BEHIND THE SCENES OF DOLCE CALEDONIA

Although we’re trying to forget some of the events of this year, we have been reflecting on all our achievements this year; including winning The Scottish Short Film Festival Documentary Award for Dolce Caledonia, directed by Kezia Sheard. We’re hoping that 2021 will bring some more exciting opportunities for our documentary, so we caught up with Kezia for some more insider knowledge…

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Why documentary? Why Dolce Caledonia?

Having spent most of my life living in the North Yorkshire countryside, in 2015 I decided to move further North to study a Master of Arts in Italian at Edinburgh University. After returning from a year spent at the University of Bologna, I set to work with Neon Eye. After graduating I joined as an intern at RDF television in London where I worked across a variety of Fact Ent shows. I went on to work as a researcher on an observational documentary series for the BBC following people living with dementia. This experience highlighted my love of documentary and my future ambition is to work as a producer/director for documentary. 

 

The idea for Dolce Caledonia was born out of research I had conducted on the history of Italians in Scotland as part of my degree; there were some hugely important and interesting stories surrounding this history that deserved attention. Although the final version is just 10 minutes, Dolce Caledonia was filmed and put together over the course of several months.

How did you find Gloria, Philip, and Olivia?

I had pages and pages of research to guide the potential narrative structure and enable me to plan my interview questions accordingly, however, the real storytelling came from the brilliant contributors we cast: Philip, Gloria and Olivia. Like a true millennial, I took to twitter and sent out a tweet describing our project and

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asking to chat with Italian Scots. After persuading the Honorary Italian consul in Glasgow to retweet my tweet, I received an encouraging amount of responses but, surprisingly, Gloria, Philip and Olivia were found without the help of technology. I discovered Philip and the Crolla family after reading Dear Olivia, a moving tale written by Philip’s wife, Mary Contini, that, in short, recounts their grandparent’s journey from Italy to Edinburgh and the founding of Valvona & Crolla. I thought Philip’s family history was both compelling and a brilliant example of how Italians found success in transforming Scotland’s food scene, so I knew immediately I would love for him to be a part of the film. I bumped into Olivia whilst attending a play my university had put on. It was an adaptation of Anne Marie Di Mambro’s Tally’s Blood, which tells a poignant story of life in wartime Scotland as an Italian immigrant family. In the Q&A at the end of the show, Olivia mentioned how the play had deeply affected her, particularly how the re-enactment of the riots against Italian premises had brought back difficult childhood memories. I ran up to Olivia as she was leaving, mentioned my idea and she very graciously gave me her number and invited us for coffee. My tutor, Dr Carlo Pirozzi, kindly put me in touch with Gloria. I arranged to meet Gloria by myself for coffee so that we could get to know

each other and subsequently myself Calum and Caitlin went to film a master interview with her. We were then invited over for a hugely entertaining wine-filled night of delicious food (and tiramisu!). 

How did you decide what stories to tell in the documentary?

Having already done so much research on the community, there were some questions that were very obvious to me, such as how the community were treated in wartime, and so I was able to predict some responses and think ahead for where the narrative may lead. At the time we were making the film, without COVID-19 holding us hostage, Brexit was a hot topic and had understandably brought up the question of belonging for a lot of people, particularly those of immigrant descent. I think this did influence my choice to ask questions on identity and belonging, because I was curious to see how the film, although telling century old history, might highlight themes that were relevant to present day. 

How did you manage to make a 10 minute film so compelling?

I have the attention span of a goldfish so my main concerns were: how can we tell a story so compelling I forget to look down at my phone, and how can this piece of important history be told with authenticity and heart. Calum was a whizz in the edit and made my life very easy, often shuffling around clips and testing different ideas to see what works best. In a bid to cut down what we had filmed, Calum sent over roughly 5 hours of master interview rushes and I set aside a few days to watch them through again and again and log particular moments I found compelling, humorous or important for historical context. Being a first-time filmmaker I had never been in, or prepared for, an edit, so, unaware of any professional procedures, I decided the best thing to do was to approach the edit logically and split the film into 3 parts: pre-war settlement, wartime and post-war/present day. I then wrote the number 1, 2 or 3 next to the relevant time code, which meant that Calum could use my log to group clips together based on their number. Using the talking head style meant that we didn’t have the luxury of cutaways to hide any jarring jump cuts, but asking each contributor similar questions in their interviews meant that, although they often had different answers, each clip flowed into one another smoothly. 

What was a personal highlight of making the film?

Although the footage never got used, we did do a days filming at S. Luca’s ice cream factory, which was a great day out. It was brilliant to go behind-the-scenes and learn how the team at Luca’s go about making their renowned ice cream, and tasting it at the end was definitely a highlight!

What has the reaction to the film been like?

The reception has been incredible and we have received hundreds of tweets about the film on twitter, from a few celebrities too! I distinctly remember receiving a tweet from Nigella Lawson at 10pm, whilst I was visiting my friend in Hull, and gripping his arm so tight, nearly cutting off his blood supply, repeating over and over ‘Nigella watched the film! Nigella watched the film!’ Most importantly to us though, we have had really warm feedback not only from the Italian Scottish community, but other communities too, with many writing to tell us how much they resonated with that ‘in-between feeling’ or how it captured for them ‘what it feels like to have two hearts’. 


If you haven’t already, you can watch Dolce Caledonia here.

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Neon Eye are a small independent film company based in Edinburgh, you can read a bit more about what we’re up to here. Don’t forget to follow us on Instagram and Twitter, @neoneyefilms.