A documentary film
Directed by Alessandro Abba Legnazzi and Andrea Deaglio
“Wolves are back. Someone has heard about, someone swears to have seen them moving about in the woods, someone else has heard them howling in the night. The shepherds show the remains of animals eaten with the sign of two canines under the throat. The photographers venturing into the mountains to spot them. Park rangers follow footprints in the snow and place their photo-traps. Resurface stories from the past and the inhabitants of the mountain villages are wondering about their future. Loved, hated, idealized. The wolves are back on the Alps.”
by Brunella Pernigotti
Brunella: What urged you to investigate the return of wolves to our country and their relative problems? In other words, how did your documentary come to be?
Andrea and Alessandro: We are both townspeople and have viewed the wolf through fables. We had never seen a wolf in the wild. The wolf reminds us of a free spirit and that has always charmed us.
So, when we learned that wolves were back living in the west Alpine arc and that their presence had provoked a conflict between their defenders and those who consider them a problem, we decided it was time to meet them… to go where they live. In that way, we could tell what coexistence meant for the people who live and share the same mountain places as the wolves.
From the first on-the-spot investigations, we soon figured out that the core of our story should not be only about the wolves, but also about their indivisible connection with people.
Brunella: Could you tell us in few words what this documentary has meant to you and if there is something that has particularly impressed you during its making?
Andrea and Alessandro: This film made us think about the town – mountain relations and the conflicts that often arise between people who live in the mountains and the people who see the mountains only from a city point of view. It made us concentrate on how living in the mountains is a good thing, but it is also difficult nevitably, it led us to reflect on ourselves, on the places where we live, on what we are, and on our often neglected relationship with nature. Of course there were several things that impressed us. Especially the sensations we felt through the eyes of the people and of the wolves. If we think back on our work, the first memories we have are: the carcasses of the prey; the worn-out, but dignified eyes of the shepherds; the marvelous and happy veterinarians of C.A.N.C. (a center of wild animal recovery) when they rescued and successfully healed the female wolf, Hope; how Hope appeared while she was kept in a cage, the words of the forester who said that “wolf matters” exist but they shouldn’t be faced with a medieval mind.
Brunella: As you already told me, your approach is clearly anthropological and your images convey very well both the passion of the natural photographers who track the wolves in our mountains and also, the understandable concerns of the livestock breeders. However, in your narration, there isn’t a voiceover which could affect the viewer’s opinion. I guess that was a deliberate choice…
Andrea and Alessandro: Yes, indeed, it was. The matter of the return of
the wolves and, in general, of a great predator in the Alps, basically divided people into two important factions: those who are for and those who are against. There aren’t many halfway measures on the subject. That’s why we preferred not to take sides and to remain neutral. We tried to observe several situations without giving our opinion, so we allowed the protagonists to tell us of their relationship with the wolves. Our goal was to present a mosaic of varied voices that would explain the “wolf matters” only by means of their direct experience with these animals.
Brunella: The running time of this documentary is about one hour and fifteen minutes. But how long did it take you to make it?
Andrea and Alessandro: We worked on it over three and a half years; during that time we did research and went to the western Alps to meet the protagonists of our stories. The footage is considerable: it covers more than a hundred hours of shooting, and the people we met are much more than those who are represented in the film. This kind of work requires hard choices, and so we couldn’t tell all the stories we had heard. However, as we’d like to give voice to everybody, we opened a special web site (www.storiedilupi.it) where you can find a lot more information, photos and stories.
Brunella: In Italy, these days, there is a debate on the possibility of programmed killings of wolves – maybe 60 individuals a year. This proposal has been presented in the National Operations Plan for the species [Piano Nazionale d’Azione per la Specie], which is up for passage as a law. Would you comment on it?
Andrea and Alessandro: We are against any kind of programmed killing. It’s not the answer to the question of how to redefine the “balance” To be honest, we don’t know the right answer. Thanks to the limited experience we gained through this project, we can say that the “wolf matters” have become a big political question where considerable economic interests are involved. As it usually happens, where there are interests of this kind, chaos and confusion follow and conflicts are deliberately brought on, so that everyone has a lot to gain from it. Yes, everyone, except the shepherds and the wolves, are the real victims of someone else’s desire for profit.
We think that the programmed killing is just a political means suited to assure a kind of social cohesion. This politicians’ line of reasoning could be simplified this way:
We (politicians) will convince you (people that live in the mountains) that wolves are your biggest problem. We will hide behind this lie, our carelessness and our faults and you will forget that we have left you to your own devices. And then we will urge you to complain, to demonstrate, to rise up against the scapegoat that we deliberately created. Then we will show you that we are on your side and that we want to help you by proposing to kill some wolves, but just those that are killing your sheep. We will tell you that you must rely on us, even if you don’t trust us completely. You will be quiet for a while… you will. This programmed killing has no use; it’s just a farce – a misleading solution!
Brunella: The recent documentary Medicine of the Wolf made in Minnesota, tells about the fears and problems that wolves have always aroused, just like Storie di uomine e lupi (Stories of Men and Wolves) does. Do you think it’s a coincidence that now so many people and governments are dealing with the same issues?
Andrea and Alessandro: No, we don’t think so. And in fact, it’s not a coincidence that it’s happening now. In the western tradition, the wolf has always been represented as a villain or a frightfully wild beast. For human beings, the wolf has always been synonymous with fear, so men tried to attach every type of evil on it. The wolf frightens men like the unknown, and like every different and strange thing. We also think it’s not a coincidence that wolves have appeared again in a world where social values are in a crisis and have been degraded. It’s almost like a coincidence: when men are more lost, the wolves return.
Brunella: Who should watch your documentary? In other words, is there a kind of person it’s particularly meant for? Why?
Andrea and Alessandro: This film is for everyone who knows little or nothing about wolves and wants to find out what they really represent. It’s time for the wolves’ story to be told, not only as a fable or through imaginary characters. They really exist, they live in our mountains and maybe, sometimes, we can also meet them. It’s time to start saying that wolves are not only a problem, but also an important resource.
Photo credit: Paolo Bosio
Information on Stories of Men and Wolves
a documentary film
Year 2015 Duration 75 ‘ Format 16: 9 / HD / Color Directed by Alessandro Abba Legnazzi and Andrea Deaglio With video and photographic contributions by Stefano Polliotto, Michele Corti, Lidia Ellena, Stephen and Stephanie Unterthiner, Imperia Provincial Police, Nicola Sordello Produced by BabyDoc Film (Turin) Quartier Latin Media (France) With the support of Film Commission Torino Piemonte and Film Commission Vallée d’Aoste executive production of Andrea Parena, Michel Noll B Alessandro Abba Legnazzi, Ivan Augello Francesca Frigo, Andrea Deaglio Mounting Isabelle Collin Sound in direct Niccolo Bosio
Brunella Pernigotti lives in Turin, Italy. She is a teacher, a writer and a photographer. She published a novel and a book of tales and has to her credit about ten one-man exhibitions of photos. She is member of the board of a non-profit association of Turin, “Tribù del Badnightcafè”, that organizes cultural and artistic events.
View posts by Brunella Pernigotti: On the trail of the Italian wolf