Video Slate. Traces

The Beautiful Road

“Ordinary people with ordinary lives, who show us the few things that are necessary to live.” The producers of the video for the anniversary of Communion and Liberation recount the adventure of the past year, and give us a peek “behind the scenes.”
Paola Bergamini

About a year ago, an idea sprang from Roberto Fontolan, Director of the International Center of CL: make a documentary on the sixty-year life of the Movement. Journalist Monica Maggioni and architect/photographer/art director Dario Curatolo were well-known producers of weighty documentaries, including Out of Teheran, which highlighted the plight of Iranian refugees, and Ward54, which captured dramatic stories ofAmerican soldiers returning home from war in Iraq.However, it was not only the irreputation that drew Fontolan’s interest. Monica tells us: “Roberto is an old friend. Around the same time of his request, I had personally met Fr. Carrón and others in the Movement. Roberto asked us to join in an adventure: to tell the story of a history, of a life, through our perspective as ones not ‘native’ to the Movement.”The challenge was not a small one. “I felt like an alien,”says Dario.“I identified CL with the things I read in the newspapers. And they were not always nice things.” They prepared by studying the writings Monica Maggioni, Dario Curatolo, Fr. Giussani and Fr. Carrón, and listening to Fontolan’s tales of what is happening in CL communities in Italy and abroad. For Monica, to read the writings meant “to rediscover a freshness and truth in Fr. Giussani that I had previously only known through the lens of a thousand interpretations and judgments.” In Dario, “Gradually my curiosity was growing. I was struck immediately by the way of speaking about beauty. The challenge was becoming more and more attractive.”

From Africa to Brazil
In the beginning, the workload was overwhelming. The team watched 600 videos from around the world. The idea of a user-generated story came to Roberto through the inspiration of an American film. Each and every submission was viewed from beginning to end, even those that arrived after the deadline. The constant was a desire to tell one’s story and to describe a life full of meaning, walking toward what is good.

Another element that made an impression on the two artists was the intensity of the contributors. “I’m used to a world that’s always running,” Monica says,“where we make generalizations and never stop to reflect on what really matters in our lives. In every video that we received, though, there was a common theme that spanned the globe: ordinary people, with ordinary lives, who stopped to think and identified the few things that are necessary to live. They did it without heavy-handed statements; they simply showed it in their lives.” One clip from the documentary was a gentleman who, carrying a bag of food to a family in need, says,“I am not a hero. I do something very simple. I take a little of my time to help others. It’s an ordinary thing to do.”

The Christian life is an ordinary life. “But not only that,” adds Dario. “There’s another factor. The protagonists are always at peace. There’s no frenetic attempt to dramatize, but rather we see the blossoming of a beautiful, and I would say happy, aspect of life.”

One video at a time, Monica and Dario entered into this history.They saw it in person through their travels to Uganda, surrounded by the kids at Luigi Giussani High School and the women with Rose; to São Paulo, Brazil, where they met the Zerbinis and the “Landless Workers;” and lastly, in the United States, at the New York Encounter. Neither filmmaker emerged untouched. Dario felt like a circle had finally closed, and what he had read from Fr. Giussani and Fr. Carrón and heard from Fontolan became flesh. Joy and beauty took on flesh–even, paradoxically, within circumstances of poverty or difficulty.He says,“The desire to stay right in the midst of things, in action, and to start again really moved me. I could go on about it for days. Above all, both in Uganda and Brazil, what struck me was the path that the people were walking. Nothing is given without effort; change is possible through the knowledge, or better, the awareness of reality.”

The Big Apple
In her travels with Dario while making the film,Monica perceived the same newness her friend had noticed, though she’d long been used to traveling the world for the Italian station RAI. “Having put the person, who has his or her own dignity and meaning within the world, at the center of every initiative, every choice, and every action completely changed things. The monotony and difficulties of daily life do not magically disappear–they return every morning; but the perception that you are a person within a history and that you are building your history gives you the energy to face the day.” Uganda found a permanent place in Dario’s heart, and he is now planning to bring famous art designers to Luigi Giussani High School as teachers. “It’s something for them to learn about, and for me, the opportunity to go and stay for a while.”

In the frenzy of Manhattan, the New York Encounter was the last thing that Dario and Monica (who considers herself an adopted New Yorker, having lived in the Big Apple for a number of years) expected to find. At first they felt as if the Encounter were somewhat “outside of time,” but “then you rediscover the energy and tension of the city.” They could see it in the meeting with the college students that Fr. Carrón held in the ballroom of the hotel where the event took place. “It’s a short clip in the film, but we were there to see these young people full of hope, entrusting their questions about life to Fr. Carrón and desiring an all-encompassing answer.”

“There is one thing that, over time, paved the way for me,” says Monica. “The relationship with Carrón, which was an ongoing discovery. I was always trying to be myself, with my own history and doubts, even my doubts about the truth of the Movement. What struck me about him and helped me along was, on the one hand, the lack of judgment in the shallow sense of the term–in the sense of a prejudice–and, at the same time, a very clear judgment about things. It pushes you to look at the facts, at people and at relationships, entering into them with all your humanity and your reason, which always puts you in a different starting point than the one imposed by the common mentality. It pushes you to go to the bottom of things.” “Carrón became my friend,” says Dario.“This unexpected fact remained with me through the whole process, and afterward.” Among their travels was a trip to Spain to shoot an interview with the priest. “We wanted to go back to where his story began, to uncover the deeper sense of his journey. He was very patient with us. Since it was a chronological account, the lighting for the beginning had to be the morning light of dawn, no other time would do. And the last light had to be that of sunset.”

The Whole and Its Parts
After months of work, they had completed the final edit. At the end of August, after a sneak preview during the Assembly of the Responsibles in La Thuile, Carrón said, “It’s a really beautiful video, but for me what is even greater is the possibility of a friendship beyond what a mere collaboration could have brought about. I thank you for this, because we don’t know what will happen with the film, but we can be sure that the friendship that has begun will remain.” “That was everything,” says Dario. Monica adds, “It was an adventure, in which we used all of our experience, but even more than that it was a journey of discovery that overtook me, because nothing is as it was a year ago. The title The Beautiful Road refers to the story in the video, but also to the road that we walked. I can really say the whole is greater than the sum of the parts, and this applies to us as well.”