Photos By Estevan Oriol.
Words by Arianna Di Cori
Film and video director Diana Manfredi, aka Spaghetto, is one of the Italians In Film worth keeping an eye on.
Born in Milan, Italy, she studied film there and in Barcelona, Spain, where she got a master degree in cinema before moving to the U.S. She currently lives in Hollywood.
Her recent works include a short-movie portraying photographer Estevan Oriol, made in collaboration with MOCA and Levi’s brand. The short was presented at MOCA’s “Art In The Streets” exhibition in 2011. She directed and edited the music video “Light Of My Eyes” from the original score of the Italian film “The Father And The Foreigner”. Her latest six videos were shot at the SXSW 2012 Music Festival in Austin, Texas: they follow L.A. rappers Chill Black Guys and others during the fest. Diana is cheerful and capable of putting everyone at ease, and her personality and life story reflect her style.
Her artistic coming of age happened in the colorful underground scene in her Milan grey hood, where she started shooting skateboard videos and documentaries. Her third docu, “District Six – Time To Return Home”, shot in South Africa, introduced Diana Manfredi to the U.S. audience. “District Six” was shown at the New York Diaspora Film Festival, and got invited to the Pan African Film Fest in L.A. and to San Francisco Black Film Fest. In San Francisco Diana found a new temporary home: she stayed there for a few years before heading south to L.A., where we met. In her home in the Hollywood hills she shows me her home-office: a large desk in the living room with a big computer for editing, her laptop, and a bunch of colorful little creatures. And nail polish too. She has a passion for nail art “Great thing to do while waiting for the video rendering!”.
QUESTION: Diana, you’ve been doing different kind of projects and experimented a lot with your video camera. What do you look for when you do what you do?
DIANA: I’ve always been open to all different kinds of communication through film, and searching the one that suits me the best. Having studied film at the Fine Arts Academy, I developed an early interest in video art and installations, usually shown in galleries. But I soon got bored with this conceptual and too experimental aesthetics , aimed only at the initiated one in that small circuit, those able to understand their often obscure references.
Q.: So you changed direction?
DIANA: Yes, I went the opposite way and started making documentaries. I love shooting and being on set while traveling and meeting people. After making “District Six” I decided to do more than one project a year.
Q.: What did you do, then?
DIANA: Shortly after moving to San Francisco I found a job as a filmmaker for a music company, 2b1 Records. By the time they eventually shut down I had already worked with a lot of artists and made a lot of contacts. I moved to L.A. because it was clear there was more work for me down here. With my company, Spaghetto Productions, I’m getting a certain visibility in the hip-hop scene. But it’s not enough. I’m presently writing a script for a feature-length movie: I feel it’s time for me to tell a story with a meaning.
Q: As you were saying, you’re pretty known in the L.A./Bay Area hip-hop scene thanks to your videos. How difficult is it for a woman getting the respect of a strictly male club? Plus you’re pretty and Italian!
DIANA: I’ve always lived in this kind of environment, the only girl in a crew of guys, so for me this scene is pretty much the US version of the scene I have always been part in Italy. In San Francisco I followed the Chill Black Guys crew since they started, and I supported them through my videos. Now their popularity is growing, and so is mine. I’m part of a network now and many artists ask me to do videos for them but I don’t say yes to everyone. I’d never make a video for someone who disrespects women and takes advantage of them. Staying true to my values has always proved to be beneficial to me on the long run.
Q: How did your work with Estevan Oriol came about?
DIANA: I met Estevan through our common friend Alex Fakso, an amazing photographer. I also knew his Italian publisher, Drago, who I met in Milan in 2005 at the Urban Edge Show, the biggest Street Art exhibition ever run in Europe, which I took part in with some of my pictures, and by filming the official documentary of the event. Alex and Drago were both in L.A. last year for the opening of MOCA’s Art In The Street - perfect timing since I had just moved here in town. Estevan was part of the exhibition and when MOCA and Levi’s invited four filmmakers to pick an artist and make a video about them I chose Estevan. I love his work. I feel blessed I had this opportunity. Also, I feel very lucky that I’m the only Italian director taking part of the world’s two biggest Street Art exhibitions ever.
Q: Tell me a bit more about your history back in Italy, and on your name Spaghetto.
DIANA: In Milan all my friends were skaters or musicians in punk bands. I started filming them, and that was my first approach to video making. At that time, my then boyfriend [Gianluca Mariani, Italian pro skater] and I invested money in a good computer and a camera and started making skateboard videos professionally. We started our own company, called Spaghetto Child. It’s funny how skateboarding goes in cycles when it comes to its popularity in the media. We were lucky enough to catch a good wave, and in a short time our company was big in Milan. We made videos for MTV, and even launched a clothing brand with our name. Many years have passed since then and Spaghetto Child has folded; but the name “Spaghetto” has remained as a tribute to my roots as a filmmaker. Plus when I first came here I was wearing my brand, so I was “marked” with my name Spaghetto!