Filmmaker Nathalie Biancheri released her first short film The Crossing this autumn, which she adapted from her father Boris Biancheri’s last short story. Writing runs in the London-based 26-year-old’s family. Her Great Uncle Giuseppe Thomas di Lampedusa authored one of Italy’s most beloved and widely-read novels The Leopard, but died shortly before it was published posthumously.
JOSEPH meets Nathalie within the cosy book-packed walls of The Society Club, Soho to debrief on a year of writing, directing and reinterpreting her family heritage…

You adapted and directed your own film last year, what motivated you?
It’s called The Crossing, and it’s a short film based on a short story that my father wrote. I’ve been working in documentaries for the past four years; you get a lot of factual shoots. I was lucky enough to work on one that had an element of drama, which really got me interested in cinema. I suddenly decided I wanted to make my own short film.

A big undertaking …
Yes. The hardest bit was adapting a story that was so very personal to me. It was the last book my father wrote before he passed away. I remember reading it and thinking I love this story, I need to do something with it.

It’s about a girl in 1961, who lives in a decadent lonely villa by the sea. Her one true passion is swimming – it’s a form of escape and the only thing that gives her any happiness. One day a journalist shows up and persuades her to swim The English Channel. That’s the story in a nutshell. What was challenging was negotiating between a very ambiguous, slightly vague and slow short story in another language and trying to make it into a compelling, narrative-driven 15-20 minute short. That was a big struggle, especially from an emotional perspective. I spent a lot of time thinking “what did my father want to say with this bit and what do I want to say.” I think a huge part of the process was giving up trying to interpret the thoughts of a person I couldn’t go to, and just finding my own voice within it.

What was directing it like?
What was really fun for me, having previously worked on documentaries at the BBC, was that I hadn’t really worked with actors before. I especially loved working with my young actress Sabrina Bartlett. When I found her she’d just finished drama school – she was very fresh when she came to her casting.
It was interesting because we really were learning together; we went to swimming lessons twice a week, (her character is the swimmer) so she had to get really good. We developed her character together and built a really strong relationship, which was extremely gratifying for me.


12 Ingestre Place, London W1F 0JF [ ]
Art by Tim Noble

How does the story represent Italian Culture?
I hope some Italian culture comes through. I am Italian, as was my father; the story was written in Italy and we filmed in Italy. But beyond that it is set in 1960s Italy, and I am a big fan of Fellini and I think there is something borrowed from that mood. Some of the grey and the colours and very composed shots are a little bit borrowed from the Great Italian filmmakers. At the same time, I think I’ve become very Anglo-Saxon in a sense, just living in London, so I think it’s a mix of two things.

Speaking of which, who is your favourite director?
Probably Miachael Haneke, an Austrian director and screenwriter. He is completely different to anything I do. He’s brutal and quite difficult to watch. Amour was his film that won an Oscar in 2013, but consistently throughout his career, every film he’s made has been incredible. Terrible and incredible at the same time.

Who else do you most admire living or dead?
I guess what I really like about Haneke, or someone like Meryl Streep for example, is people who are so consistent in their integrity and their delivery of excellence. There are some in the film industry who peak and then go, or abandon things. I think the really hard thing is to be consistent and constantly deliver excellent, intriguing, thought provoking work and just get better and better and better. So for me, in terms of women, it’s definitely Meryl Streep, she’s a pure, excellent actress and human being, who touches people whatever she does.

What music inspires you?
I pretty much always listen to classical music. I’m a big fan of Bach and also Ludovico Einaudi, who really is my dream composer and I hope he’ll do my feature film. He has seen my short film and he really liked it… so… fingers crossed!

What do you wear to work?
I spend a lot of time on set making documentaries which means my style has to be practical. It’s not that I don’t care– I think it’s important to feel good. In fact, the more I work in a male-dominated industry the more I don’t mind defining myself as the one wearing something relaxed but chic, and maybe being the one that has secretly had her nails done before carrying tripods up Mount Vesuvius. I kind of long to wear dresses during the day, although most of the time I need to be in a big warm knits.

What's next?
Continuing documentary work and creating artist videos. But I am also working on my feature film, and I’ve met with a few producers who are interested in making it. It’s a psychological thriller. There’s lots of work to be done –we’re still in script development/treatment stage but I think it’s going to happen.

What are your favourite pieces from the AW14 collection?