Daphne Di Cinto, from Bridgerton to The Moor
Best Italian Short Film at the last Fabrique Awards, Daphne Di Cinto with her short film The Moor (Il Moro) uses a historical event to tell us about a problem that is far from over. 1530, Florence: Alessandro de Medici, son of a servant of Moorish origin and Pope Clement VII, finds himself processing his diversity when his father entrusts him with the command of Florence, making him the first Afro-Italian to head a Western government in modern Europe. To tell a great story, Daphne has chosen a cast made up of both new discoveries and established actors: Alberto Malanchino as Alessandro de' Medici, Paolo Sassanelli as Clement VII and Andrea Melis as Ippolito de' Medici.
Alberto Boubakar Malanchino in "The Moor" by Daphne Di Cinto
However, Daphne Di Cinto is not only a first-time director: for almost twenty years she has been working as a theatre, film and television actress, taking part in major projects such as the Netflix cult Bridgerton and commuting between Italy and London, where she lives. It wasn't easy to "stop her" for a chat over coffee...
You are an actress, screenwriter, director and activist: how would you define yourself? If I had to define myself in one sentence I would say "Daphne is out of the box". I am someone who is always trying to step out of the comfort zone. If there is something I don't know how to do, I study, learn and then do it. I think the fear of "I don't know how to do it" is particularly present in the world of cinema because there is no single path, there is no linear path. But I jump in, also because you learn to swim only by swimming, not by studying theory.
Daphne Di Cinto awarded at the Fabrique du Cinéma Awards for Best Italian Short Film with "The Moor".
With The Moor, you are making your debut as a director. Would you like to tell us about your experience on set?
It was fantastic: a very friendly dynamic was created between us, a super close-knit group and at the end of the set we felt like a little family. The time was very short, four days, we didn't have a big budget (laughs), but there was a creative flow, we found the space for a shared production and to listen to different points of view, beyond the script.
The three main actors in your short film are Alberto Boubakar Malanchino, Paolo Sassanelli and Andrea Melis: three very strong male figures, but very different in terms of experience.
Alberto and Andrea looked at Paolo as a master. He has that confidence that experience gives you: he knows not to do too much and that everything has to be internal and measured but very powerful. When all three of them were acting together they really played for each other, nothing divided them.
Although The Moor is a historical short film, the themes it deals with are very topical...
When I studied the story of Alessandro de' Medici, it seemed to me a striking analogy with reality and today's world. Perhaps with Italy in particular, because it is an Italian story that is unknown and says so much about our country. Above all, I am appalled that, despite stories like Alessandro's, there are still people in Italy who have doubts about ius soli. I would like to ask them: "If five hundred years ago the first duke of Florence was mixed-race, what is the problem today?".
You communicate a timeless message of hope....
That was my goal. Alessandro's story is a beautiful metaphor for every second-generation Italian and for so many people who start from less than privileged conditions but can succeed in becoming the "Duke of Florence"! Seeing ourselves represented not only as 'slaves' but as aristocrats helps us change the way we perceive ourselves. The ideal would be to reach the day when we will no longer need to have conversations like these, when we will write films that will not focus on the 'different' person and where all the problems will not revolve around being part of a minority. When we will start thinking like this, all stereotypes will disappear, because I will recognise myself in you and you will recognise yourself in me.
Paolo Sassanelli is Clemente VII in “The Moor”.
Is there a person who has particularly encouraged you to pursue this career?
The first one was the literature teacher in my small town in the North. My class was particularly restless and she would take us to study in the school theatre, the first one I had ever seen. I have always had an inordinate love for stories, both for writing and reading: I was the classic strange child who stood in the corner reading a book while everyone else played with the ball. She made me realise that theatre could be an opportunity. After her came another "teacher": I was studying at the Sorbonne in Paris and I had a neighbour whom I always greeted. One day we started talking and I found out she was one of the artistic directors of the Actors Studio in New York. Through her I auditioned and was accepted: she became one of my mentors at the Actors Studio and a friend.
Why did you move to London?
After five and a half years in New York, I missed Europe, walking around a city and seeing History. New York is such a new city that the oldest piece of history is probably Ellis Island! When I thought about going back to Europe, London seemed ideal because it straddles the old and new worlds and I'm actually very happy with my choice.
In 2019 you played in the popular Netflix series Bridgerton. Has this international work influenced your directing career in any way?
The great thing about that set was the incredible professionalism and great collaboration.
It was truly a war machine, in the most positive sense of the word, so on my set I tried to transfer that spirit: the utmost professionalism and commitment to the ultimate goal. Bridgerton was also a special achievement because producer Shonda Rhimes is one of my idols.
Future projects? Plenty! Since I'm a bit of a history nerd, I'm continuing on a path focused on historical figures. I'm also working on a series set in contemporary Italy, so I'll be back here a lot! I miss this country so much and if it wasn't for work I would come back here.