Dialog in Common

Alessandro Mavilio: On Audience & Lived Realities

Alessandro Mavilio [AM] is a cinematographer, writer, photographer, and video artist based in Kyoto.
pressInterview with Markuz Wernli Saitô on November 2, 2005.

Taoist Movies

Alessandro Mavilio established with Taoist Movie his own genre of film making that embraces beyond the camera and frame the flow of ones immediate surroundings without a script

You refer to your work as "Taoist Movies". What does this mean?
AM: Basically I film reality as I find it and make movies out of it. When leaving my house with the camera, I don't walk around with a concept or a script in my mind. Filming is emergent for me and what I find determines the result. The Taoist movie is a new genre derived from buddhist-type cinema we know from old masters like Yasujiro Ozu. His films utilize the buddhist language of emptiness. I see Tao &mdash from which buddhism derived &mdash as the origin for the expression in our world. It is like a cloud without boundaries where the same can mean different things. It shows that at the core of art is the feeling evoked in the audience.

Tao refers to The Way. Not only to achieve immortality but to live fully and become an integral part of the universe. I make this Way literally the essence of my work by sticking to the streets. With an emptiness embracing the moment I like to walk the open streets. That's where I can feel best the flux and confluence of life. In houses, schools, and indoors life it is not really happening for me.

Why do you film and what is your process?
AM: My media is film because it is time-based and the closest way to witness and depict life. The lack of script and preconceived idea frees me up to take in life fully. The mere presence of things around me provides me with plenty of convincing sequences. Usually after a warm-up the sensibility of my eyes and gut feel transcends onto the camera. Making Taoist movies is like filming animals in the wild. I have to introduce myself and the camera to the situation in a very subtle way: through waiting, assimilating, and observing.

Taoist Movies

Stabilizing and balancing the camera with cranes and rails for full immersion in the moment...

What is your relationship to the people in front of your camera?
AM: I want people to get acquainted to me and the camera. That makes me part of the scene and I slip inside the moment. Using the approach of Candid Camera feels like an act of stealing. I rather establish an open and honest connection with the people surrounding me. Which is why I use bulky and heavy equipment like cranes and rails for my filming. Everybody can see me and it is like the performance gives me reason and grounding to be in that scene. In particular Japanese people never assume that they would be worthy to be filmed with such a lot of tech gear. Apparently my audience finds their own explanations for my presence. People observe me and put me in the place where it seems right to them. Without any distress people around me keep their own momentum. The pure dynamic of life remains undisturbed.

In this equilibrium I am getting fully receptive and the audience begins to be my teacher. Learning how to better read people and recognize natural behavior is important to become an empathic and convincing film director. Ideally film production enables the cast to carry on with their own lives. That's why I think that cinematic direction and script are violent methods. Since I participate fully in life while filming I walk on a fine line: I am witness, performer, and influencer in one.

What about the audience watching the Taoist Movies...
AM: A few people who became unassuming collaborators of my "camera performance" get further involved. As part of a wider audience they watch the edited movies which adds another layer of connection. My movies are generally perceived as fictional productions. The viewers are surprised to learn that its source is real life. Observing and fully partaking in our lives offers the fabric to weave the most convincing stories.

Taoist Movies

Often people find themselves not worthy to be filmed with a lot of tech gear and keep their own momentum

When do you feel most most connected?
AM: The street is a place where people are between places. This is very emblematic because being "in the between" is enlightening. Diving into the flow of the street let's me experience moments of full connection. They are sometimes very short but filled with incredible intensity of life and awareness. Usually I film each day for about an hour, as long as the DV tape lasts. Sometimes it is hard to switch off the camcorder after riding "the wave" and it's like waking up from a dream.

As a film maker documentation is inevitably part of your work. How do you go about this?
AM: Making the flux of life into a documentary entails film editing. Besides weeding out and shortening my footage, I keep the sequences chronological to sustain the original progression. I want to lead the protagonists in my movies gradually into the ultimate culmination and out if it. The editing is an intimate process, where the protagonists seem to talk. Since I was in that very moment I am able to easily reconnect to them. Sometimes I am getting so involved that I cry or fall for the people in my footage. In this context I write subtitles and dialogues respectful to the cast, introducing a plot or narrative to the movie.

What is the challenge in your work?
AM: It is the power of framing reality. Every frame I chose makes a statement. That burdens me with a big responsibility. As much as I want to place myself right into live while video-taping, the frame tends to remove and distort aspects of that very life. I guess I have to live with this dilemma.

DOEI Taoist Movies
Alessandro Mavilio is native to Naples, Italy, and studied Oriental Languages and Civilizations with a focus on Japanese literature. His varied creative ventures reach from cartoons to animation, from web design to software creation for rail and flight simulation. A few years ago he settled in Japan where he works with dedication on an experimental project named Taoist Movies: fully immersed in the moment he toggles his attention between camera frame and immediate surroundings. Alessandro's art is to (re)assemble this experiential video material right from the flow of life (ergo: "Taoist") into powerful narratives. In his DOEI (= street movies) video work that derives right from the happenstance on the street &mdash be it a traffic lights or cicadas &mdash he ventures out with camera, tripod, or crane but without any idea what to film in order to connect with the magic of being present.


externalTaoist Movies by Allessandro Mavilio