“Un'ora per abbracciarsi e poi morire”

On the occasion of the Australian promotional tour of Little Tornadoes, Segmento meets director Aaron Wilson and actor Fabio Motta, who walk us through an intimate journey of film-making.

There are films that do not fit a category. Films like Little Tornadoes, which does not tick the box of ethnic or indigenous, of Australian history or war, of British colonization or Italian emigration, because it simply portrays Australia for what it is: a country where different worlds collide. A country where people from such different backgrounds and with different life trajectories meet and seek, struggle, and often succeed to find their place. 

By pondering upon the sense of community, social interaction, the impact of outsiders on the small scale of a country town, director Aaron Wilson is able to explore compelling themes such as the social condition, masculinity, language barriers, cultural identity, and most importantly communication.

Aaron Wilson, director

But Little Tornadoes goes beyond, it does not rest its eye on this microcosm of society, but through its depiction, it soars to high peaks of introspection. Aaron’s camera is there, in the space of the frame, but it lets things happen naturally, it doesn’t seek obsessively. Life happens, emotions happen, and Aaron is there to film it. It is clear in the way Aaron depicts Leo’s search for comfort in his pain, and Mark Leonard Winter embodies the character to perfection; in the way he walks, talks, looks, and moves his body. Leo never leaves the body of the actor, who gifts us with one of the strongest performances seen in a long time. 

Confirming the fact that Aaron allows his film to unfold is actor Fabio Motta, who plays Tony, a recent arrival and addition to the little town: “Aaron wanted me to play the mandolin, but I didn’t enjoy performing that scene. I felt like it was forced,” admits Fabio, who performed in the film at age 19, a dozen years after arriving in Australia from Italy. “Aaron wanted me and Silvia Colloca (as Maria) in his cast because we were both born in Italy, so we both lived the experience of migration first-hand and we both struggled to find a place here.” In fact, Little Tornadoes was filmed 13 years ago, when Fabio and Silvia were not famous, and Fabio had abandoned the idea that the film would one day be released: “A few years ago, I met Aaron in the [United States], and he told me: Little Tornadoes will be released soon. I had given up, but he always believed he would succeed.” But going back to the mandolin scene, Aaron ultimately did not include it in the movie, confirming Fabio’s concern: “because he wants to capture real moments.”

Tony, played by Fabio Motta

Aaron adds: “The opening scene of Little Tornadoes required 23 takes to get right, and 3 consecutive days of work. In the end we found it, we captured beauty in that long-awaited 23rd take, we just had to let it happen.” How did he know it was beauty then? He answers: “Because when you see it, it just feels right.” For Aaron, there is beauty in those little moments between the bigger events. There is beauty in the landscape and there is beauty in humanity. There is beauty in Leo’s memories, shot in different aspect-ratio to convey an immediate sense of detachment. There is beauty in Leo’s wife and children picking a leaf from the tree’s canopy in the front yard. There is beauty in Maria’s cooking and connection with the children. Beauty is simply in the details.

Maria, played by Silvia Colloca

Writing a film is a bit like closing your eyes and taking a delving journey into yourself, diving headfirst, and once you are in the deep waters, you are no longer a slave of your own art, rather you become its ambassador, a genuine explorer of the universe you dwell in and you contain. And this is what Aaron’s filmography does, from Canopy, his feature directorial debut, to Little Tornadoes, throughout all his short films. He is a rare author in these modern times. In Aaron’s work, we can perceive the influence, which he confirms, of directors such as Michelangelo Antonioni. Like Antonioni, Aaron really explores incommunicability, intimacy, connection.

While in Canopy, the first chapter of his trilogy, Aaron had used the gimmick of war to delve into the dark recesses of the human soul through through the terrifying silence of incommunicability, in Little Tornadoes, he tugs us into Maria’s and Leo’s world, making us empathize with their stories and the landscape they are in: if in the first part of Little Tornadoes, Leo clings to his long-gone wife, and Australia is deserted and dry, once Maria enters his life, the landscape turns into a brighter and brisker country.

Leo, played by Mark Leonard Winter

Aaron exudes a profound intellectual honesty and sincere passion for the medium of cinema, and Little Tornadoes does nothing but confirm the talent of a young yet experienced director. Little Tornadoes is a piece of art, where everything – the script (Christos Tsiolkas), the music (Robert Mackenzie), the cinematography (Stefan Duscio), the production design (Tim Burgin), the editing (Cindy Clarkson), the costume design (Maria Tsoukas), and the sound design (Rodney Lowe) – contribute to the spectacle, in a remarkable feast for eyes and ears.

There are films in the heterogeneous and eclectic cinema universe, capable of transporting the audience into a timeless era. Aaron is certainly able to look beyond, to observe through the complex weaving of humanity, and to capture its essential beauty: there is beauty in the humanity he portrayed in Little Tornadoes, but there is beauty also in all those little moments that remind us life is worth living. As you watch Little Tornadoes, you cannot help but wonder how it is possible that such a poignant and intimate movie is not screened everywhere. And if not for the inherent beauty of the movie, shouldn’t it be at least recognized for its cultural significance?

Images provided by Aaron Wilson