VIP - VideoChannel Interview Project

Berti, Cristiano

Cristiano Berti
Italian videomaker




Interview: 10 questions

1. Tell me something about your life and the educational background
I was born in Turin, where I studied, first in the artistic high school and then at the Faculty of Architecture (though I never worked as an architect). I began to draw, and then to make sculptures and finally to paint towards the end of the 80s, but apart from my experience in high school, which I finished without even dreaming of ever being involved in contemporary art, I have never had any kind of formal artistic education. I acquired some basic knowledge about sculpture by going to the studios of some rather traditional sculptors in Turin and Milan, the rest I learnt by myself. I haven’t painted or done any sculptures in the past 10 years; I now work with photography, video and installations of objects which are re-contextualized or produced by others for me. Regarding photography I always collaborate with professional photographers, especially Piero Ottaviano, playing the part of a “director of still images”; where video are concerned I’m often forced, for economic reasons, to shoot the footage, something I do with a certain distress.

2. When, how and why started you filming?
I did sometimes think about making a film, of any kind, in the 90s, but these ideas never materialized. In 2001 I began to do some work which discussed the role that images play on our daily idea of reality. Making videos (and photographs which I used more often) it was, you could say, a natural step in the development of my work. Up till then I had only made short or very short, rather minimalist videos. Lety is the first one which has the complexity and development of a short film.

3.What kind of subjects have your films?
In most cases, I made videos which originated from observing everyday events which are capable of redefining our sense of reality, even assuming a metaphysical aspect. In the last few years I have developed a particular interest for the documentary film, which adapts well to what I have in mind, seeing that much of my recent work is about the tension between oblivion and the perpetuation of memory. The idea of Lety basically developed from an artistic residence in Slovakia, in February 2008. While I was there I went to a concert of the After Phurikane and was awestruck by Ferko and Martinka, who performed an extraordinary set of songs by themselves alone. From that evening I have thought about doing something together with them. In those very days I was doing some research about the Roma and discovered about the pig farm in Lety: I could associate these two discoveries, which actually didn’t have much in common, by using the paradigm of a journey. This rather arbitrary association gave rise to an implicit parallelism (the physical diversity on one hand, the diversity of policies of – and on – memory on the other, joined by a common denominator, a social and identity one, of belonging to the Roma people) and to other possibilities of reading the film, which I hope are not restricted to those which come to my mind.

4. How do you develop your films, do you follow certain principles, styles etc?
I look for synthesis in all the work I do. I always think it’s better to leave something out, something not said, rather than risk redundancy. I’m also attracted by the possible ambiguity of images but this, at least for now, is better seen in my photos. Another recurrent element is a predilection for the fragment, which also pertains to the stylistic code of Lety.

5. Tell me something about the technical equipment you use.
I use a Sony DVCam. Sometimes, besides my camcorder I also use other camcorders. The editing is always done by professional editors who use Final Cut and Mac. Fundamental for Lety was the presence of Sonia Portoghese who did the audio recording, which presented considerable problems as it involved recording, for the most part, conversations and songs held and sung during the journey itself, with a lot of background noise. #

6. What are the chances of new media for the genre film/video in general and you personally?
I think it’s obvious that new media will play a fundamental role in the way videos are conceived, a role which is already evident in many ways, but can be extended, for example, by interactivity, by hybridizing the images and text, by an ever growing involvement of the senses. For now the new media have made it generally easy to access video technology, something I take advantage of, but only in part because I’m not madly keen about technical aspects.

7. How do you finance your films?
The first videos were self financed, which was not difficult as production costs were very low. Then I received a commission to make a video from a music festival, and after that a grant from a British foundation, which made it possible to produce Lety.

8. Do you work individually as a video artist/film maker or do you work in a team? if you have experience in both, what is the difference, what do you prefer?
I am neither able nor interested to work alone. My experience with videos has always been in collaboration with others, especially the editing. What I enjoy about working with other people, apart from appreciating their specific professionalism and expertise, is the possibility of comparing ideas and solutions.

9. Who or what has a lasting influence on your film/video making?
That’s difficult to say; surely the collaboration to the production of some videos, in particular Getting Better, a docufiction on contraception conceived for Nigerian women, carried out in 2007 and directed by Antonio Lucarini, helped me to cope with a complex production such as Lety.

10. What are your future plans or dreams as a film/video maker?
I have some ideas in my head for new videos, with some footage, but they have yet to take on some sort of defined shape. That doesn’t mean it will happen, or will happen soon, because the ideas for videos clash with ideas for new photographs and installations, and it’s a tough battle.

Can works of yours viewed online besides on VideoChannel? Where?
Most of my videos can be seen via my website, e.g. at the links: