Laila Petrone Peynado
An interview with Laila Petrone Peynado,
by Anastasia Valecce (Spelman College)
AV: Could you comment the importance of your multi-cultural background for your cinema?
LP: My multicultural background has always been fundamental to me, and it has definitely empowered me. I feel special because of my multicultural background that brings to the table a uniqueness that is different from everybody else’s experiences. I really enjoy digging in my family history and discovering that, for example, I have a Puerto Rican great grandmother. When it happened, it opened a whole new world for me. I always thought I was an Italian-Dominican, instead I discovered that there is a whole new part of my ancestry history that in some way is also my history. Italy and Dominican Republic are similar in some way, but they are also different in their cultures. I belong to them both and I am proud of it. I am always amazed when people try to put you in a single box, because “you are black, or Latina, or Italian…” although sometimes you “cannot be an Italian because you do not look like one.” And yet, the largest part of me is Italian because I mainly grew up in Italy. So sometimes, my multicultural background serves the purpose of educating people, and Italians in particular, that there is not one look to be Italian, but that we are all different and special and we all can enrich our society with our diverse backgrounds. In my films, I always try to bring that multiculturalism into practice, and so for instance, the crews on my sets are always very diverse.
AV: Do you address racism in Italy with your films?
LP: In all honesty up until now I have not addressed racism in Italy in my films, [but that is because] realistically my previous work focused on either African American people (like in Your Love), or on Puerto Rico (with No me olvidaré de ti), so my films did not address Italy. It is with the documentary series Mothers and Daughters that I enter in conversation with interviewers that are Latinas in Italy. I interview them looking at different aspects of living in Italy and growing up in Italy, so the topic of racism and discrimination are definitely part of those conversations, even if the project is not exclusively on that.
AV: Who are the protagonists of Mothers and Daughters?
LP: The protagonists are women with different backgrounds and lives with one common trait: they all came to Italy from Latin America, integrated in the Italian society, and raised their daughters in Italy. The first episode, which premiered at the Rincón Film Festival, portraits a mother from the Dominican Republic who was a famous dancer in her country, came to Italy for love, got married to an Italian man, had a daughter, and in some way broke the stereotypical expectation of the “immigrant stay-at-home wife” because she built a fantastic carrier in the hotel industry. The other episodes include mothers from Colombia, Cuba, Argentina, etc. from different parts of Italy. They all have daughters and they all are fantastic examples of resilience and extraordinary regular lives. Showing their stories, means visualizing an Italian reality that is still pretty much invisible in contemporary Italy.
AV: Which kind of stories do you want to portray?
LP: I am not looking to portray stories that fit within one genre. Without a doubt, I am a big fan of romantic comedies and drama. I like to portray multicultural and multiracial women in all my projects, and I believe that is very important to discuss topics that reflect contemporary everyday life. For instance, my short film No me olvidare de ti is a fiction short movie. It talks about a family during Christmas time, with all the magic of a Christmas movie, while is also touching on an actual issue, such as the devastation that the island of Puerto Rico lived after hurricane Maria in 2017. So to go back to your question, I want to portray stories of everyday life, which include pain, loss, love, resilience, family, and social and political struggles. And these are the topics that the audience finds in my films.
If you would like to quote this interview, please use the reference:
Valecce, Anastasia (2020) "An interview with Laila Petrone Peynado" Gynocine Project, ed. Barbara Zecchi, https://www.gynocine.com/interview-petrone-peynado