A film created to help highlight the United Nations General Assembly’s International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women (25th November), Daniel Marini social campaign film deploys a single, unbroken shot to expose the split reality that victims of domestic abuse are often forced to live in. Watch Marini’s unflinching film below, after which the Rome-based director shares how he managed to reveal the “powerful truth behind the mirror” without the use of VFX.

I became involved with this project because of my experience working with social campaigns. I always start doing a treatment from the brief but I always end up proposing new ideas. I’m so proud to have had the opportunity to convey such an important message. Violence against women and girls (VAWG) is one of the most widespread, persistent and devastating human rights violations in our world today, yet remains largely unreported due to the impunity, silence, stigma and shame surrounding it. That’s part of the issue about Violence Against Women, it mostly remains invisible. But what if we find a way to show the invisible as a powerful truth behind the mirror and in doing so, share the trauma and evidence of domestic violence, bringing awareness to the problem? Not enough make-up can hide the signs of violence that women have to face every day in front of the mirror.

I wanted to show the double reality that some women are forced to live every day and to do so I wanted to shoot a long sequence without using any VFX. I wanted to do something real.

I don’t like to use Steadicam, I love the kind of “dirty” movement that dollies sometimes have.

We didn’t have too much time or money, for the reason that the client was the Italian public service broadcasting company (RAI Television) in collaboration with One More Pictures Production. To create this we had to duplicate the room in a studio, from any little props to the woman in front of the mirror. I have this friend of mine who has a twin sister and I found them so perfect for this spot that as soon as I told them what it was about they simply said yes. With them on board the work was done.

We shot this with the Arri XT on a Chapman Dolly on a dancefloor. Key Grip Gabriele Remotti did amazing work here operating the dolly. I don’t like to use Steadicam, I love the kind of “dirty” movement that dollies sometimes have, it reminds me of old black and white movies. I love the emotions that those movements can convey – the instability and some sort of suspense, perhaps because of Hitchcock’s movies or maybe because getting closer to the subject with this kind of shake lets us perceive an anxiety or emotional distress.

We wanted to have a continuous movement of the camera but at the same time, we couldn’t use curved tracks because the angle was too tight so Gabriele had to manually perform the moves which was a much higher degree of difficulty. He performed a crucial role in ensuring that the movement at the end of the curve, when he had to change mode, continued as seamless as possible. At the end of the day, he had drawn dozen of marks with chalk on the floor.

We used the 50mm Summicron Leica because of the close-up shot. This kind of lens can give sharpness but at the same time natural silky skin tones. The focus falls off gently to give a dimensionality to faces and other organic subjects.

I’m always looking for that twist, that moment when people feel the wonder.

I’ve reached a good level of understanding with DP Riccardo Topazio through the years as we both came from photography backgrounds. We share a lot of great photographers as references of settings, lights and aesthetic composition. We also developed a mutual passion for one sequence shots. I think one sequence shots in this kind of work let you have a twist at the end that gives a kind of wonder to the audience. In every work I do I’m always looking for that twist, that moment when people feel the wonder. It thrills me.

This moment in the spot is when we pass through the mirror, we pass from a warm light to a cold one to enhance the change in the mood of the story, thanks to a change of light temperature and color.

The music changes as well. The song plays distant on an old record player during the scene and then in the last movement, it comes closer, increasing in volume. I can’t think of a single song that would have been more appropriate than this one, as the lyrics seem to perfectly communicate the emotions she feels.

Why does the sun go on shining?
Why does the sea rush to shore?
Don’t they know it’s the end of the world?
‘Cause you don’t love me anymore

The reactions to the film have been extremely good and positive, people have been touched by it. The spot won the PromaxBDA Global Excellence Gold award for best Social Responsibility Announcement Spot in Los Angeles and the PromaxBDA Europe Silver award for best Social Responsibility Announcement Spot in Amsterdam.

I currently work as a director of commercials and have recently written a short film adapted from a feature script of mine. It’s called Eclipse and is about a woman haunted by her grief after living through a tragic auto wreck that claimed the life of her husband and young daughter. Her reaction is to withdraw from any relationships and live in an empty apartment attempting a sort of mental suicide repressing her pain and avoiding human interactions. After seeing herself walking down the street, she starts to investigate herself and unravels a mystery centered around a double identity. I’m looking for production companies but it’s hard to find funds.

My future plan in general terms is to make a step into the international market as a director and overall in commercials and to move on from the TV industry. My future projects in terms of works, I just finished another couple of Social Responsibility spots on “First Aid” for the Ministry of Health, good works and again working on these projects make me proud to be involved in a such noble message.

You can check my works at danielmarini.com and on my Instagram @Daniel_Marini_box.

This is one of the many great projects shared with the Directors Notes Programmers through our submissions process. If you’d like to join them submit your film.

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