“For me, film is a political tool. It’s my way of doing something in the world.”
Nascondino (Hide and Seek) follows the story of Entoni, a young boy in Naples’ Latin quarter, as his life is turned upside-down in the middle of a state crackdown on organised crime. With incredible intimiacy and sensitivity, Victoria Fiore’s documentary takes viewers into the inner lives of Entoni and his family, earning Victoria a BIFA nomination for Best Debut Director — Feature Documentary in the process.
We spoke to Victoria about how she achieved such closeness with her contributors, how the film grew and developed over five years, and so much more. Read our full interview below.
The film follows the life of Entoni, a young boy growing up in The Spanish Quarter in Naples. How did you first come across Entoni, his family, and their story?
Victoria Fiore: I’m from a neighbourhood that’s quite similar to Entoni’s, and after having done a couple of short films, I really wanted to go back to Naples. A really good friend of mine is a social worker, and we did some film workshops together for an organization in the Spanish Quarter, where we give all the kids GoPros and they’d shoot things that they wanted to shoot. I was working quite closely with a lot of the adolescents there, including Entoni’s older brother, and then — when I saw Entoni coming onto the scene — I just fell in love. I saw him and thought “You’re so naughty and full of energy, and the camera loves you”. And he got so interested in the camera, he started to want to shoot all sorts of things. He said, ‘Victoria, I really want to do this remake of Titanic.’ A remake of Titanic of all things? ‘Yes, and I want to act in it as Leonardo DiCaprio and my cousin’s going to be Rose and we’re going to do it on the beach here.’
So, the film started as this really fun workshop with the kids of the Spanish Quarters, and then as things developed the accident happened at the beginning of the film, where the car gets burnt. At that point, everyone in the neighbourhood knew me because we were running around with cameras and kids, and one of the people who came up to me was Dora, who was Entoni’s grandmother. She said, ‘I like what you’re doing with my nephews, do you want to come and have a coffee and I can tell you my story.’ So then, through watching lots of Celebrity Big Brother and doing my nails, we formed a friendship. It took a couple of years for her to open up, but I feel that she gave some really necessary context into understanding what’s happening to Entoni. And then Entoni’s story just evolved. I really wasn’t expecting to make a film about this when it began, and we just allowed the story to evolve and it took us to where we are at the end. Completely unexpected.
I’d like to know at what point this story became a feature documentary. When did you start thinking about funding and getting producers on board — at what stage of getting this footage was that happening?
Victoria: So, we’d already shot, what, a third of this as workshop material before we got the producers on board, and at the beginning I thought it was going to be a documentary about all the adolescents of Naples when I started speaking to Aleksandra Bilic and Jen Corcoran. The moment the decree came in to take kids away from families of organised crime, was when I realised that actually we have a bigger story on our hands — and then Entoni started receiving these threats of being taken away, and I just wanted to follow that. To be honest, I didn’t know it would be a feature at that point either, because he gets put into care and then we can’t really follow him. So at that point it was going to be a short film, perhaps, about how he’s facing being taken away. Then obviously he escapes. So, it just kept evolving into a larger thing, and the Doc Society came on board as soon as we realised that there was a larger story to tell.
The film is shot over several years — what was the timeline making it? It must have been a long time coming.
Victoria: Yes, Entoni was 9 when we started. Entoni was 14 when we last shot with him. So, roughly 5 years.
Early on, Dora says that if she says the wrong thing her life could be in danger. How did you get your contributors’ trust from that perspective — how did they know that they were going to be safe with you?
Victoria: So, trust building has so many layers to it, especially in this film, because they are all at risk of coming to harm if they say the wrong thing. First of all, my door of entry was that I’m Neapolitan. I speak Neapolitan as effectively my first language. So, they know that I’m from a similar kind of area and understand that we speak in double speak — through what you’re hiding as much as what you’re saying. And I really wanted that as a stylistic feature, that we understand so much more through things that are unsaid, because that’s how we communicate. It can be a film about the Camorra without seeing a gun or without seeing drugs, because you know it’s there because of the omission. The second thing, to get the adolescents to respect you, you need to be friends with all the adults. Otherwise the adolescents can have fun with you, but they won’t really take you seriously. So we did a lot of hanging out with all the adults of the square. Our DoP Alfredo de Juan and I drank loads of coffee, and went out for dinner with the whole street and the whole neighbourhood, before getting access to the kids.
And then, with the grandmother, it was literally four years before she wanted to show her face and tell her story. We started off with just snippets of voice, but then by the end I started writing down a script that I had in mind and I kept going through it with her just to make sure that she knew exactly what we were doing. Not that I would ask her to change anything, and she never did, but just so that we had that complicity between us — like I’m protecting you, we’re protecting each other, and we can do this without sensationalising it or putting anyone in danger. That was my aim.
You also capture these very intimate domestic moments where they’re sleeping, or getting ready for the day. How did you put them at ease in a way that meant you could just have a camera in the room with them for those moments?
Victoria: A lot of years of hanging out. What can I say, the process took about five years in total, and to be honest it’s a lot about what happened off the camera as well. It’s being used to myself and the DoP and having built a friendly relationship — and we’re still very close now, and we’re always speaking.
What was your camera set up for those scenes?
Victoria: I mean, as minimal as possible. We had Alfredo with his Canon C300 mostly doing the sound himself, and that was it. I would just be hidden in another room, and Alfredo became invisible in the house. Then obviously there were scenes where there were more interviews, and there would be a slightly bigger crew — but the crew was never bigger than four people inside the house.
You also have some really dynamic scenes where the kids are charging through the streets, playing on the scooters, zooming about. You must have needed quite an agile set up for that as well?
