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Adamo Antonacci, Alessandro Salaorni and the Zoi family tell us about Filippo's Thousand Gates.

Updated: Aug 10, 2023

A wonderful chat with the director Adamo Antonacci, the producer Alessandro Salaorni, Filippo Zoi and his family. In this exclusive interview, they will tell us about this incredible documentary that is truly educating the world and helping families dealing with autism feel less alone.

Adamo Antonacci is an Italian director, screenwriter and actor. After attending the directing course at the Imagine School in Florence, in the early 90s he made his most significant short films including Cinematosniff, Anima Larga and Avrei un problema.

At the dawn of the new millennium, he made numerous short films and documentaries for the Presidency of the Council of Ministers focused on international adoptions. In 2010 he directed Ridere Fin a Volare, a comic-surreal feature film starring Carlo Monni, Sergio Forconi and Niki Giustini. In 2014 he became the CEO of Stranemani International, a company that deals with film productions, cartoons and documentaries, for which he creates the photographic exhibition Divine Creature set up at the Museo dell'Opera del Duomo in Florence, the Vatican Museums and the frescoed rooms of the Palazzo di Giano in Pistoia. In 2018, If your eyes will be there, a poetic collection published by Scatole Parlanti was published. His first novel, Controcuore, published by PS Editore, dates back to 2019. In 2020, his latest poetic collection, La Luce Necessaria (The Necessary Light), is published by Eretica Edizioni.

Today we will talk about I Mille Cancelli di Filippo "Filippo's Thousand Gates", a documentary focused on the figure of Filippo Zoi, a boy with autism who paints and publishes illustrated books with his father, produced by Larione 10 with the contribution of the Toscana Film Commission.

Thanks to the team of "I Mille Cancelli di Filippo" for being here with us today.

Adamo, you are the director of this incredible documentary about family union, art, the world of autism and how to take care of it.

How was this project born?

The project was born from an idea of ​​our producer Alessandro Salaorni. He had been fascinated by the relationship between Filippo and his father Enrico. In fact, they were making books together "Favole per Irene" and "Lo Zampacchione Giallo" and this synergy had struck Sandro. For this he asked me to think of a documentary centered on their relationship. From there I started by deepening more and more not only the life of Filippo and his father, but also that of his mother and daughter Irene. What struck me the most was Filippo's passion for doors and gates and the miraculous family balance, so much so that I focused all my attention on these two points which then became the backbone of the documentary "Filippo's Thousand Gates".


How did you get in touch with Filippo's family?

The credit always goes to the producer Sandro. When he told me about the idea of ​​making a documentary about Filippo, I asked if I could meet him. So we met in a restaurant in Grassina very dear to Filippo. Of course there were also the parents with whom a special relationship was born right away. On that occasion I also discovered Pippo's love for doors and gates, so much so that the next day I thought of nothing but this aspect which immediately seemed to me the best place to look at and deepen autism.


When you realized that directing was the right way, we saw that you started as an actor when you were very young, what made you fall in love with the other side of the coin? Because it is definitely love, it can be seen in your works in which you are very present even if not visually.

As a child I wanted to be an actor, so I started doing theater with great personal satisfaction. I really wanted to become a successful actor, but at the same time I felt an even deeper love for great directors like Fellini, Kubrick, Scorsese... I loved going to the cinema with my older brothers. Growing up I realized that directing belonged more to me and that being behind the camera was a source of indescribable emotions. I remember when I went to see Martin Scorsese's "Goodfellas" with some friends... I was struck by the perfect direction as well as by the plot so violent and profound at the same time. So slowly I stopped with theater and short films moving towards writing and directing.


It's not the first time you've directed social projects, especially for your region, Tuscany, how did this collaboration come about?

In the summer, when I was between 15 and 18, I went to work in a campsite that hosted disabled children. Even though many years have passed, I still remember that it made me feel good to help people who were more fragile than me. With some boys and associations they then created such deep ties that they still last today. Subsequently, in a completely natural way, cinematographic and artistic projects were born with them and with many other people, such as the photographic exhibition "Divine Creature", which sees disabled children as protagonists.

