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Valley of Angels

Video by Simone Donati with Alessandro Daquino

Valley of Angels is a six minute short film by Florentine photographer Simone Donati, co-edited with Alessandro Daquino. It's a glimpse into the life of a family: Angelo and Angela and their daughters Hybla, Lua and Siria. They live in beautiful, rural, southern Sicily and are working hard to manage their dream of living self sufficiently, off the grid, home-schooling their children and eating organically.

What I love about this film is that none of these circumstances are directly explained. Instead, we're given a glimpse into the routines of a rural family going about their everyday life, allowing us to quietly ponder their relationships with each other and their environment. The small snippets of 'off the cuff' dialogue are our only insight into what these people are thinking. The snippets are sparse, stripped down to essential soundbites, with the sweet observation Sometimes there is the luck of the first time forming the message this short revolves around; it's the cinematic equivalent of the photograph's punctum.

In a film where nothing really happens, I am immediately engaged. The superb use of natural sound and flow of the editing are key to the movie's success, as are its frequent location and mood changes. Valley of Angels is pure observational documentary, its digital video format a perfect complement to Donati's accompanying medium format stills. The movie gives us room for reflection — often the domain of still photographs — and is wonderful example of the strengths traditional photographers can bring to motion pictures. — Anna Stevens

Anna Stevens is multimedia producer for Panos Pictures, a London-based photo agency specializing in global social issues. Panos Multimedia works in collaboration with photographers and campaigning organizations to produce multimedia and film for online, broadcast and installation, and have won numerous awards for their work. Anna also curates Panos Picks, a selection of inspiring uses of photography and film; experimental, art, documentary, and new technologies. She is co-founder of online photography gallery and blog Contact Editions.

Simone Donati (1977) was born in Florence, Italy, where he lives and works. In 2005 he completed the three-year course in photography at the Fondazione Studio Marangoni in Florence. After an internship at the Magnum Photos agency in New York City, in 2006 he started working in the field of documentary photography. In recent years his attention has focused on the political and social situation of Italy. In 2011, Simo was shortlisted at Fotografia Festival Roma, at Voies Off in Arles and at the OjodePez Award for Human Values for his Valley of Angels project. In 2010 he received the 3rd place at the Ponchielli prize with his long term project Welcome to Berlusconistan. His photographs have been part of solo and group shows in Italy and abroad and have been published internationally. He is one of the founding members of TerraProject, a collective working on social, political and environmental issues in Italy and abroad.

Posted on Friday, August 3, 2012.


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