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David Grieco was born in Rome. Actor, journalist, novelist, producer, director, radio and television author and host, he is also a screenwriter. He wrote many films directed by Sergio Citti (among them, “Dreams and Needs”, 1983, “Mortacci”, 1988, “I Magi Randagi”, 1996), “Caruso Pascoski, polish father” (1989) by Francesco Nuti and “Angela come te” (1989) by Anna Brasi that was awarded the same year as best new director’s film at the Valencia International Film Festival. As a producer, he made “Angela come te” and “Clown in Kabul” (2002), that was nominated Best Documentary by the EFA. As a director, he has made more than 100 documentaries, biopics and portraits for TELE+ (Canal Plus), among them many presented in international film festivals. He directed also many commercials in the eighties and a first feature film, “Evilenko” (2004), based upon his novel “The communist who ate children” published in Italy by Bompiani and in Spain by Lumen. “Evilenko”, starring Malcolm McDowell and Marton Csokas, has already won the Silver Méliès (and will compete for the Golden Méliès in 2005) and the Silver Efebo. “Evilenko” will be released in New York October the 28th and in the rest of the world in 2005. As a radio host, he invented in 1994 a program called “Hollywood Party” (RAI 3) still on the air. As a TV host, he has been the testimonial of TELE+ for five years, leading and producing many events (Academy Awards, Golden Globes, Cannes Film Festival, Venice Film Festival, Berlin Film Festival, etc.). He currently speaks french and English.
An Interview with David Grieco on the movie Evilenko
Let's start with how this adventure began.
Over ten years have gone by since the day in which I inexplicably left for the border between Russia and The Ukraine to follow an extraordinary news report: a language and literature teacher in Russia, a model Communist, nicknamed the "Monster of Rostov" had killed and eaten over 50 children in 12 years. I thought I was going there to make a movie, but I realized that the timing wasn't right - it would've been a bad film. Plus it wouldn't have expressed what I had gone there to team. I suddenly understood that I had gone to Rostov for a very simple reason. I had identified with that communist intellectual who had lost his sense of identity and become a frightened animal ready to eat people in order to survive. I found his story incredible and it appeared to be one of the best ways to describe the end of communism. I also wanted to point out the way adults tormented children in a historical period just like the one we are going through now, when there is a sense of uncertainty in the future. I would have never imagined that violence toward children would have reached the level it has today in every comer of the planet. Therefore I wrote a novel entitled "The Communist Who Ate Children", which was a great success and translated into many languages. From that moment on I began to think of a movie. Many producers in Europe and the United States offered to buy the rights, but I never accepted. I didn't want "The Communist Who Ate Children" to become one of the usual serial thrill killers. I wanted it to be a movie about the end of communism and the denial of rights to childhood - on the erasing of personality. But nobody would guarantee that so I realized I would have to do it on my own.
What kind of relationship is there between the novel "The Communist Who Ate Children", the movie "Evilenko" and the true story of the "Monster of Rostov" Andrej Romanovic Cikatilo? The true story inspired me because Andrej Romanovic Cikatilo, the "Monster of Rostov" is an intellectual and a communist. The paradox of a monstrosity in such a well read man attracted me in an irresistible way. The novel and the movie are fictitious, but they contain elements of reality. I researched a great deal on Cikatilo and maybe I know him far better than some of the judges that condemned him. My Andrej Romanovic Evilenko is a fictitious character, just as the other protagonists of the movie starting with the magistrate detective Vadim Timurovic Lesiev and the Jewish psychiatrist Aron Richter.
Can you explain the choice of the title of the novel " The Communist Who Ate Children"?
It was the first title that came to mind. Maybe because the slogan "Communists Eat Children" had obsessed me during childhood. I attended an upper middle class foreign school and because 1 was the child of a historic family of Italian communism, my class mates would constantly ask me: "How can you be a communist? Communists eat children. Don't they?". And I would always answer: "Of course, come here and I'll eat you too." I do believe cruelty is a common factor in eastern European culture, with or without communism. Communism began as an antidote to the cruelty, but it was a repressive antidote. That is why I believe that once the cork popped the repressed cruelly exploded everywhere in such a monstrous way.
You insist on the protagonist's mental illness. Are you sure the Monster of Rostov was mentally ill?
