From the small streets of Trastevere to the immense avenues of New York, Federico Guarascio, 34, left Rome in 2016 to follow his dream of becoming a film producer. At first, he thought he would return to Italy after a month, instead he chose to make the United States his new home. Here, he is making his way in the world of cinema. He recently produced the documentary film “The Fourth Kingdom”–which won first prize at the Brooklyn Film Festival-a bold work set in a collection center where plastic jars and bottles are exchanged for cash. A practice that is becoming increasingly popular in New York.
When and why did you decide to leave Italy?
“It was almost by accident. In Italy I worked for a small documentary production company. In 2016 I won a scholarship. So, I came to the United States and studied for a month at the New York Film Academy. I never went back home. And it was the best choice of my life.”
What are the differences between working as a producer in Italy or in the United States?
“The world of cinema in Italy is dead: the funds are lacking and the basic mentality is wrong. If you have a good project in your mind you will find only those who are ready to discourage you. ‘You will never make it’ or ‘it’s too difficult’. Here it’s the exact opposite. If you have an idea or a project they’ll finance you. They invest in you. You have the perception that you can do it”.
“The Fourth Kingdom”, your latest documentary, is set in a recycling center where poor and marginalized people exchange plastic bottles for a few cents. How was the idea born?
“It is a common practice in New York: to collect plastic bottles and deliver them to collection centers in exchange for a few cents. There are people who live like this. The idea was born by chance, walking near my home in Brooklyn. I came across this collection center and started going there. The crew and I spent so many hours in there that, in the eyes of those who habitually frequent it, we became invisible. And that’s when we started filming. As Agnès Varda says, ‘There is a story hidden in every corner. Just be curious; and there were so many stories in there. First of all, the one of Renée, the protagonist. A former alcoholic who through the collection activity is truly reborn.”
It is not the first documentary that you produce with a social background. “Godka Cirka” (2013) told the life of Alfa, a woman from Somaliland.
“Yes, even if our intent was not that of social denunciation, it was certainly one of the biggest challenges I faced in my career: the logistical difficulties were many and we touched on a delicate topic. The women in the film live in a country where their rights are almost nonexistent; we have had political obstacles from the local government. But in the end, we brought home an excellent result. ”