The Cisterna Film Festival 2023 returns to illuminate Palazzo Caetani through the lights of cinema. The ninth edition of the International Short Film Festival will come to life from July 21-23.

The author of the festival’s manifesto is a young emerging artist from Cori.

The Interview:

The manifesto of the ninth edition of the Cisterna Film Festival is a tribute to women and the emerging talents of our territory, to the classic beauty of black and white, to the lightness of a floating body, to the freedom of interpreting an image that can be positive or negative depending on the reality of cultural reference. The young photographer and video artist behind the shot is Vanessa Pistilli, who we will get to know better through this brief interview.

How did you decide to dedicate yourself to art, and what are your aspirations in this field?

I am currently studying Multimedia and Technological Arts at the Academy of Fine Arts in Rome. Regarding my early steps in the artistic field, I can answer in a simple way, as many people would: I started when I was very young. While all the children were playing together, I preferred to sit in a corner and draw. When I was at home with my friends, while they were playing with my sister, I would draw or watch animated films. I believe that’s how I started, with sheets of paper, pastels, and classic Disney movies in the background. It is not surprising that lately I have been returning to drawing since I intend to specialize in digital animation. However, this does not mean abandoning photography or video, which remain faithful companions on my artistic journey.

The body is central in both your photos and videos. Can you talk about it?

I believe it is related to a discourse of identity. For me, the body is a language, a means through which I can express myself to the fullest. There is something magical about it: every time I portray my body, it feels as if I am performing a ritual, using every inch of skin as an instrument to speak and gain more awareness of what I am.

Most of your images are in black and white. Why is that?

I could try to complicate matters, but I want to answer honestly. There is no profound reason that drives me to shoot in black and white. Simply put, that’s how I imagine photographs in my mind. But undoubtedly, it’s also influenced by artists I’m inspired by.

Who are your artistic references?

Certainly, among my all-time favorite artists is Maya Deren; I consider her a true genius. Alongside her, I would mention David Lynch. I have always felt very close to their style and themes, perhaps even in some way understood by them. Of course, I could mention many other names: Francesca Woodman, Man Ray, Antonin Artaud, Grotowski, Ana Mendieta, Virginia Woolf, Sylvia Plath, Hayao Miyazaki, Edgar Allan Poe, Kafka. These are the artists who inspire me the most while I think, write, and create my stories. What will they become? Illustrations? Photos? Short films? Who knows.

Alter ego, doppelgänger and dreams often re-appear.

I am fascinated by the dreamlike, as well as everything mystical and unsettling. As I mentioned earlier, the theme of identity is central to my artistic reflection. In this sense, alter ego and doppelgänger play a fundamental role. We can control dreams or let them control us. The illusion of a better or worse reality, the senselessness in seeing someone identical or similar: my short films do not always have a happy ending; in fact, most of the time, the protagonists are condemned to live these disturbing sensations eternally, without getting any answers. Sad, for sure, but it’s part of the game. They find themselves in a room playing chess with themselves or dancing with someone similar, only to discover that they have always been alone; they can communicate through time and space, confused, or have a cup of tea while another version of themselves runs away outside the window. They have no answers, nor do they accept being in that way. It just happens, and I love to see them run, as if they were an extension of my fears, which I somehow exorcize through photos or videos.

As a photographer and videographer, what do these art forms allow you to express? Or when do you choose one form of expression over the other?

I choose them as they appear in my mind. When I write a story, it usually starts with a single image that emerges in my head. It may sound mystical, but I assure you it’s just a product of imagination and “living in my own world.” These images already come to life either in stillness or in motion, and all I have to do is trust my instincts: if the image moves, then it will become a video; if it remains still, it will be a photograph. Every story of mine is born from there.

Can you tell us about the image selected for the CFF9 manifesto? When and how was it taken? What does it represent to you?

The image selected for the CFF9 manifesto was taken in August 2019 in Suio Terme. I was on vacation at my boyfriend’s grandparents’ house, and his sister and I wanted to play with underwater photography to see if we could capture something nice. Among the many shots, there was this one, my favorite. I immediately had the feeling of capturing a flight, of confining Beatrice – the name of the girl portrayed in the shot – in an ethereal limbo where she wasn’t swimming nor simply lying down. A dimension of absolute blackness that she serenely embraces with open arms.

What is your relationship with cinema?

My relationship with cinema is serene, beautiful, and curious. As I mentioned in response to the first question, when my friends came over to play at my house, I would either watch movies or draw. I watch all kinds of movies, any genre, although I must confess that horror films scare me a lot. It’s ironic because the themes I often deal with are considered closely related to horror. Cinema is also a familiar moment for me: usually, in the evenings after dinner, our whole family gathers to watch a movie or a few episodes of a TV series. However, I believe I have to thank my mother because, unknowingly, she introduced me to the seventh art. It was almost like a butterfly effect: I could never have known that some of those movies I watched as a child would have had such a significant impact on my life.

Are you familiar with the Cisterna Film Festival? Any memories associated with this event?

I know the CFF very well, and I am very fond of it. I have to thank Riccardo, my boyfriend. At the beginning of our relationship, he spoke to me with great enthusiasm about this event, and we decided to attend together. Since then, we haven’t missed an edition, except for the period when we were abroad for study purposes. The short films have always been carefully chosen, never banal but wonderful. The photography exhibitions have also been beautiful. The atmosphere created during the festival evenings is always magical, and the courtyard of Palazzo Caetani transforms into a small home where everyone cries, laughs, and experiences a universe of emotions.


Cisterna Film Festival – Palazzo Caetani – July 21st to 23rd.

Free entry