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Online Premiere: The Show MAS Go On

Artist Rä di Martino celebrates MAS , the Roman famed "department stores of the people", with a art-doc poised between fiction and reality.

2014 | 25 - 30 | Documentary | Experimental | Italy | Urban

What is MAS? Let’s explain it to non-roman citizens. It is a legendary shop in Rome, nearby Piazza Vittorio, in the multicultural district of Esquilino, which in the 30s was the biggest luxury emporium in town. What remains of that age are perhaps only the chandeliers hanging in mid-air, now almost fallen to ground level where a mangy moquette covers the floor. MAS, an acronymous for “department stores of  Via Statuto”, from the homonymous street in which they are located, through the years have become the ” department stores of the People”: thousands of square metres over several floors, an untold amounts of dust, bargain prices and clothes of any kinds. And especially a wide and colorful humanity around it.

Well, in November 2013 MAS announced for the umpteenth time its closing date. “It’s serious” – everybody said. Rent costs became too high, people are poorer, and the competition with larger outlets such as H&M and Zara, or online retailers, became unbereable. Drag-queens, Romanian nannies, Moldovan newlyweds, oldies from the neighborhood, sale assistants working there for 40 years, costume and set designers, actors, everybody was already in mourning. But the store is still open, though in precarious balance. Perhaps thanks to the beautiful documentary by Roman artist Rä di Martino, made out of pure love and a sense of belonging. Rä embarked on this project to describe one of the last symbols of the true Roman old-fashioned spirit: popular and bizarre, rough and sincere, generous and cunning, that still stands in an increasingly conformist and pretentious world.

The Show MAS go on was premiered at Venice Film Festival 2014, where it won the Gillo Pontecorvo Award, the SIAE Award for Innovation, the Open Award. After touring through European festivals, it was finally awarded best documentary film at the Nastri D’Argento 2015. We reached Rä, returning from the last screening of the film at the Lo Schermo Dell’arte Film Festival in Florence, to ask her a few questions.

The Show Go On MAS started as a Indiegogo funded documentary, then it gained the support from GUCCI, Think / Cattleya and the City of Rome. How did the whole project start?
It was born in a very casual way: for once I really thought it was going to close because they had real problems with the rent costs and the contract, so I had the idea to shoot something in the stores at its closing time, simple pans to record the silence of the place when empty. Talking with Federica Illuminati and Marcella Libonati, the two main collaborators of the project, it came out the idea to do something more to show MAS in all its aspects, especially the humanity around it. We started literally with no budget, and while we were shooting, different funds came from completely different sources…

The doc is full of renowed actors’ partecipations, from Iaia Forte for the owner’s role, Filippo Timi that emerges from a basket of girdles in a setting that recalls Beckett’s Happy Days, Sandra Ceccarelli, Maya Sansa. How did you involve them?
The actors are all friends who generously joined to the project, but everyone is actually perfect for the scene. Iaia is very good to bring us the presence and personality of one of the owners who absolutely did not want to be on video, so she acts over her true true voice in lip-synch. Maya and Sandra are instead perfect for the micro-remake of Twilight Zone‘s episode (“The After Hour”, Ed), and Filippo Timi that manages to be poignant and moving even inside a basket  of girdles.

How did the owners react to the idea of a documentary about?
They were wary at the beginning because they are often bothered by photographers and journalists, sometimes for unpleasant things or scandals; they even kicked us out once, in the middle of a shooting. But many of the clerks and the manager were supportive. At the end, when they watched the final work, the owners were very happy and even came to some screenings. They also held the poster in one of the shop windows for more than a year.

How did MAS manage to survive all these years?
As the owner says, at the end of the day, despite the low prices they apply, when you sell so much there is always a gain. I guess they are so popular they really face no crisis…but, really, I still have not figured out how they survive.

What if MAS became a web retailer, or a a sort of online bazaar?
Impossible. MAS is an overall the experience of being there, to find things by chance …

The documentary mixes fiction and reality, alternating musical to noir. Why this choice?
Honestly, I am not really comfortable with the documentary form. In this case, I did it expecially for the challenge to describe something which is almost indescribable. So instead of just watching people and what was going on for hours, I tried also to tell how I see it and why I find this place so bizarre. The result is a mix-mash of genres that I hope will give something back of that peculiar atmosphere and the surreal I see in it.

Ra di Martino’s filmography:
2014 The Show MAS Go On (doc, cm)
2013 The Picture of Ourselves (video)
2012 Petite Histoire du plateaux abbandonnèe (cm)
2010 If You See the Object, the Object Sees You (video)
2009 August 2008 (cm)
2008 The Nightwalker (video installation)
2007 The Red Shoes (cm)
2006 La camera (cm)
2005 The Dancing Kid (video installation)
2004 CanCan! (video)
2003 Untitled (Rambo) (video)
2001 Between (cm)

Tommaso Fagioli

Tommaso Fagioli

Tommaso Fagioli

Founder, creative director, curator @ Good Short Films. Fond of great stories, great thinkers, great booze. My motto is, your motto.

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