Victoria: All I can say is Alfredo was a great DoP! There were scenes where we recreate things, such as the dream sequences and the escape scene, where Entoni wanted to tell his escapes in a certain way. For those, we had a bigger team. But generally, I think in the camera department there were three people. It was a very reduced team making it — Alfredo made some miracles happen.
Going back to Entoni, there’s a moment early on where he says that he wants to be an actor. Did directing Entoni feel a bit like directing a performer?
Victoria: Do you know what, I feel that Entoni performs in real life too. He’s always putting on a face, not just to me but to literally everybody — because he comes from these circumstances where you have to prove who you are all the time. So, what we see on camera is what he’s like in real life: he just never quite lets his guard down. Actually, I think we do see him letting his guard down as time goes on, for instance in the scene when he’s going off to prison. I think that’s when he’s at his purest and he’s finally letting the emotions come out. He’s sleeping a lot in the film, and I think he’s exhausted because of this performance and mask, which unfortunately is actually really real. For the scenes where we’re recreating things, like his dreams or his escape, that was a bit like working with an actor. We’ll ask ‘Does this feel right to you?’ It was quite a collaborative way of bringing those scenes to life.
You have Entoni talking to his friend Dylan, who is a kind of interviewer by proxy. With him, Entoni really opens up, and they are comfortable discussing things with each other. The first time that happens is when they’re both discussing visiting their fathers in prison. How did you capture that moment?
Victoria: So, this location was an ex-youth prison, which unconfirmed rumours say used to detain Entoni’s father. So, already, that carried a lot of emotion for them. I didn’t push them to speak about anything in particular. I just wanted them in a location they identified with, and where they could play freely, just speaking about whatever came to mind. When they started to speak about their fathers it was like magic happening on the set, because it wasn’t moved by anything. It was literally after they were speaking about their favourite films — and then this happened. And I knew that they had such a great relationship, Dylan and Entoni, although they are quite different: Dylan’s quite a serious boy, he likes studying and takes himself quite seriously, and Entoni’s a crazy kid. They really respect and love each other, and they bring out so much out of each other. So, I just wanted a location, a reason for them to be together, and just to allow it to roll... and then when happened was amazing.
When they meet later on down by the sea, was that trying to capture that moment again?
Victoria: They just really loved being with each other, and the moments when I did want Entoni to update us with what was going in on his life, the device was to bring Dylan along, because that was who he was his most sincere and honest with. When we discussed with Dylan, I just wanted them to talk about future plans, what they wanted to do, and then just left it with them. It’s about putting devices in for them to be able to open up and lead the story where it needs to go, without too much interference.
The narration is really interesting — did you ever consider having a third-person narrative presence?
Victoria: We never thought about having a third person narrator. I initially wanted the film to be both Dora and Entoni, but unfortunately the pandemic made it impossible. So, we decided to change strategy. The film changed to be about Entoni, with Dora as someone who’s supporting his narrative. It took quite a while to get to that point, and especially thanks to Adelina Bichis, our editor, we saw the bits we really needed to focus on. From the beginning of Entoni’s story, I’d always had little audio snippets of Dora explaining things in real time, just in case we needed them. So, there’s some of that slotted in there as well. But when it comes to her own personal life, we did conduct a big six-hour interview with Dora, and went back to shoot our scenes around that.
It sounds like right up until the edit you were thinking this was going to be a two-hander. How else did it find its shape in post?
Victoria: We were editing up until the last moment. We were shooting over a long period of time, but that doesn’t mean we had loads of new material. The moments we shot were actually minimal compared to the amount of time that we were spending together, it was quite selective. But the story was not so clear, especially because, for the first two years, we weren’t thinking of telling these exact stories at all. Adelina had such incredible skill in crafting how to tell the story, and the first two acts especially were very much crafted in the edit suite. We also had to figure out how to bring in these reconstruction moments. I was adamant that I wanted them, because it’s so important to Entoni and how he wants the world to see him. But where and how to slot those in was very much editing craft.
I’d love to ask about the climactic scene, where Gaetano and the kids from the Quarter start a fire and chant in solidarity with Entoni. How did that come together?
Victoria: That is just complete documentary observation. It’s something that happens every year, where they burn the trees in January, and obviously the film starts with that tradition too. It goes through different cycles, and that’s what the film is asking you: how do we break the cycle? Will the cycle just continue? Ending with that scene was really important to me.
You must have become closer and closer to everyone involved throughout the making of this film. Did you find it hard to abstract yourself as a film maker? Did you ever feel like you had to provide a distance?
Victoria: Absolutely. I really started getting into this territory where I’m not just a director. As you know, we made friends with the family and community and literally everyone wanted to have this access. So, as a friend, I carried the burden of what’s happening to our subjects. It’s really difficult. There was a moment when I wanted to step away, and while I do work as an editor too, we needed someone else to have a fresh eye. I’m too close to all of them. And besides, because I’m so close to it, Adelina saw things that I never picked up on.
Has the film been shown in the Quarter?
Victoria: The family were the first people to see it. Natalia was in my arms, saying she’d never felt seen like this before, and Dora loved it too. The family loved it and were proud, and that’s the best screening you can ask for. It hasn’t actually gone to Naples yet as a whole, but we’ll bring it soon.
How does it fees to be nominated for the BIFA for Debut Feature Documentary Director? What does it mean for you as a director?
Victoria: I mean, I’m speechless. It just means so much, because it’s a small production with very few of us working on it, but with so much heart and soul. That we got four nominations is just beyond our wildest dreams. I’m so proud of everyone who’s worked on it. As a director, it just gives credit to the kind of work that I really believe in — and I want to continue making the work that I believe in. For me, film is a political tool. It’s my way of doing something in the world, and the fact that this has been recognised by an organisation like the BIFAs is extraordinary.