Interview with Giovanni Coda

Bullied To Death


Movie • 1 hr 10 min 5 sec • Documentary, Drama, Biography, Premiere (Netherlands)

ITALY, Completed Oct 2015

DIRECTED BY Giovanni Coda

New Renaissance Film Festival interviews director Giovanni Coda about his moving documentary, which will be screened in Amsterdam (Dutch Premiere) on 3rd March 2017. Bullied to Death depicts a 24 hour performance against homophobia through the real stories of teenagers worldwide that experience severe bullying episodes at school, from their own families and on the web, as a result of their coming out about their sexuality.

Hello Giovanni. Congratulations on being part of the New Renaissance Film Festival in Amsterdam. How does it feel to have ‘BULLIED TO DEATH’ screened in the Netherlands?

It’s my first time in the Netherlands, so I’m really happy about that and for having my film screened at NRFF.

What is the basic premise of the documentary?

The film is inspired by some news reports and in particular by the tragic story of teenager, Jamey Rodemeyer. I wanted to make an “expo” movie without using the codes of the traditional documentary. The basic idea was to describe reality through ”art.”

What inspired you to make a film about the lives of teenagers affected by homophobia?

The sense of helplessness against the tragedy of these young lives that our society, which is still inadequate in terms of human rights, has broken.

How did you achieve such beautiful and dramatic scenes on a low budget?

Actually, this is a “no budget” film in the sense that it cost the commitment of a group of artists, mine and that of my collaborators. If we were to estimate in euros its “real” cost it would not exceed 5000 euros. 4k technology and good software (combined with my training as a photographer) did the rest, taking into account that in shooting “Bullied to Death” we did not use any artificial lights or theatre spotlights.

How did you cast and prepare the people who feature in the documentary?

Since this is a purely “performance work” the actors had a wide margin of autonomy of expression, but of course they have followed my directions and I have given, each one for his role, a meaningful interpretation. I would like to take this opportunity to point out out the whole cast has been great and to pay tribute to Assunta Pittaluga who passed away a few months ago.

Is there a scene in the film that you found challenging to shoot?

The outdoor scenes, where nature was part of our scenery. We needed a very rough sea and a lot of wind, we were lucky.

What would you have done differently on this film?

Nothing, I am really very satisfied with the result and to have worked with so many talented actors and performers who have given everything for the success of the film.

Did you learn anything new as a director from making ‘BULLIED TO DEATH?

This film has taught me a lot about the suffering that it feels to be “excluded and rejected” from an apparently democratic society. In fact, we are all at risk of social exclusion, especially when societies become arrogant and selfish with the weakest.

Have you always wanted to be a documentary filmmaker?

Yes, I started working on “images” in 1988 and since then I have not stopped. I trained by working alongside a multitude of different artists, attending film sets and living in Italy and Spain (Madrid and Barcelona) where I trained as a photographer at the “Ideep Institute.”

Was there a film that inspired your ambition?

I come from video art, from video installations and photography. From  a cinematographic point of view, I am fascinated by the works of Peter Greenaway and those of Derek Jarman. If I were to indicate a film, which greatly influenced my style, that would be Greenaway’s “Prospero’s Books”.

What advice would you give to a filmmaker starting out?

Set down to work, do not waste time in vain and always look for an original way to develop your ideas.

What do you want people to gain from watching ‘BULLIED TO DEATH?’

It’s a difficult question. I wish people could understand the great pain that lies behind these deaths and all together find the way to begin a new path of prevention, at school, in the streets, in families. A path that could lead us to cancel all forms of discrimination.