as a composer, the film’s striking soundscape helps to accentuate the sense of seclusion characteristic of the places that Van, Danilo, Andrea and Vito work in.
The musical component also highlights the difference between the situation of the four workers and that of “Him and Her”, a couple portrayed in a shopping centre who appear towards the end of the film and represent all of us.
‘Beautiful Things’ was challenging to produce, and Ferrero and his team often found themselves in dangerous or hostile environments during filming, from the supertanker to the incinerator where they spent eight days among waste and unbearable stenches.
The film was supported by the Venice Biennale, allowing the crew to access places far away and by no means suitable for non-employees.
Subsequently, it won the NEXT: WAVE Award at CPH: DOX, and Best Italian Film at Venice.
This success has allowed Ferrero and Biasin to promote the film all around the world, from New York to Taipei and Sydney.
To conclude, the documentary’s title is intended to convey a sense of banality, “the banality that resides in everyday life”.
‘Beautiful Things’ will show at Dendy Opera Quays Cinema on June 8 and 9. For more information visit the Sydney Film Festival’s website.