Filippo, you are undoubtedly the main character of this beautiful project, how does it feel to see yourself on the big screen?

I loved seeing myself in the movie!

Adamo: And we would say, go on stage to talk about drawings and doors and gates.


How far are you with your artistic projects?

I will be working on drawings of the Aigues-Mortes salt pans and Van Gogh's house which I visited in 2008.


We can't wait to see them! And how many gates have you drawn to date?

I didn't count all the doors and gates I drew. Are so many.


What would you like to say to those who follow you and have seen the documentary?

Who will see the film, beware!

That's a great suggestion Filippo! Pay attention to this incredible documentary!


Let's move on to Alessandro Salaorni, you are the producer of this documentary, what difficulties did you have to face during the development of the project and if I'm not mistaken, you filmed when Covid was still causing inconveniences.

Incredibly, having carried out the project during the pandemic, while taking all the necessary precautions, was the occasion for a beautiful and constructive social contact. This contact was also important for Filippo because it helped him to pass periods of isolation with all that follows. Furthermore, the project was enthusiastically supported by the Toscana Film Commission and saw the patronage of the municipalities of Bagno a Ripoli and Florence. The latter, in particular, had never given sponsorships for films. Summing up, I'd say that there weren't any particular difficulties because we immediately breathed in an excellent atmosphere of collaboration and support from everyone.

The documentary also talks about Filippo's family, i.e. his parents Enrico and Raffaella and his sister Irene. First of all congratulations, you have done and are still doing an impeccable job with Filippo and also your taking his passion for art by the hand is no small thing, giving a child the opportunity to follow his passion is a infinite demonstration of love. For those who haven't seen the documentary yet, how did your love for art come about and how did you decide towel Filippo develop this interest?

Thanks for all the compliments, but I have to say we don't feel special or particularly 'good'. We have chosen not to dramatize the situation which at its inception already seemed complex, seeking help and possibilities avoiding being trapped in pain and crying over ourselves or over fate. This is our life here, let's live it and face the problem by trying solutions. Our life is pervaded by continuous research and if we want to see the glass half full, research is always stimulating..... but also tiring and tiring! Like all children, Filippo has always drawn and we noticed that he made expressive drawings and found calm and creative spending time in drawing. The risk was that he would become all-encompassing and for this reason, as we had been advised, we did not choose an art school for him, but opting for hotel management to give him other opportunities. His passion has grown over time, starting to make drawings inspired by readings and films seen, then thanks to the home educator he had for a while, he began to make drawings from life; later also inspired by a book read as a child together with his mother, he created a mammoth work, managing to escape our attempts to contain it, the comic book on witches of 2127 cartoons, mainly made during the pandemic. The books written by his father and illustrated by Filippo served to channel his creativity in a different way than the "comic" mode, concentrating the representation of the story to be illustrated in a single drawing. Given his passion for drawing, he was also included in the Casadase' center of the Autism Florence association in various art laboratories to learn techniques and fundamentals of drawing through work conducted by educators and expert artists.

Where can we find your books?

Books can buy online:

Favole per Irene (Tales for Irene) here: https://www.sarnus.it/scheda_libro.php?id=7126,

Lo Zampacchione Giallo e altre storie here:

e Delinguare Cerillarius. Diario tirrenico di un sospeso sentire here:

We were very pleased to hear and touch your point of view too. Adapting to Filippo's life and also managing the bad days or moments, an aspect that is not talked about enough yet. What's your take on this side of this situation?

I believe that it is a common experience of those who live with autistic or disabled people to reorganize their lives based on the needs of their family members and it is an experience that does not change over time, but if anything, you always learn to do it a little better especially if you are lucky enough to be helped along this path. We have gone through difficult, painful and painful moments both physically and psychologically because a crisis or a manifestation of aggression always raises questions for us parents: what did we do wrong? What did we not understand? What were we supposed to do? And what didn't we understand?

In small steps and above all with the help of well-prepared behavioral therapists and psychologists with different strategies, we are improving the containment and prevention of anxious states and uncomfortable situations, thus also avoiding bad moods and crises or problem behaviours. New solutions must be constantly sought and above all help from those who are more competent because situations and behaviors change as we grow.


