Roberto deFeo and Vito Palumbo made waves a couple years ago with the most successful short film in Italian movie history, the horrorific thriller Ice Scream, whose subsequent U.S. version should be debuting soon. If you thought Ice Scream was a disturbing slice of life (it was inspired by true events), get ready to squirm some more when Child K has its world premiere. The short film evokes Rosemary's Baby, while recounting a true story based on one of millions of infants murdered by the Nazi regime during World War Two. It puts a spotlight on a part of the holocaust that hasn't had very much and captures the imagination by drawing you in through a young, religious couple and their efforts to conceive during the war. I spoke to co-director Roberto DeFeo about the wrenching tale.
What drew you to this story?
Child K was a project born on a quiet evening while watching television. Vito Palumbo (one of the two directors of this short) saw a monologue by the actor Marco Paolini (entitled "Ausmerzen", aired on La7 on January 26, 2012) and learned of this little known, horrible page of Nazi history ,the project AKTION T4. Vito called me to share his dismay and from that long conversation we came to the conclusion that we needed to tell this story. But we also needed to give it a personal human perspective for the audience, and we came up with the idea of a father's despair that puts into motion an extermination. After studying the matter for a long time we sat and wrote the scrip decided that shooting it in German would create a more visceral atmosphere that was as close as possible to reality, and "Child K" was born.
I absolutely want to say thanks to all the producers for their courage because it was not simple to produce a short film like CHILD K. Thanks to COLORADO FILM, one of the most important Italian production companies, thanks to Eido Lab a multimedia communications laboratory born in Bari (my hometown) in 1991, and thanks to Dinamo Film, who have always been involved in our production.
Where did you shoot it?
In our motherland: Apulia. Apulia is a beautiful Italian region that offers natural, svaried landscapes. So it wasn't difficult to find a spot that resembled the German countryside.
The Kretschkopf home, the main set of CHILD K, we completely rebuilt on the banks of Lake Occhito, in Celenza Valfortore (Province of Foggia). The choice of the lake wasn't an accident: also Pomssen - a small village in the surroundings of Lipsia where the narrated events took place - is located by a lake's banks, and looks surprisingly similar to the one shown in the film. The construction of the house took more than four weeks of work involving a team of eight people, led by Production Designer Marta Marrone.
However, the internal settings of the Hitler's Chancellery were rebuilt in the Palace of Province in Bari.
You seem to be drawn to strong, dark, violent subject matter (Ice Scream) Why is that?
You're right, my work often tells "bad stories", but the "bad stories" are part of our lives and it's right to tell them. And as happens in "CHILD K" we tell a negative story to teach something important.
When we found out this story we were shocked. How was it possible that no one had never spoken about the Nazi project Aktion T4? How was it possible not to have ever read anything about it in the history books?
We all know the horrors of the Holocaust, but not all of us know how the Nazis had learned to exterminate, why the gas chambers and crematories were created, how everything began. Aktion T4 was for the Nazis a flat-out training, it taught them how to deceive the innocents and ignorants sentenced to death, how to get rid of an enormous number of corpses, how to organize the extermination departments. This short film tells a real event hidden among the "wrinkles" of history, which represents the origin of evil.
What did free the Nazi's madness? It should be recognizable as the event that started it all, right? Here it is.
Can we expect something happier from you next?
We are working on several projects, and there are good and bad sides to each of them. But yes, I could definitely say that I think my fascination with dark subject matter has ended.
Roberto DeFeo and Vito Palumbo on the set of Child K.