From blueprint to silver screen: the Milan Design Film Festival shows craft in a new light
In the moment before dawn in a village on the Sardinian coast, a light switches on, a halo of light embraces a room, coffee percolates on the stove. As the day progresses, the tide recedes and the villagers go about their chores. The glow produced inside mimics the natural light as it arcs over the sea, playing a role as profound as the actors.
Fare Luce (Shedding Light), directed by Sardinian photographer Gianluca Vassallo, is the first short film produced by Italian lighting manufacturer Foscarini, part of a resolution to cast its products in a new light.
Earlier in October 2017, the brand launched the ‘Maestri’ cultural project – documenting the making of a paper-thin concrete pendant by Lucidi Pevere, an arched lamp supple as a fishing rod by Marc Sadler – with documentary footage by Vassallo that lifts the curtain on their unique artisanal production methods. Yet the ten-minute Fare Luce took a different tack. Talking to more than 100 viewers at its world premiere during this year’s recent Milan Design Film Festival, Foscarini co-founder Carlo Urbinati said, ‘Normally a design object sits on a plinth or a stage, but our job is making people understand our lamps are not just a trophy but part of real life. They change our perspective, enable movement – in real rooms, with coffee on the stove.’
Watch Fare Luce (Shedding Light), produced by Italian lighting manufacturer Foscarini
The MDFF has doubled in scope and audience. Just as new media wreaks havoc on traditional forms of publicity, the festival is providing brands with fresh platforms for engaging with the public – on a deeper, more interactive level than before. ‘With advertising and editorial, you just don’t have the opportunity to tell a story to the same degree,’ says Urbinati. ‘Our starting point for Fare Luce was a beam of light in a dark room – the materialisation of light. We wanted to show our emotional connection to light and its ability to create an atmosphere. And create content which may not be immediately connected to us as a company but is gaining the interest of more people.’
Bigger cities than Milan have held such festivals – New York’s Architecture & Design Film Festival has been running since 2011. Yet if ever there were an audience for such a thing, it would be here, where knowledge about design and craftsmanship is akin to knowing how to change a tyre, and sponsors like Foscarini, De Padova and Cassina are on nearly every corner. ‘People feel the need to know,’ says Mario Frusca of Park Associati architects, whose three-minute short The Light of Construction debuted last week with the cool, symmetrical composition of his style inspiration Stanley Kubrick. ‘This is an opportunity to show a very different vision of architecture. It may not sound sexy, but there’s a community out there for it.’
That community includes your standard design nerds. The audience at Gereon Wetzel’s Design Is Work was spellbound as Konstantin Grcic and his team debated the process of making a die-cast aluminium chair.
A still from Franco Albini and Maddalena by Valeria Paris
Yet the subject matter appeared to have universal impact. Filmmaker Francesco Clerici, met with a rockstar’s greeting, filled the seats of two screenings for the debut of In un Biccier d’Acqua (In a Glass of Water). His short documentary featured 107-year-old journalist and philosopher Gillo Dorfles enumerating the heirlooms, textbooks and toiletries in his apartment. ‘Objects are our alter ego,’ says Dorfles. ‘They’re not good, bad, ugly, beautiful… they’re the story.’
Ahead of the world premiere of Kryštof Jankovec’s 30-minute documentary Breakpoint, a profile of Lasvit founder Leon Jakimič, the Lasvit team debated the merits of film as a substitute for straight-up publicity. ‘Every sculpture has a story – the work behind it, the history, cultural connotations, pain. You can’t tell that in one picture or two sentences,’ said marketing director Marcel Náhlovský.
‘Film is the best way to inspire people. And you don’t need to know about design to be impressed or affected by beauty. If the sentiment is authentic, it will be interesting to a wider audience.’