What would you suggest to a novice parent, what advice would you like to give to better face this new path?

We tell parents who are entering the world of autism to have faith in their child's and personal possibilities, to arm themselves with patience and tenacity to seek competent professional help (a not easy but possible undertaking), not to withdraw into pain, but to roll up one's sleeves and move forward knowing that it is a journey, often an obstacle course, to be done together as a couple, parents and family, involving the other children at the right time when they are there. For us Irene is very important and of great support.

Irene, we learn during the documentary that you left home, Working and studying abroad, away from your family isn't easy, especially in your situation. Keeping in contact with Filippo at a distance is fundamental to your relationship, and we have been pleased that there is constant communication. What would you like to say to all siblings living your experience?

The first thing I would say to a brother or sister of an autistic or disabled person living abroad is to contact me! I know of only one other person in my situation and only virtually. Instead, I would be very pleased to know about other experiences and to be able to compare myself with someone to find solutions and strategies to common problems together. Perhaps it is precisely because of the difficulty of leaving the family that there are few people in my situation. There is a lot of uncertainty about the future, settling elsewhere? Need or want to go back? How will my brother be in 1, 3, 5, 10 years? And my parents? For the siblings (this is what brothers and sisters of people with disabilities are called) in general, however, I would remember to take care of themselves too and to work to find a balance that makes them and their brothers and sisters feel good.


Send an email to Irene: irezoi@yahoo.it

Thanks to the Zoi family for their contribution and availability.

You are giving voice to many families who surely feel they are not alone.


Adam what was the audience's response?

It was above and beyond our expectations. The documentary has aroused and continues to arouse widespread acclaim and applause all over the world. Already during the preview at the La Compagnia cinema in Florence we realized that the public responded with great emotion to the documentary. Above all, it is Filippo who works, a boy who really has a magical charisma.


You have been CEO of Stranemani International since 2014, tell us a little about this company.

Stranemani International is a company that deals with cartoons, documentaries, art exhibitions. Unfortunately during the pandemic he experienced and is experiencing a moment of profound crisis from which I hope he will recover soon. It's not an easy time for companies that deal with art...


Yes, unfortunately Art is still trying to recover from the pandemic, it's a slow process but we are confident that we will all recover soon!

We wish you the best!

From what we have read you have married your job, that is directing, with a passion for art, we have read of the organization of many exhibitions not only in your region, but around the peninsula, we must expect new events in future?

Absolutely yes. My Divine Creature exhibition, which is currently staged in the splendid church of San Paolo a Ripa d'Arno in Pisa, (after the Museo dell'Opera del Duomo in Florence, the Vatican Museums and the Chiesa dei Servi in ​​Rimini).

In December it will move to Bergamo and in the spring to Milan and immediately afterwards to another wonderful location that I can't talk about yet. At the moment I am engaged in the creation of another photographic exhibition and a video exhibition focused on the migrations that take place in the Mediterranean.


What was the biggest challenge for "Philippe's Thousand Gates"?

Definitely being able to condense in a few minutes what is the soul of a very complex boy full of interests like Pippo. A soul always ready to amaze, impossible to categorize. A true antidote to massification.


A curiosity about this documentary? A backstory, something that happened behind the scenes that you would like to share with our readers?

I can tell of the day when Filippo told me, after taking me by the hand, that he loved me. It was the best moment of the whole process!

Okay that made us emotional, thank you for sharing this wonderful moment.


How do you see Italian cinema and what would you change about it?

From a qualitative point of view, Italian cinema is in excellent health. Unfortunately, the period linked to the pandemic has changed perhaps forever the relationship between the spectator and the cinema, so much so that fewer and fewer people go to the cinema to see a good Italian film. And this can only harm such a precious and fundamental art for us. Undoubtedly the State should invest more and make the new generations love cinema too


Which working phase do you prefer during the development of your work?

I can't answer clearly... I love writing so much because I can imagine what I want. Then comes the making of the film, another magical and very difficult moment where you realize how important humanity is within a crew. But perhaps the magical moment par excellence is editing, where everything really takes shape and amazes.... In the editing phase, anything can really happen. Sometimes, and I'm serious, even miracles.


