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Success Story: Ludovica Fales to release Lala

Alexia Muiños Ruiz
Alexia Muiños Ruiz

Documentary LALA, a success story by EWA member Ludovica Fales

On the 13th of May, Ludovica Fales' s film Lala will premiere at the 41st Bellaria Film Festival, which will be dedicated to Italian independent cinema and whose artistic director is Daniela Persico.

We first heard of Lala, when Fales took the first training workshop organised by EWA Network back in 2013, Pitcher Perfect.  Encouraged after the pitching session, Fales met her producer and took the multidisciplinar training EWA Network organised with the support of Creative Europe, the Multiple Revenue Stream Training For Future Films. 

Ludovica Fales's project changed in the meantime because Zaga, her lead character, had to flee from Italy and the project shifted from documentary to fiction and then, the character came back so that the film could be done as Fales had envisaged.



Lala, Samanta and Zaga are the same age, they share the same desires and dreams. They are three new Italian citizens, Italy does not recognize because their parents were born elsewhere. Their stories take shape, and intertwine, in the three layers of a collective tale in search of citizenship for one - and many - undocumented teenagers. Lala looks in the mirror of her invisibility and crosses the fragments of her suspended identity. She crosses the story of Samantha, the non-professional actress who plays her role, and that of Zaga, the real girl who inspired this film. In a fluid state between fiction and reality, Lala embarks on a collective journey in search of the identity of a generation with denied rights. In a kaleidoscope of intersecting stories, the film becomes the manifesto of a generation, a mosaic of voices of boys and girls who are all Lala.

What makes LALA a success story?

LALA is a miracle EWA Network has witnessed from its inception. The meetings with producers and distributors were instrumental to lead Fales to the right partners for this film. However, real life took its toll. The script and approach changed through the years, but Fales never gave up her project and 10 years after we first heard of it, LALA will premiere at Bellaria Film Festival on May 13th.

The genesis of the project

Nine years after the start of the project, during which Fales never stopped looking for it, Zaga returned and faced the film process, the story that was changed and transformed by the collective work, adding her own level to history, to complete with one's own voice this labyrinthine and unique process of life and discovery of the truth. Through a series of accidental contacts, related to Fales trip to the Balkans and her studies, her  all-female team met the social worker Antonio Ardolino and his team in support of school accompaniment for Roma children, "maestro di teatro" Antonio Calone, who came from the experience of preparing non-professional actors in Naples, and producers Igor Princic and David Cej, working and living at the border between Italy and Slovenia. As part of the preparation of the film, casting and training workshops for Italian, refugee and Roma adolescents and adults were organized and provided the participants with some tools to reflect on the context, the profound reality of history and the community. They experimented with different methods, from Augusto Boal's forum, to Paulo Freire's pedagogy of the oppressed and the Tanztheater.

Director's intention

Lala is the story of a second generation teenage migrant girl, born in Rome, torn between the values of her family of origin and those brought to her by her school life and her urban culture. Lala is also a young teenage mother, with responsibilities far greater than those of the average teenager, responsibilities for which she is not always ready and which push her sense of motherhood to the limit. Suspended between tragic humor and minimal and precious poetry that comes from reality, the first layer of this story is, therefore, an angry tale, about an apparently benevolent system and unable to see its own distorted logic. A coming of age story, in which Lala is confronted with the most classic rite of passage - the eighteenth birthday - as a transition towards maturity and towards the deepest questions related to motherhood, while struggling for recognition by society - her run to get a document.

Lala's story is inspired by the life of Zaga, a very young girl I met ten years ago in a Rome camp. I had the chance to be very close to her for a long time before she abruptly fled, after all attempts to get her papers failed. After thinking about the best way to tell the core of Lala's story, the struggle to obtain papers in the country where she was born and raised, I decided to make it into a film inspired by reality. I believed this was the best process to convey the truth more deep at the heart of his story, since she was not there and disappeared without a trace.

The construction of the film is profoundly linked to the very experience of its creation. The second documentary level reveals, in fact, the mechanism through which the level of fiction was developed and represents the antidote to the story itself, becoming primary and revealing all the deep and complex truth behind the story. While we were filming and improvising around the story during these months, we also learned ways of being together that challenged the norm of our lives, the norm that basically makes everyone in contact only with their immediate neighbors. This space for the challenge of the norm, through the challenge of the relationship between fiction and reality, also represents for the public an interlocutory space, a space for active reflection on the relationship between what is evident and what is hidden. I started working on the story with the group of non-professional actors, who challenged the script, changed it, added their stories and co-created the film space with me. Each of the people who participated in this process is was, therefore, a necessary and irreplaceable fragment of a project whose various layers had to coexist together to show how we found, rediscovered and reflected on the meaning of history, constantly mirroring it in reality and seeking more truth in acting. Ours was a collective search for truth , the search for a shared - and therefore public - sometimes intimate, but always deliberately collective truth.


Length 85’ Format 1.78:1 - 2K

Written and directed by Ludovica Fales. Cinematography Valentina Summa. Editing Adelina Bichis. Original music Bruno Franceschini. Sound Gian Domenico Petillo. Costumes Sara Marcucci. Production design Brunella De Cola. Sound Mix Mikaël Barre. Video Postproduction Gianandrea Sasso.

Production Transmedia production (Italia). Line producer David Cej

Staragara (Slovenia)

With the contribution of: Fondo Audiovisivo del FVG,MiC – DG Cinema (tax credit),FVG Film Commission,

Regione Lazio,Slovenian Film Centre (Tax rebate) Development Biennale College Cinema

Producers Igor Princic and Miha Černec

Conversation with the author

Why did you choose to tell Lala's story?

I grew up in a family crossed by a cross of interests, with a strong cosmopolitan propensity for fiction and the novel, which has been kept alive over the years by the two great figures of my life, Angela, my grandmother, and Regina, her older sister. Fled from Italy to the United States during the racial laws, these women were saved thanks to the generosity of complete strangers, and lived, united by a deep bond, between the two sides of the Atlantic Ocean for life. Their mission therefore became that to keep the space of that world they had lived open and mend their memories through a network of stories, events, documents, which kept alive a world of values that the dramatic events of their youth had led them to defend with even greater strength. I landed on the land full of stories and events that preceded my birth, the weight of which in my life I could only understand in adulthood. When I met Zaga, the girl who inspired the story of "Lala", I understood that, despite our profound differences and my life absolutely privileged compared to hers, we had something in common. We have in common that feeling shared by those who feel they were born by chance - "the survivors" - as Bruno Bettelheim would define them in his famous book.

History as a struggle for rejection is a strong theme that leads back to exile.

The trauma of exile comes, in fact, inherited up to three generations from the completion of the story - a kind of transmitted trauma, which survives through an unconscious ghost. With the force of the traumatic drive experienced by generations preceding ours, this phantasm manifests itself in a sense of rejection, which resonates without the memory of the triggering event being preserved. I understood at that point that the story of this struggle against rejection, the he initiation against rejection had to be told in a space between the community and the protagonist, our common story. The plight of undocumented adolescents, who are denied any legal status at the age of 18 and who realize they never “exist”, rang in me like an alarm bell coming from the abyss of history, of my history. This story had to be told, with all its complexities and within a collective dimension that included self-narration from different perspectives.

Director Ludovica Fales in the EWA NEtwork Multiple Revenue Stream Training