He was totally insane. I also wonder how insane could society be in order not to have noticed. I think I describe the man exactly the way I saw him and how I perceived him without any additions. Andrej appeared to me as a "bad boy". That is why I had such contrasting feelings for him: fear, tenderness, compassion and disgust.
Cikatilo's son? But Evilenko doesn't have children in the movie and in the novel.
Evilenko doesn't have children by choice because I didn't know how to handle them from a narrative and dramatic point of view. Cikatilo had two children, a boy and a girl who didn't grow up with him. Before the trial, his wife and children were taken from Rostov. His wife had always protected him and the question is how could a mother allow a man to commit these crimes? There is no answer. Some mothers don't react to their husbands raping their children. Cikatilo's family had their names changed and were moved to a new home. In 1997 a Moscow police officer stopped beside a van and sees a man is eating the driver. While checking his documents the handcuffed man said, "That isn't me, I am Andrej Romanovic Cikatilo's son and I am finishing my father's mission." He had killed 22 middle aged people.
Cannibalism appears often in our society. Why?
Like many experiences of the past cannibalism is still inside of us. Mental illness brings us back to the darkness of the past. Obviously it is a rare behavior. The harm we do to others is often a punishment to ourselves which is the main topic of the film.
You were a scriptwriter before becoming a novelist and then a director. Can you explain the evolution?
I was so accustomed to film writing that I wrote the Cikatilo book as if it were a movie. I eliminated everything that you weren't able to see or hear and that's why the book is short. I believe a real novelist would have written five or six hundred pages. In the film Cikatilo's thoughts are expressed by Angelo Badalamenti's extraordinary music. This is your first movie as a director. You are 52 years old, the language is English and it was shot in The Ukraine. That's an unusual beginning. I wanted to be a director since I was 18 and I assisted Bemardo Bertolucci and Pier Paolo Pasolini. When I became a journalist, scriptwriter and producer, I stopped thinking about directing. I made this movie because I didn't want to sell the rights to my novel and I realized it was up to me. I am old to he a beginner and so is the producer Mario Cotone who put all his courage and professionalism into this project. But Mario Cotone is the greatest executive producer in Italy. He did "Once upon a time in America", "The Last Emperor", "Little Buddha", "Stealing Beauty", "Life is beautiful" and "Pinocchio" by Benigni. I think no other European producer has a resume like his. Did you feel out of place behind the camera? Not at all. I followed my instincts by focusing on the acting. I believe that every director, young or old, reproduces the movies they love most. I've loved movies my entire life so it wasn't difficult. Lets talk about your choice of actors, Malcolm McDowell for instance. Malcolm and I have been friends for a long time and have spoken about this project for years. On the set Malcolm looked exactly like Evilenko - possessed. His acting is authentic and I hope he receives an award for his role. Malcolm is one of the all-time greatest actors and it is insane that he has never won an Oscar.
The other protagonist. Marten Csokas.
A stroke of luck. Marton Csokas is an extraordinarily sensitive actor that you will soon be hearing more of. Besides Evilenko, he also appears in Asylum directed by David McKenzie. Marton understood the script more than anyone. He is from "New Zeeland, but his father is a Hungarian that fled from the communist regime. His role was very difficult because he was never passive. Vadim is the spectator who falls deeply into the mental illness of this monster and manages to stop him. All the other actors are Russian, English and Ukrainian. No Italians? 1 had the privilege of exceptional actors like Ronald Pickup ("Mission"), Frances Barber ("My Beautiful Laudrette"), John Benfield ("In the name of the Father"), Vemon Dobcheff("La bisbetica domata"), and the Russian actors all come from a great acting tradition. The only Italian actors are my children Giaime and Manuel. my nephew and niece Camilla and Francesco, and my assistant Fabrizio Castellani. 1 brought the children because Russians and Ukrainians told me that 1 would never find parents willing to let their children work in a film like this, but everything worked out. People understood that 1 had no misgivings on the topic. The crew is Italian. Yes. An Italian crew is what makes our movies so special. DOP Fabio Zamarion ("Respire" by Crialese) is already as good as his maestro Vittorio Storaro, art director Nello Giorgetti, make up artist Alessandro Bertolazzi and hairdresser Massimo Gattabrusi "created" the faces of the protagonists, especailly Evilenko. without having to use special effects.
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