Isabella Sandri

She gained an art degree from the DAMS in Bologna and a diploma in directing from Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia, and also attended Ermanno Olmi’s Ipotesi Cinema Laboratory. During that time she also makes a number of shorts (‘La Vestaglia Rosa’), and documentaries, some with Giuseppe Gaudino (‘Joannis Amaelii: animula vagula blandula’, and ‘Calcinacci’ that won the Spazio Italia Prize at the Turin Festival and was invited to Cinema du Reel in Paris and the Rotterdam Festival).

From 1992 to 1995 she is involved in shooting her first feature ‘il Mondo alla Rovescia’, (‘The World Upside Down’), that was selected for the Locarno Festival and many others including Rotterdam, Karlovy Vary, Turin, Sao Paolo, and Saint Petersburg.

In 1997 she shoots a documentary in Rwanda, ‘Gli Spiriti delle Mille Colline’, on the genocide of the Tutsis but also on the unreported massacres of the Hutus. The documentary is shown at the Venice Biennale, wins the Silver Spire Award at the San Francisco Film Festival and the 2nd Libero Bizzarri Prize. ’97 also saw the completion of Giuseppe Gaudino’s film ‘Giro di Lune tra Terra e Mare’ (‘Moonspins between Land and Sea’) which she produced and co-wrote. The film is entered into competition at the Venice Biennale and wins numerous prizes at various festivals around the world (including the Tiger Award at the Rotterdam Festival).

In 1999 with Gaudino she makes ‘La Casa dei Limoni’, a documentary about the impossible dream of a young Palestinian girl who lives in the Sabra and Shatila refugee camp in the Lebanon of returning to her grandfather’s village in Israel-Palestine. 

Her second feature is from 2000, ‘Animali che attraversano la Strada’, (‘Animals Crossing The Road’), the painful initiation of an adolescent into the world of adults. Set in the outskirts of Rome, it is invited to the Venice Biennale, in the official section ‘Cinema del Presente’. RAI is involved in its production. It participates in numerous festivals and is distributed by Istituto Luce. In 2001 she shoots the documentary ‘I Quaderni di Luisa’, part of the series ‘I Diari della Sacher’, produced by Nanni Moretti, inspired by true stories from the National Diary Archive at Pieve Santo Stefano. Invited to the Venice Biennale, it is based on the story of a housewife who, in order not to go mad, commits her pain to four notebooks, but, above all, it is the story of her slow but lucid and life-affirming liberation from a marriage that was suffocating her freedom. At the Turin Festival in 2003 she presents ‘La Zattera di Sabbia’, a documentary about the last Tuareg tribespeople to survive the drought in the north of Mali, and who are now struggling not to lose their nomadic and warrior identity in exchange for settling down. At the festival it wins the Special Jury Prize, overseen by Vittorio De Seta.

From 2003 to 2005 with Giuseppe Gaudino she shoots a documentary film produced by Fandango: ‘Maquilas’ on the border factories in the north of Mexico, in Ciudad Juarez, the city where hundreds of women have been found hacked to pieces, for the most part workers in the ‘maquilas’. The film is a lengthy journey into the inferno of people who come from a sort of paradise, that of the peasant villages of Chiapas, a paradise that has been gutted by the free trade agreements. It is shown at the Turin Festival where it wins the Special Jury Prize and the Cipputi Prize for best documentary on the world of work.

From 2003 to 2008, again with Gaudino she works on making a documentary film shot in Afghanistan on the life of a boy who has been orphaned by ‘intelligent bombs’ who makes something of his life thanks to writing and books, thanks to culture: words against bombs as a way to use your own simple existence to ensure your country’s future. Two versions are made, one of 60 minutes for RAI and another longer version, ‘Storie d’Armi e di Piccoli Eroi’, that also experimented with visual language and devices far removed from reportage or easily digested stories: a step in the direction of a different kind of documentary that isn’t in any way accommodating.

From 2007 to 2010 Gaudino and Sandri have been working on finishing a new full-length work   'Per questi Stretti Morire' (‘By these Straits to Die’) on the figure of an Italian cinematic explorer, Alberto Maria De Agostini, who left to serve as a missionary in Patagonia and Terra del Fuego in 1910, he dedicated his life to the ‘scientific’ but also visionary attempt at describing and communicating all the beauty of those lands at the end of the world. Faced by the torment and pain of the disappearance of the last of the Indios the only words he can find are those terrifying ones on his slides or in the frames of his beautiful film ‘Terre Magellaniche’.  'Per questi Stretti Morire' has been selected at the 67 Biennale of Venice- Mostra internazionale d'Arte Cinematografica, in the official competition Orizzonti.

Premio ‘Città di Imola’ as Best Italian Movie at Trento Film Festival, 2011.

Special Jury Prize at 18° “Premio Libero Bizzarri”, 2011

There is a documentary film on the work of Sandri and Gaudino, entitled “Les Champs brùlants” (Campi Ardenti) by Catherine Libert and Stefano Canepa –- France, 2010, B&W and colour, 72 minutes, premiered at the 63rd Locarno Film Festival 2010 and Special Jury Award at Turin Film Festival 2010.

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