WORLD PREMIERE @ FESTIVAL DEL CINEMA DI ROMA 3 NOVEMBER 2011, H20:30!
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Well. It's beeen a year of hard work on this one. From the official pressbook (you will find the pressbook itself by clicking the link above, includes the official cast credits):
Note: Carlo Shalom Hintermann, the director of the film is speaking.
For a few children sun is a fatal enemy. Xeroderma Pigmentosum is a rare illness that forces them to live far from any sunlight, completely isolated from the daytime life of their peers. This doesn't happen however at Camp Sundown, a summer camp in New York State conceived and established by the determination of their parents. This camp welcomes child patients from all over the world. Here an inverted universe, full of enchantment, flourishes. The life of this small nocturnal community is interwoven with the animated dreams conceived by the children themselves. Both parents and children share the same desire: to fully live out their lives, despite the illness.
Xeroderma Pigmentosum is an extremely rare, genetic illness caused by a defect in the nucleotide excision repair (NER) mechanisms of patients, so that human cells are unable to partially or fully repair damage provoked by exposure to ultraviolet rays. This means that XP patients have a probability of developing skin tumours one thousand times greater than a non-patient. There is still no cure for thisdisease. Ultraviolet rays, mainly from the sun, but also produced by some man-made lighting, are always harmful to patients with this illness. There is no safe level of exposure to ultraviolet rays and any damage is cumulative: the greater the exposure, the more significant the damage. The life expectancy of an XP patient is very low. This forces XP patients to lead a literally inverted life - mainly at night; where the day of a healthy child ends, an XP patient begins theirs.
THE XP SOICIETY
The XP Society is a not-for-profit charitable organization founded in 1995 by Caren and Dan Mahar, whose youngest daughter, Katie, has Xeroderma Pigmentosum. The organization aims to provide XP patients and their families both support and information needed to cope daily with XP. Camp Sundown is the single most important project of the XP Society which directly benefits and involves the XP family and patients. This unique to the world night camp program, held in the state of New York, gathers families and scientists from around the globe to share support, recreation, XP information and updates and friendship under the safety of the stars. xps.org
ABOUT THE FILM
Meeting Dan and Caren Mahar, founders of the XP Society and Camp Sundown, immediately shaped a specific method and approach to our film. It was obvious to both Daniele Villa, the producer and myself, that this would be quite a learning curve, truly in-depth training. It meant totally overturning our viewpoint, abandoning our day-time experience and learning how to appreciate the night, its’ specificities and marvels. We had to imagine how this illness damages lives. Once we had made this switch, a sincere dialogue could take place and we could experience the widespread kindness of this community, appreciate its ethical rigour, long-sightedness and resolve. In this way we joined them unconditionally, looking for adequate observation points and their needs became ours. From that moment on everything changed, we also adopted their rigour, fostered by that human bonding that continues to warm our hearts.
FILMING WITHOUT CONVENTIONAL LIGHTS
One of the main production challenges encountered in the documentary “The Dark Side of the Sun”is filming with non-UV emission lighting. Thanks to the collaboration between Giancarlo Leggeri (Cinematographer) and Gianluca Bronzini from the Italian Tecnolight company, a LED lighting system was ingeniously devised that did not emit any UV rays. This project developed both film lighting as well as luminous games for the children to play with. Another invaluable contribution came from Robert Selen of the Lanterne Volanti (lit.: ‘flying lanterns’) company who helped us devise natural flame lighting which also does not affect XP patients. This is how flying lanterns, floating water lilies and various decorative candlelights were included in the documentary’s visuals. All lighting sources devised and used have since been donated to the XP Society and are now an integral part of the magical Camp Sundown universe.
PLAYING ON EQUAL TERMS: THE WORKSHOPS
The Director Carlo Shalom Hintermann and producer Daniele Villa always felt that turning up emptyhanded to Camp Sundown wasn’t quite right. So from Year One they held a video workshop led by Daniele Villa (the producer, already experienced in children’s workshops, Mus-e Roma Artist) with Piero Lassandro, the editor, who had also taken part in the pre-production phases from the very beginning. This fostered a climate of mutual trust with our protagonists and everyone got to know each other without feeling intrusive. Both workshop leaders and children had video-cameras. This created an opportunity for the children to measure themselves up with the documentary makers on a practical level - on equal terms. In this way the children also made their own two, extremely dynamic films. Over the following years Daniele Villa coordinated various workshops: music with Aleksandar Zar Caric, drama with Véronique Bouteille and collage workshops - all supported by the charity association Mus-e Roma Onlus, which also intends continuing its commitment and sharing experiences with the XP society, together with Mus-e Italia Onlus.
DEVELOPING THE ANIMATION WITH OUR PROTAGONISTS
Another challenge was developing the animation narrative together with the children of Camp Sundown. Over the past three years through our Camp Sundown experiences, interactions and workshops, we managed to record our protagonists’ desires, fears, hopes and dreams and together we set out this story. The ultimate crowning glory of this experience was the dubbing session – where the children themselves dubbed the voices of their animated counterparts. Obviously this entailed adapting the Dubbing Studios to their specific needs, but it also represented a unique opportunity for the children who lived up to this challenge with exceptional professionalism
CREATING AN ANIMATION STUDIO FROM SCRATCH
The last authentic challenge was to create an 'in house' animation team without any external production companies. Lorenzo Ceccotti handpicked his colleagues from around Italy on the basis of their talent and enthusiasm: Giorgia Velluso, Pamela Poltronieri, Mariachiara Di Giorgio and Fabio Ramiro Rossin. This particular team contributed to the non-conventional working approach which perfectly adapted itself to the artistic requirements of the animation sequence. Lastly, a significantcontribution came from Mauro Uzzeo, Rainbow’s Artistic Director who believed in the project enough to facilitate the company’s becoming co-producers, with the support of Rainbow’s chairman Iginio Straffi. Rainbow’s contribution was far-sighted and fundamental; supporting the animation team to continue its work without any disruptions.
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