Berardo Carboni’s Youtopia tells the story of 18-year-old Matilde (played by Matilda De Angelis) as she lives a bleak life with her mother making money through video chat stripshows.
Close-up Culture’s James Prestridge spoke to Carboni about the film ahead of its UK premiere at the Raindance Film Festival in London (25 and 26 September). For ticket info
Q: Did you spend any time on videos games or in virtual worlds in preparation for making ‘Youtopia’?
A: The initial idea for the film comes from a long time spent in virtual worlds. I have always loved video games and I spent about three months of my life in a virtual world (Second Life) to prepare a storyboard for another project – Vola Vola – which then became a 90-minute experimental movie shot entirely in machinima. That film never had commercial distribution, but was studied by experts because of that peculiar way of shooting.
During the time spent with avatars in digital scenarios, I learned to understand that virtual worlds are a cultural material and that you can trigger sentimental interactions there. I have had some personal experience of those kind of feelings and I know couples who married in real life after meeting for the first time in those kind of video games.
Q: I grew up with adults dismissing videos games as a waste of time, but virtual realities are becoming more and more inescapable and real. Am I right in thinking ‘Youtopia’ has a more positive outlook on video games or do you share this cynicism?
A: Youtopia definitely presents video games in a more positive light. In a world without hope, video games become a tool for the coming-of-age story of Matilde.
At the same time, I think it is paradoxical and controversial that the only hope of the main characther of the movie is a virtual relationship. It is a way to criticise our society.
Q: Video games are so often depicted as an activity for young men, not women. Why did you decide to have a female lead character?
A: This is not true, even if I agree the majority of the people think that. Whilst playing MMORPG (Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game), I met lot of women of different ages. The choice for a female protagonist is because the story itself is about a young lady who learns new values that bring her out from a materialistic and patriarchal vision of the word.
Q: Can you tell us more about the character of Matilde and conflicts see faces in ‘Youtopia’?
A: The entire movie is built around the characther of Matilde, even if there are three main roles. The other two are kind of sterotypes that never change. Only Matilde has a complete change, she is more cynical in the beginning but becomes pure with a new system of values. So the main conflict she experiences is within herself, learning to be a new Matilde.
Q: What role does the relationship between Matilde and her mother play in the film?
A: It is a crucial relationship. Matilde became an adult in a poor reality – sad and austere – so she builds a second skin – concrete and cynical – around her fragility. This has never happened to the mother. She seems unable to react to the fact that the dreams that she had when she was young have gone.
Q: Matilda De Angelis is an actress I’ve been keeping an eye on since Matteo Rovere’s ‘Italian Race’. What interested you about working with this talented young actress?
A: I saw around one hundred actresses for the role of Matilde, but I was sure from the beginning that she was the one. Matilda is an extremely talented actress and also has an aura that reminded me of the character I had in mind.
Q: How did Matilda approach this character, particularly given the physical exploitation Matilde experiences?
A: It was very difficult at the beginning because she has never had to open herself up like this on camera before. We were both very patient and did a lot of exercises with an external coach. By the end, I think Matilda became a super cool webcam girl.
Q: ‘Youtopia’ will screen at the Raindance Film Festival. What are you looking forward to about coming to London and attending the festival?
A: I hope that Raindance can be a good gateway to bring Youtopia to the eyes of the kind of audience that will love it. I have never been to Raindance before but, from what I have read, it is one of the best places in the world to meet Youtopians!
Q: Do you have a message for audiences ahead of the screenings?
A: Enjoy the movie! Be sad and be happy. Believe, at least a bit more, that we humans deserve more than just sex and money. That in the centre of the world there is not just fucking money.
You can see ‘Youtopia’ at the Raindance Film Festival in London (25 and 26 September). For ticket info