What would you recommend to a new novice filmmaker?

First of all, go to the cinema and watch the great films of the past. Above all, I would advise him not to compromise and to always try to be himself. Art needs sincerity and authenticity.


One thing you wish you'd found out sooner?

I don't know... maybe to believe in the strength and balance of the group... Once upon a time my insecurity didn't allow me to trust others, but over time I discovered that we are part of a mysterious, and very deep and complex mosaic.


What is your secret dream? An unfinished project or a collaboration with another artist you value.

I'd like to make a documentary about Alessandro Benvenuti, an artist I respect deeply. During the interview he gave me for the documentary, I discovered an even greater soul than I thought. Truly abysmal.

We noticed a beautiful collaboration with Alessandro Benvenuti, Elio di Elio and Le Storie Tese with a soundtrack that takes us by the hand towards the end of the documentary, a song composed by Carlo Chiarotti and Simone Papi. How did these collaborations come about?

We are really dealing not only with great artists but also with very profound and humane people. As you may know, Alessandro Benvenuti made a film in the 1990s that somehow talks about autism – albeit more intuitively than rationally – entitled Ivo il tardivo. So, through Enrico Zoi, who is his official biographer, I asked him to give an interview focused on art and autism. Welcome accepted giving us an interview of disarming beauty. Full of light.

As for Elio, since our sound engineer Andrea Pellegrini is a close friend of his (as well as a sound engineer) we asked him to show him the trailer of the documentary, knowing that he too has an autistic son. Well, Elio liked the trailer so much that he promised us his help... We immediately took advantage of it by asking him to sing the song in the end credits and he, good as he is, immediately accepted!

Finally, Carlo Chiarotti is a composer with whom I had had the opportunity to work with in the past with great satisfaction because he was extraordinarily good.

I must say that he crafted some beautiful music for the documentary, as well as doing an excellent job with Simone Papi on the song later sung by Elio.


This documentary amazed us for its completeness, from the story of Filippo, that of his family, his relationship with art, but also the opinion of artists and professionals, specialized on the issue in question. You can see that it's a project well thought out down to the smallest detail, how long did it take to make this educational project?

It took us about two years, because it was important to follow Pippo (Filippo) in all his activities, making sure that as faithful a portrait as possible of this complex and fascinating personality emerged. Then we spent an entire summer editing the dozens and dozens of hours of footage... An immense but also beautiful job.


This beautiful documentary is going around the world, how is it going with the festivals?

I would say very well! Above all at an international level so as to collect a respectable palmarès. Knowing that one's work receives acclaim in all the festivals of the world is an infinite pleasure! Almost every day the manufacturer calls us to warn us of a new award or recognition and this can only fill us with joy. For the Zoi family it represents an even greater satisfaction: knowing that their life, their pain and their experience at this moment are of help for hundreds of other families who are experiencing similar stories to theirs, represents an immense gratification for the efforts made.

Who would you recommend Philip's Thousand Gates to? And why?

I would recommend the documentary Filippo's Thousand Gates to all those people who wish to deepen a topic as important as autism. It's not an easy film, but I'm sure public schools should screen it to open important debates and help young people discover and deepen the autism spectrum. I would also recommend it to all Italian politicians, especially those who deal with social issues...


What do you expect from the future and how do you see post-Covid cinema?

I hope that the future will continue to give me these great satisfactions and that it will allow me to see cinema halls as full as when I was a child


Want to add something? Future projects, a message for our readers?

I would like to thank the Morgana Film Festival and especially the director Federica Alice Carlino for her kindness. A big hug to all your readers and I recommend: go to the cinema!


Thank you for dedicating your time to us, it is an honor to have known you and to have had you as guests but also as winners at our festival.


You are an inspiration to everyone from filmmakers, to artists, social workers or simply the public you educate every day with your work.


Thanks for this wonderful project.

We wish you a future full of satisfactions.


Federica Alice Carlino and Morgana Film Festival Team.


Dear Federica, very kind Team, it is we who thank you for the attention shown in following our project. We would also like to congratulate you on the dedication with which you are following your Festival. Keep it up, you deserve all the best!


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