Last Saturday, Nicola Lagioia, author and director of the Turin International Book Fair, joined Giona A. Nazzaro, artistic director of the 74th Locarno Film Festival (August 4-14), for L’immagine e la parola (The image and the word), the eighth annual special spring event of the Locarno Film Festival in Switzerland.
The event, which was moderated and curated by Daniela Persico, a member of the festival’s selection committee, took place on an empty stage at the historic GranRex theater in Locarno. Streamed in Italian with live English translation, the virtual event focused both on Lagioia’s most recent novel, La città dei vivi (The city of the living), as well as on how both Lagioia and Nazzaro adapted and responded to the ongoing pandemic as heads of two artistic institutions.
The first hour of the event focused directly on Lagioia, the guest of honor. Persico asked him both about La città dei vivi and his experience as an artist in 2020. Lagioia, in answers that regularly branched off-topic, spoke on a number of factors that all contributed to the creation of his most recent novel. A real-life murder, the performative nature of social media, and the vast divides of generational language were just a few of the topics that Lagioia brought up in the panel’s first hour.
Eventually, Persico turned the discussion away from La città dei vivi and to art in our current collective moment. Here, Nazzaro joined in, and both men spoke on how the pandemic forced them to not only take drastic measures with their respective institutions, but to reconceive their entire relationship with the communities and the cities in which their festivals take place.
Lagioia stressed that artistic isolation for him was far more complex than simply not being able to see his favorite movies on a cinema screen with others. The physical artistic community of a city—the type of community that Lagioia’s work is both drawn from and represents—is what he misses most. This reduction in collectivity is something that both men seemed to be still trying to figure out how to parse.
As for Lagioia’s work in the future?
“Everything that we thought we removed from our lives has come back,” Lagioia said in the final minutes of the panel. “Death, illness—all these things we don’t want to think about. We want to not think about the tragic aspects of our lives, but they came back with [the pandemic].”
Those gritty truths of life—cities filled to the brim both with murder and community, with crime and with art alike—were already hallmarks of Lagioia’s work. They’re present in the works of Fellini and Pasolini, who Lagioia referenced a number of times during L’immagine e la parola. They’re a central focus in Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood, of which he also talked extensively. But now these truths are at the forefront of everyone’s mind, and Lagioia seems even more primed to blend them into his art.
“Accepting these things,” he said, “and not pretending like they don’t exist, gives dignity back to our lives.”