tudents at Kenyon College were treated to a sneak peek of Italian director Claudio Sestieri’s latest film Seguimi (“In My Footsteps”) on Sept. 6, before it even premiered in Italy Sestieri himself was in attendance, as well as a sizable audience of students and faculty. The previous night the gallery screened Sestieri’s 1987 debut, Dolce Assenza (“Sweet Absence”).
The films were screened in concert with an exhibition of Swiss painter Pia Fries’ work, on view at the Gund Gallery through Dec. 16, which was designed to illuminate “the power of exuberance, ornament and sensuousness in contemporary art practices,” according to a Sept. 5 all-student email.
The motif of sensuality was apparent in Sestieri’s work. Dolce Assenza and Seguimi both focused on intimate relationships between women — one platonic and one romantic. Dolce Assenza follows the story of close friends and roommates Gloria and Sara. When Sara disappears, leaving only a drawerful of video diaries, Gloria teams up with Vittorio, one of Sara’s suitors, in a frantic race to find her.
In the Q&A that followed the screening, Sestieri said that Dolce Assenza was “the story of absence, how absence might define in a [deeper] way the relations between people.”
Seguimi, more dramatic than Dolce Assenza, is the story of Marta, a failed Olympic diver who falls in love with Haru, a Japanese woman (and possible ghost) who works as a model for Sebastian, a visual artist.
“I think both films were about communication, technology, art and the ways those things inform what we see and don’t see,” said Sonya Marx ’22, who attended both screenings. She said it was “interesting to contextualize my own readings of both films … with what others found important.” Associate Professor of Italian Simone Dubrovic, who introduced both films, also mentioned Sestieri’s technology motif, regarding his use of video-within-film as an early commentary on the ways in which technology can affect human communication.
In an interview with the Collegian, Sestieri said that he was “very interested in psychoanalysis, in the secret things of our brain. From that point of view, I think that women are more interesting than men. There is a mystery, often, in women.”
Not all were impressed with the director’s portrayal of women, however. “I think the prime example of sexism in this movie is the toxic relationship between [Sebastian and Haru],” Grace Cross ‘21 said of Seguimi. “There are scenes with explicit physical and sexual manipulation that result from Sebastian’s horrifying standards and conceptions of what art is, and his position of power over Haru as the creator and not the objectified.” In particular, Cross referenced a scene where Sebastien pressures Haru to cut her arm and stomach for a photoshoot, even after she repeatedly refuses.
Dubrovic wrote in an email that Seguimi was co-written by a woman, Patrizia Pistagnesi. Dubrovic went on to add that “there was no intention to offend anyone … Art can often touch ambiguities of life that can be disturbing. But it also helps us getting acquainted with them and, especially, it helps us giving them a shape, an objectification (if we want to say so) in order to get beyond them without being burned or destroyed by them.”