Brea Grant talks with Rosa Karo, director of The Italian Key, which has won over 15 festival awards including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best of Fest. It’s now available on VOD.
1. How did you conceive ‘The Italian Key’? Was it adapted from any written story, or completely fictionalized from your imagination?
The story of ‘The Italian Key’ is an original script, not based on a book though it has many literary ‘winks’ within it.
I remember driving those winding mountain roads of the Borbera valley when I first arrived there years ago and thinking: wouldn’t it be a great premise for a story to show up here with a key, looking for a house and ending up making it your home…
2. Seeing that you are a Finnish-born director, what drew you to tell a story in Italy?
Finland is a great country in many ways, but the climate can be pretty harsh in the winter. So Finns always dream of warmer places, and particularly love Italy for its beauty, good food and the charming Italians, of course. When I lived in the U.S. I found out Italy is as big an obsession for many Americans too. So, who doesn’t like Italy? 🙂
My husband and I have had a place there for years now and enjoy the simple life of our small Italian village. It’s a nice contrast to life in the big cities, which I also love, but it can get hectic and tiring. So ‘The Italian Key’ is also about embracing a simpler life, and stopping to see the beauty of our everyday existence.
3. You mostly used fresh, new actors for your younger roles, while casting well respected actors in the adult roles. Was this intentional? Did you have a relationship with the younger cast before shooting or did they audition for the roles?
Many of the young actors are summer residents of Cabella Ligure and the surrounding villages, so the movie became a project for the whole village where everyone would help by being an extra, finding us old cars or remote locations etc. Once we had assembled our young protagonists we did many ‘table readings’ outside on the mountain tops and river beds of the valley. We ended up having a very international cast with Gwendolyn Anslow (Cabella) being French-Irish, Leo Vertunni British-Italian, the three real-life Cartocci sisters (who play sisters in the movie) Brazilian-Italian, actors and actresses from the US, UK, Sweden, Finland, Italy, India etc. As you probably can tell from the movie, I definitely didn’t want to cast any skinny model-like young women, but healthy girls with normal bodies to act as positive body image models to our young audiences – you definitely can be charming and beautiful without starving yourself!
4. The cinematography and music were simply gorgeous. Can you tell us a little about your creative team?
We had two cinematographers on board for the movie – Finnish DP (director of photography) Ville Tanttu and Italian DP Gianni Giannelli. Their combined strengths gave us the lush and beautiful look of our ‘romantic fairy tale’. Ville specializes in nature photography and most of the exterior shots, especially all the time lapses and mountaintop vistas are his work. Gianni worked his magic on lighting our interior shots, we shot entirely on location and on a fairly low budget, so he pulled off a miracle making everything look so extraordinarily cinematic! For music, I enlisted my dear husband, film music composer and producer Tuomas Kantelinen. His otherworldly and sometimes heart-breaking melodies really complement the movie and serve as the ’emotional backbone’ of the story. We wanted to make as beautiful and uplilting a film as we could and didn’t shy away from a thoroughly happy ending and ‘picture perfect postcard’ shots of the locations, as our main mission was to have the audience leave the theater with a smile on their face!
5. ‘The Italian Key’ has seen much success in the film festival circuit. I saw it won multiple awards. How did audiences react to the film during these festivals?
The movie was released theatrically in many European countries, but we didn’t really know what to expect in the US. We were very lucky to screen the movie at lovely festivals where it would play to full cinemas and we got a lot of feedback from the people in the audience. Both in Europe and in the US the film seemed to attract lots of women of all ages. We originally thought that the movie was for girls 12 to 16 years old – but found out that more mature generations enjoyed it at least as much as the teenagers… The film is definitely not for people who are very cynical about life, it caters more to the audiences who love romance with a little spiritual wisdom thrown in for good measure…
6. Do you have any future projects in the works?
I am working on two scripts which are almost ready to shoot. One has an almost fully female cast and happens in a small town in the US. The other one is a more male-oriented story which we will shoot in India. I’m excited about both and am waiting to see which one we will be able to complete financing and casting on first!
7. Where can our readers find ‘The Italian Key’?
‘The Italian Key’ is available to rent or buy on iTunes and on Vimeo on Demand:
If you fall in love with the scenery, you can find the village of Cabella Ligure in Piemonte, about 45 minutes northeast of the city of Genoa.