“The dark side of the sun”, the social side of cinema [INTERVIEW]

A film born from the desire of telling a story about the tough, but magic world of XP children.

The dark side of the sun” is a documentary about the hard path of children who can’t be exposed to sunlight because they suffer from XP, Xeroderma Pgmentosum.

The film, directed by Carlo Shalom Hintermann and produced by Citrullo International, is a mix of non-fiction and animation that dips the audience into the world of the “Children of the Moon”, inside and outside “Camp Sundown“, a summer camp in the State of New York created for these children. Here, they can play outside and attend the activities organized for them during the night or in rooms with the lighting right for them.

This is not only a film, but it’s an experience which derives from the desire of giving a voice to this hidden world though the magic eyes of the children, a project intended to spread the knowledge about this disease and to raise some money to send the Italian XP children to the next camp.

We’ve asked Carlo Hintermann some questions about this interesting project.

Hello Carlo. How did you hear about Camp Sundown?

Actually in a very simple way: as I’ve read an article about the camp in the New York Post, I’ve started thinking of making a documentary on it. It took a lot of time, because I had to find the right approach to deal with this very delicate world.

The choice of using the animation technique is unique and unusual in the documentary genre. Why did you choose it?

I chose it right at the beginning, because the imagination of the XP children is very unusual: the night itself has a very different meaning. For the other children the night is a scary place, where their fears gather together. But for the “Children of the Moon” is the moment when they can get out, freely. Since, most of the time, their parents’ biggest effort is to give the night a positive meaning, we’ve decided to create an animation that represents their fears and their desires: the things we couldn’t capture with our camera. The animation has been created with the help of the children: together we made their cartoon-selves and they dubbed them.

Your documentary is a cooperative project: how did you feel, as a director, about being part of this kind of experience in this peculiar context?

It was awesome! We’ve been there for 4 years in a row, in the camp and in the main characters’ home and we did a very long journey together. Our relationship has been very interesting, because they came up with a lot of ideas and they led the animation to unexpected places. We can say they had decide the film structure, especially the half an hour of animation and the narrative development it actually has. We just recorded everything and put it into the script. Then we confronted ourselves with them and brainstormed altogether. This way of working has created a very stimulating and touching environment for us.

The film includes a fundraising project on Eppela, which ended last March 11th. How did it go?

When we released the film, we decided to link it to an actual help for the main characters involved in it. We’re actually still fundraising for two different projects: the first is to send the Italian children to the camp and the second one is to bring the other children and their families to Italy, it would be a great opportunity. We want to do it in Rome, with the help of the institution. We would like all the sightseeing spots to be open to make the children see them. So the fundraising is still on.

XP is still unknown and your film is conveying information about it. Did the promotion of the film on the internet and on social media help you?

One of the aims of the documentary is to spread information about XP, so we used all the means we have and we’ve done a massive campaign on social networks. We contributed to create a community on the topic: from the people directly involved into it, to people interested on the topic and to the people who really could help. Many of them have organized events and screenings in their cities, in a totally independent way from us. It helped a lot.  We did two screenings during the Rare Disease Day in Rome, and I really enjoyed seeing that the people, working in this field or closely touched by this topic, identify themselves with the film: this is actually the aim of our effort! We describe the people for what they really are, without using filters to show them as objects, as in documentaries starring doctors or institutional figures. The way we tell the story help us to sensitize our audience. We’re going on showing our film to make people get closer to the world of rare diseases, to understand their conditions and their troubles.

Is it hard to find a good distribution for this kind of films?

Yes, a lot. We’ve always believed in the film potential, we’ve invested all our efforts to do our best: thanks to Lorenzo Ceccotti’s and the other animators’ work and thanks to the sound designs we created a film that communicates to the audience the emotions we felt. The distribution is hard because the profit we get is lower than the one gained by others kinds of films. But we won’t stop. Now we’re working to sign a contract for the distribution of the film in the cinemas. So we hope to get it. It’s a challenge we have to win, because we think is important to reach the biggest audience possible. Every time after the screenings the people seem a little changed, and this is a good news!

Thanking Carlo Hintermann for is kindness, we renew our congratulations for the project and keep on supporting it! Stay tuned on their Facebook Page to learn more about the screenings they’re planning.