It is not the man who has too little, but the man who craves more, that is poor.
Lucio Anneo Seneca
“Development can’t fly in the face of happiness. It should promote human happiness, love, human relationships, relationships between parents and children, with friends, and basic goods. Precisely. Because this is the most important treasure we have: happiness! When we fight for the environment, we must remember that the first element of the environment is called human happiness!”
Live in austerity to satisfy our standards of living, which we refuse to lower, or, as the former Uruguay President Mujica has claimed for some time now, live in moderation?
In short, is it better to just make cuts everywhere and leave millions of people jobless and without a future, as is the case for the Western world, or consume only what we really need without wasting any resources?
“Because when I buy something,” continues Mujica, “I don’t buy it with money, but with the time of my life it took me to earn that money. And the time of life is precious and must be jealously guarded. We need to keep it for the things we like and motivate us. Having time for yourself is what I call freedom. And if you want to be free, you have to use moderation. The alternative is becoming a slave to work so you can consume ruthlessly, but this takes time away from living your life.”
Today, the world is undergoing change of epoch proportions. There’s no place for those who give in to the current state of things, who allow themselves to be subjugated by an increasingly dog-eat-dog and viscous economy, who don’t want to be free.
Disdain for the way we are governed or exploited or enslaved isn’t enough. We need to find the courage to change things. But, as Camus suggests, first we need to change ourselves, and we need to do it fast, otherwise “our past will devour our future.”
A future where inequalities become impossible to sustain for Western democracies. Without political and economic intervention the near future will seem like the Belle Epoque, when society was dominated by wealthy families and their seven-digit bank accounts. The domination of today’s “nouveau riche” could end up suffocating tomorrow’s societies, their wellbeing, and, above all, “Human Happiness.”
In 1971, I was a student living on the outskirts of Milan. Everyday, I’d commute back and forth to the city center. That year, at the north train station newsstand, I bought a “super-pocket” paperback published by Longanesi. The ones that used to cost 350 Lire.
Even though I knew little about the author, Bertrand Russell, I liked the title, The Conquest of Happiness, and the blurb:
“Break down the hard shell of the Ego that suffocates and impoverishes us, nurture the most pleasant and open-hearted relationships with others, and with things . . . man must enlarge his mind to the universe, and be impassioned by the greatest number of studies and problems, adapting the pace of individual life to the universe’s.”
Forty-five years have passed since that day back in 1971. All these years, that small book has survived moves, at times even turbulent. But it’s always stayed with me. Read countless times, underlined, devoured. Today, many people ask me how I came up with the idea of making such an impossible film like HUMAN HAPPINESS. I really can’t say it was because of that book. It wouldn’t be right. The idea came to me thanks to what I’ve seen after reading it, in the most diverse, afflicted, and complicated places across the world.
Bertrand Russell saw it his own way, and he tried to solve the problem by suggesting “a cure” for the ordinary day-to-day unhappiness. He was able to do so because he lived at a time that was much happier than ours. Well, at least I think so.
Those were years riddled by social conflict. Of course. But nothing, back then, hinted at what is happening today, where everything, everyday, seems swallowed up by the “great world disorder” and by ”religious chaos.”
The film was born precisely from this “disorder” and this “chaos.” And it couldn’t be any other way.
Russell wrote the book based on his experiences. It’s both erudite and intentionally simple because he wanted everyone to understand: “This book is not addressed to the learned . . . ,” he writes in the foreword to The Conquest of Happiness.
From then on, work after work, he accompanies his readers towards elementary and quite pertinent truths: “. . . to be happy you must defend yourself from the gods . . . ” or “a very large part of the evil afflicting the world is due to religious fanaticism . . . ”
Bertrand Russell passed away in 1970. Just one year before I discovered him after reading that 350-Lire paperback. Today, in the film I recently finished, another (French) philosopher, Andrè Comte Sponville, picks up the topic by quoting Michel Serres, one of France’s most important intellectuals: “In order to make my students laugh, I spoke to them about religion and, to get them excited, about politics. That was in 1968. Today, to get them to laugh, I discuss politics and, to excite them, about religion.”
What a disturbing paradox that distances, a great deal, the conquest of happiness.
La felicita’ umana
Le bonheur humain - Human Happiness
Directing and Photography
With contributions by
Serge Latouche, André Comte-Sponville, Ariane Mnouchkine, Sergio Castellitto, Ermanno Olmi, Vandana Shiva, Bruno Bozzetto, Aleida Guevara, and others.
Italy, France, Denmark, Germany, Uzbekistan, India, Cuba, Nicaragua
1988: At the End of the Line - 36th San Sebastian Film Festival, Cairo Film Festival, Annecy Film Festival. Award for best actor Festival del Cinema Ind. of Bellaria. Cast: A. Haber, F. Serra.
1990: Where the Night Begins - 48th Venice Int. Film Festival, Wurtzburg Int. Festival, Annecy Film Festival. David di Donatello for beginner director. Award Cinema e Società. Targa Anec. Cast: T. Gallop, C. Wilder, K.M. Guest.
1992: Kalkstein – The Valley of Stone - 49th Venice Int. Film Festival, Montreal Int. Film Festival, Goteborg Int. Film Festival, Annecy Film Festival. Grolla d’Oro 1992 for best script, Targa Anec best film directing, award Ciack d’oro best costumes, Award San Fedele 1992/93 best movie. Award O.C.I.C. at Montreal IFF. Cast: C. Dance, A. Bardini.
