Luca Barbareschi Talks About His Crime Thriller 'Something Good'
A former legislator who has served a five-year parliamentary term in Italy, the actor-director now prefers to make a political statement through films.
HONG KONG – Seemingly ripped from the headlines about the tainted food scandals in China since 2008, Italian actor-director-producer Luca Barbareschi's Something Good tackles the worldwide cross-border trafficking of adulterated food, and chooses a Chinese victim for a chance of release in the country.
A thriller and love story between a smuggler of adulterated food and a restaurateur whose son was killed by juice tainted with pesticides, starring Barbareschi (Il Trasformista, Ardena) and Chinese actress Zhang Jingchu (Rush Hour 3, Switch), Something Good made its world premiere at the opening of Cine Italiano! program, which was co-presented by the Hong Kong International Film Festival Society and Zetema Progetto Cultura of Rome, and presented by Istituto Luce Cinecittà, the Consulate General of Italy and the Italian Cultural Institute in Hong Kong.
Made under Barbareschi's Rome-based Casanova Multimedia in collaboration with Italy's Rai Cinema with a $7 million (€5.2 million) budget, the film is set in Hong Kong, a city whose dichotomy deemed it "sexy, romantic, and dramatic" to the director. "I felt that Hong Kong was the right spot because it moves fast; it is beautiful, shiny and perfect. And then you turn an alley, and you find everything on the other side," Barbareschi told The Hollywood Reporter. "It's a town where a few people make a lot of money, and many people work like dogs to survive. So I felt it was the perfect theater to stage such a story."
Inspired by the Italian novel I Trust You by Francesco Abate and Massimo Carlotto, Barbareschi first imagined the story in Shanghai, but the challenges of obtaining a shooting permit in China proved "huge." The director also made a decision to avoid putting the blame on China. "I didn't want to make a movie against China because I don't think China is the only one responsible," opined Barbareschi. "China looks responsible because the numbers are bigger. So if there's a mistake in China, with 1.3 billion people, the scale goes up. But on a different scale, everybody is responsible. There's a report in Italy that Italian smugglers are putting 30,000 pigs on the market with uranium, pigs from Russia in an area that is contaminated, and they sell it under [fake Italian brands].'"
"I started getting information about this food issue, and the Italian police, Internal Service, they gave me a report, about what is the amount of money in food poisoning and adulterated food, is higher than drugs. And I said, this is huge," he added. "And then when I was doing this research, I read this amazing story about this woman in China and this melamine scandal," referring to the 2008 Chinese milk scandal where the toxic melamine was added to milk and baby formula that affected 300,000 children and killed six infants.
"This, maybe because I have five kids, shocked me. Three-hundred-thousand kids."
A former legislator who has served a five-year parliamentary term, from 2008 until this year, in Italy, Barbareschi prefers to make a political statement through films nowadays. "I'm using a Chinese actress to play the lead in my movie, and a Chinese actor playing the head of the organization that works with Russians, with Italians, the English, because that's how the Mafia works today. So I didn't want to say China, I want to say let's have a bunch of people that do this kind of things, and use a Chinese victim. Because I think in the last 20 years, Chinese people suffered more than anybody else because in terms of numbers, more people died," he noted.
Barbareschi is hoping for a release of the film in China. "Now the movie is being seen by the council in Milan and the Ambassador in Rome from China, they like it a lot, they agree there's nothing against China, so now I'm hoping for some help," he admitted. "I'm ready to fly to Beijing to show the movie to the Commission. I think censorship is… I have five kids. If you want them to want something, you forbid. You say, you cannot watch TV, they'd invent any excuse to watch TV. My rule is always, 'do it.' I try to give them the utensils to do their own censorship."
He added: "My movie is not a Michael Moore movie. My movie is fictionalized. I give some numbers at the end. It's a love story, a redemption story, but in a way, it's also the first movie that's been done about this topic, and I hope we find good distribution around the world."
The film is set for release on 400 screens in Italy in early November, after screenings at the Rome International Film Festival and the Hawaii International Film Festival in October. At the moment without distributor outside Italy, the film will be presented at the upcoming Rome and American Film Markets.
A proponent of the Slow Food Movement, Barbareschi will be supported by the movement's founder Carlo Petrini and vice president (also founder of Indian seed-keeping initiative, Navdany) Vandana Shiva at a press conference for the film on Oct. 4. Something Good is partnered with both the Slow Food Movement and children's rights NGO Save the Children.
While a lawmaker in Italy, Barbareschi, a former victim of child abuse, presented a bill in 2008 aimed at enacting tougher penalties for pedophiles and sex offenders, which was passed in 2010. But he has decided to leave politics for good and returns to film and theater, where he is directing the Italian version of the play The King's Speech.
"Being a politician is not my job," he confessed. "I'm too emotional; I'm too straightforward. The art of politics is never to tell the truth. It's exactly the opposite to the art of acting. In acting, through a lie – because you're somebody else – you tell the truth. In politics, you have to lie to may be one day to be able to tell the truth. And the process of being powerful kills your artistic side."