‘The first rule’, D’Epiro’s journey to the periphery of the soul

AGI – Massimiliano D’Epiro’s ‘The First Rule’, based on the play ‘La Classe’ by Vincenzo Manna, who penned the subject and screenplay of the film together with the director, will be released in theaters on December 1st. In the cast a very large group of actors: Marius Bizau, Haroun Fall, Andrea Fuorto, Ileana D’Ambra, Luca Chikovani, Cecilia Montaruli, as well as Antonia Fotaras, Fabrizio Ferracane and with the participation of Darko Peric.

A suburban high school. Gabriele, a young professor who has just transferred, is called to hold a remedial course for six ‘difficult’ students, suspended for disciplinary reasons – almost all second generation Italians. The principal is immediately clear: to make up for the students a few hours of lessons for admission to the diploma exams.

The first impact with the students, however, is very violent. Nicolas, the most difficult, with deeply rooted prejudices, threatens him with a knife and explains what are the ‘rules’ to follow in that class. Despite the distrust of the Headmaster and his colleagues, Gabriele manages to win over the boys, both on an educational level and, above all, on a human level. Subvert the rules, be their friend. With everyone except Nicolas.

A few days before the end of the course, the student, with the help of the inhabitants of the neighbourhood, provokes clashes against the migrants of the refugee camp, known as the ‘Zoo’, located a few meters from the school. The tension explodes rapidly, and all the contradictions of a society left to itself and the conflicts that are brooding within the young students emerge.

The school is first militarized, then closed. The recovery course is over. There is only time for the last lesson. “Class is a non-place that reflects all the classes of our country – explains the director Massimiliano D’Epiro – elhe periphery is a periphery of the soul, a mental periphery, which represents a microcosm of the class itself, a non-place because we don’t know geographically where we are but everyone can relate to their own existence. As in a dark fairy tale, the relationships between the characters are archetypes, we don’t see them outside their school universe, we don’t see them at home but only at school. They enter and leave the frame as if they were on a stage. With the camera following them in the bathrooms, in the classrooms, along the corridors, over the terraces”.

“Each of them is a planet that revolves around itself and also around the classroom – continues the director – and the periphery is nothing but the light that revolves around the city”.

The film was shot almost entirely inside a high school on the outskirts of Bari. “The real challenge – adds D’Epiro – was being able to shoot a story within a precise perimeter, which in this case is that of a building school, a closed place, without handholds. Inside it, for the students, there is only a present time”.

As for the performers, the director explains that he chose them on the basis of auditions: “I didn’t know any of them and directing people I’d never met before allowed me to work more freely with them, and they with me”. In the role of the professor the Romanian actor Marius Bizau: “Throughout that period of filming we became like a family, a bit like what happens in the theater too”, he says.

Then he adds a personal testimony: “When I arrived in Italy from Romania I remember extreme gestures of racism, a bit like the climate that reigns in the film – he says – telling in such a crude way what happens in some realities is a search for the truth , is being able to go deep into things. The professor is a character who goes by trial and error, arrives with his wealth of life experiences, he is not a pure professor because he is a substitute teacher, the assignment of his chair has yet to arrive He gets tossed a bit by the waves and he still has to understand what the rules of that place are – adds the actor – he has to understand in which direction to move to get in tune with those guys. But he tries to build a team and bring them forward together and also opening up to them in an open and honest way. And in the end, somehow, he succeeds, or at least tries to”.

The film – a Dinamo Film, Goldenart Production production with Rai Cinema in association with Notorious Pictures with the contribution of the Apulia Film Fund of the Apulia Film Commission and the Puglia Region – will be released in theaters from December 1 distributed by Notorious Pictures.

A curiosity of the film is related to the soundtrack. In the film there are some songs written, produced and interpreted by the co-founder and keyboardist of Subsonica, Davide Dileo, aka Boosta who, in particular for the track ‘Come un sasso’, works together with Violante Placido (actress and wife of the director Massimiliano D’Epiro), creating a perfect sound to drag the viewer into the intimacy of the characters. Furthermore, the twenty-five-year-old Roman singer-songwriter Porto Leon lends his latest single ‘San Pietro’, with which he seems to restore the cry of the young generations, his own but also the one to which the protagonists of the film belong, who live the years angrily of their adolescence.

‘The first rule’, D’Epiro’s journey to the periphery of the soul