1993: Article 2 - Berlin Film Festival 1994, Annecy Film Festival. Solinas award for best original screenplay. Cinema e Società award best movie, 1st award to Storie di Cinema, special mention FCE at Karlovy Vary. Crystal Globe Nomination 1994. National Award Film di Qualità. Cast: M. Mifta, N. El Mcherqui, R. Ben Abdallah, F. Bussotti, F. Sartor.
1995: Acting Out - Annecy film Festival, Golden Globe for best actor to A. Haber. Cast: A. Galiena, A. Haber, R. Citran.
1996: The Game Bag - Five nominations David di Donatello, four nominations Globo d’Oro, one nomination Nastro D’argento. David di Donatello best supporting actor L. Gullotta. Karlovy Vary IFF. S. Leone award Annecy FF. S. Amidei award for best screenplay. Audience award Festival Cinema Grosseto. Audience award Freistadt IFF. Special mention Kiev IFF. National award Film di Qualità. Cast: M. Ghini, A. Catania, R. Zibetti, P. Djukelova. H. Shopov.
1997: The Mission - FIBA d’OR award Biarritz IFF Cast: M. Placido, M. Ghini, B. De Rossi.
1998: Rock Crystal - 14 TV re-runs since 1998 Cast: T. Moretti, V. Lisi, T. Zajkova, L. Gullotta, O. Antonutti.
1999: A Respectable Man - Pasinetti award at 56th Venice Int. Film Festival 1999. Special event. I. Silone. award Sulmona FF. Golden Grolla 1999 for best actor S. Accorsi. David di Donatello best supporting actor L. Gullotta. Silver Ribbon for best subject S. Tortora. Golden Globe for best actor L. Gullotta. National award Quality Movie. Cast: M. Placido, M. Melato, G. Mezzogiorno, S. Accorsi, L. Gullotta.
2000: The Greatest Gift - O.C..I.C. award at Monte Carlo F&TV Festival 2001, Prix Italia 2001. Cast: M.F. Abrham, V. Lisi, R. Grauwiller.
2001: Heart - International TV Award 2002. Anton G. Majano award 2002 best directing, and best actor L. Gullotta. Golden Grolla for best actress A. Valle. Golden Efebo for best actor L.Gullotta. Cast: G. Scarpati, A. Valle, L. Gullotta.
2002: The Paul Street Boys - Opening movie Giffoni Film Festival 2003. Cast: M. Adorf, V. Lisi, N. Brilli, G. Battiston.
2003: Beyond Borders - Golden Efebo 2004 best directing, and best actor. Silver Efebo 2004 S. Ferilli. Flaiano Award 2004 for best actor. J. Brandrup.
2004: Handsome Anthony - “Golden Chest” 2006 at Tv I.F.F. of Plovdiv, Bulgaria. Finalist 2006 Tv I.F.F. Reims, France. Cast: D. Liotti, N. Grimaudo, L. Gullotta, L.M. Buruano.
2005: The Courage of a Princess - Ennio Flaiano award 2006 best actress S. Rocca. Cast: S. Rocca, C. Coureau, J. Brandrup, H. Prinz, F. Castellano.
2006: ‘O Professore - National preview 1° Fiction Fest with Italian President Giorgio Napolitano. Cast: S. Castellitto, L. Ranieri.
2007: Sunday’s Child - Cast: G. Fiorello, A. Caprioli, D. Coco, Riccardo Nicolosi.
2008: The Forgetter - Cast: J. Brandrup, G. Pession, G. Battiston.
2009: Nine Seeds (Vandana Shiva’s India) - 57th Trento Film Festival, 28th Bellaria Film Festival, 13th Cervino Cinemountain Festival. With Vandana Shiva and the community of Navdanja (India) Documentary-movie.
2009:Il Piccolo - 66th Venice Int. Film Festival 2009. Documentary-movie on Piccolo Teatro in Milan with T. Servillo, A. Jonasson, G. Lazzarini, L. Gullotta, G. Battiston, F. Graziosi, F. Soleri.
2010: The Queens of Swing - Golden Nymph best mini-series and best actresses 51° Film&TV Monte Carlo, Golden Magnolia best director Shanghai IFF, Flaiano award best actress A. Osvart. Cast: A. Osvart, L. Verbeek, E. Schaap.
2011. Blank Sheet - 68th Venice Int. Film Festival 2011 – documentary-movie with E. Olmi, R. Hauer, M. Lonsdale.
2012: The Small Sea (Places and People I Want to Recount) - Documentary-movie with Alfonso Marchi printer, Annalisa Teodorani poet, Tonino Guerra screenwriter
2013: Stand Tall – The Martyrs of Fiesole -TV movie with Giorgio Pasotti, Nicole Grimaudo, Raffaella Rea, Johannes Brandrup, Marco Cocci, Alessandro Sperduti, Ettore Bassi, Andrea Bosca and Giovanni Scifoni.
2014: Adelante Petroleros – Ecuador’s Black Gold - 31st Torino Film Festival, San Marino Film Festival, Lake Como Film Festival, Documentary-movie.
2015: The Fisherman Mayor - with Sergio Castellitto, Renato Carpentieri, Anna Ferruzzo, Maurizio Marchetti, Andrea De Maria, Lavinia Guglielman, Rosaria De Cicco.
2016: La felicità umana – Human Happiness- with Sergio Castellitto, Serge Latouche, Ariane Mnouchkine, Ermanno Olmi, Vandana Shiva, Markus Imhoof, Aleida Guevara, Documentary-movie.
contacts: Carol Levi & Company S.r.l.
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