SID – Fin Qui Tutto Bene | Livio Beshir In Conversation With Alberto Boubakar Malanchino
Following the one-man-show with Alberto Boubakar Malanchino, cinema, theatre actor and TV host Livio Beshir engaged in conversation with Malanchino about the show and the Black and POC experience within the Italian theatre and film sectors, focusing on issues such as acting techniques, the youth, the training of young talents, the stereotypical narratives that actors are often compelled to accept to the detriment of their art. The conversation is part of SPAZIO GRIOT’s artistic programming REFRACTIONS, co-produced and co-organised by Azienda Speciale Palaexpo, and promoted by the Assesorato alla Cultura di Roma Capitale and Azienda Speciale Palaexpo.
“Where are you really from? To which I usually answer, my dad is Danish, my mom is Norwegian, but the hotel concierge is Senegalese. And then they say ‘Ahh you are funny’”.
A warm laughter slips from the audience’s smile.
Livio Beshir and Alberto Boubakar Malachino discuss their experiences as Black and racialised actors in the Italian audiovisual industry. The former is an actor and TV personality, but his career began in the theatre: Ibsen, Shakespeare, Ionesco were just some of the names he encountered at the beginning of his acting experience. The latter, similarly, is an actor known for the series Summertime and Doc – Nelle tue mani.
The two thespians are illuminated by a bright warm light, on a stage that is swallowed by the darkness of “Teatro 1” at Mattatoio, Rome. Alberto has just performed. The pièce is called SID – Fin qui Tutto bene, and is part of (Rifrazioni) Refractions’ public program, curated by Johanne Affricot.
Sid is a character whose stomach is full of bile and expresses gut feelings whilst listening to Mozart. To get to those notes, however, he goes through numerous melodies. Elastic North African sounds, dark electronic notes and hard house beats. The melodies end with the melancholic ticking of the rain. Sid expresses himself via syncopated prose that leaves one short of breath. Sid dances a crazy dance, spins around, stuck in a repetition compulsion by the system he lives in, and tries to break free. The performance is inspired by Ali The Great, by Paul Snail, and narrates the story of a young Algerian kid in the banlieu.
“Born at the Margins of a periphery, of a city, of a rac
We did not want to be seen, we wanted to be inspired, we wanted to be loved. I kill! I kill time.. If only I could cry. But a man does not cr
I wanted to be an actor. Instead, I’ve killed.”
Dressed in white trackies, ‘the colour of grief in Islam’, he says, Sid tells the story of a periphery with no resources and a lot of anger. Boredom in a way cradles its inhabitants, sedating such strong feelings, and on the other side, it consumes them. The story works as a great segway to discuss the situation in Italy, the margins of the audiovisual industry, which also reflects power structures of broader society.
“Do you think Italian script writers are still too little inclusive and courageous?” asks Livio to Alberto. The latter responds that according to him the problems are multiple, the first being the lack of proactiveness by producers and broadcasters, and secondly the lack of investment in young talents from diversified backgrounds.
“It would be nice if the writers who are already there would start to open up to new realities, because as you said, I too have been an immigrant, a human trafficker, for a long time, and I say, there is nothing wrong with doing it, but there are two problems: the first is how you tell the story, and the problem is whether you tell only that story”, confesses Alberto.
The two actors then ponder on the roles they have had to cover to get where they were. It was always an othered figure, a non developed one. The brother of a sexworker, the migrant. No shame in such roles, but it is indeed the work that goes behind it that changes the narrative. “The moment you start writing for that stuff there, somehow it has to be justified,” says alberto. And indeed the writing system in Italy lacks such porosity and openness to not just to stories but also to those who have the instrument to tell and deconstruct such stories.
Are such figures missing? Maybe, but that brings us to another immense problem. The lack of economic support in the peripheries, may that be the peripheries of the arts, of the cities or of society. Economic support that may allow its inhabitants to consider diverse career paths, and also dedicate themselves to self-expressing, empowering and therapeutic activities. Livio also recognizes that they were some of the few lucky ones to make it. Such career choices are often not approved by the families who are economically disadvantaged, and that is fair enough. Paradoxically, such struggle will make them treasurers of powerful stories.
A member of the pubblic asks the reason behind the lack of accessibility of Italian theatre, may it be underground theatre or not. “Italian theatre speaks little to none, to marginalized communities. This is an important question, and it is also a question that hurts me a bit,” replies Alberto. “For instance, this year, I was asked for the very first time to perform in a show where the colour of my skin wasn’t the main topic. First time in ten years, and that was thanks to a non-Italian woman screenwriter. Theater here in italy is slow. Power is held by few people who don’t have the sensitivity to include in its decision-making process people who could change. It’s a dog chasing its own tail. There must be a pact between the state, school and society to promote new figures. If the theater does this, it wins, if it wants to do the “diversity” and tokenistic thing, it will perish.
The attention to ‘diverse’ narrations is however also a complex question and often a double-edged sword. The term itself implies that some stories belong to the centre and some have to be “integrated” to it, to “diversify” the editorial slate. But often, there can be only a “diverse” element or two, and not more. It is the eternal story of the external colonial gaze, that “others”, dehumanises, and that is incapable of perceiving the relativity of centrality in the arts. Malanchino as a matter of fact stresses that, as a racialised performer “The somewhat big exercise that we all have to do is to stop forming ourselves in relation to the gaze that others have of us (…) My goal was to get lost in stories.”
And it is in this way that, a collection of stories and storytelling such as Rifrazioni, deconstructs the idea of the existence of a centre, valorising the porosity of the arts and its ability of creating a short circuit in the system.
Promoted by | Assesorato alla Cultura di Roma Capitale and Azienda Speciale Palaexpo
Curated by | SPAZIO GRIOT
Co-produced and co-organized by | SPAZIO GRIOT and Azienda Speciale Palaexpo
Main Sponsor | Gucci
Supported by | British Council
In collaboration with | American Academy in Rome, Fondazione Polo del ‘900, EXP
Opero nel cinema, tra casting, sviluppo, ricerca archiviale e programmazione nell’ambiente festival. Il mio background è però legale, e mi ha permesso di sviluppare un metodo di analisi decoloniale che mi porto appresso nell'audiovisivo e nelle arti. Curo diverse piattaforme diasporiche, e per GRIOT sono una contributor.