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Matteo Troncone talks with Slow Food USA about his new film Arrangiarsi (pizza…and the art of living). In Italian, “arrangiarsi” refers to making do with what you have. This idea forms the basis of filmmaker Matteo's new documentary. The film incorporates elements of film movements such as Dogme 95 and cinéma vérité in addition Slow Food tenets. 

You have said that this film is in part your love letter to pizza. What is it about pizza that stirs such strong emotions in you?
Once you eat a pizza in Naples, it will evoke strong feelings in you, like a great work of art. It is poetry in your mouth. For me it was an “epiphany.” It not only exemplifies the ingenuity and passion of the Neapolitan people, it also allows us to experience simplicity and purity at its finest. I often say that you have never ever eaten pizza until you eat it in Naples. It is that good.

 

I love the fact that this simple, beautiful thing with few ingredients is actually quite complex when you dive into it. The simplicity is deceptive. And ultimately, there is a perfect balance and harmony, not only of the ingredients themselves, but of all the elements—the correct ingredients, the right oven and temperature, the skill of the pizzaiolo to make the pasta dough rise well, the skill to slap the dough out correctly getting the oxygen to the outside of the crust, and the experience to know how to cook it (rotating it, covering the top with the pizza peel so that the cheese doesn't burn, and knowing when it is ready, which is on average, in 60 seconds).
 
This passion, devotion, and love is exactly what I used to make this film. It took me eight years to complete it, as I am the director, writer, producer, cinematographer, editor, narrator, and original music composer. “Arrangiarsi” is the art of overcoming an obstacle, the art of making something from nothing. Pizza is an example of that because it is just flour and water…a food for the poor. It was born from necessity. There were many obstacles to overcome while creating this project, yet I was always determined to see it through as I was “living” the film. On the poster the tag line reads, “…there's always a way.”{{ image(5890, {“class”: “fill round”, “width”:640, “height”:340}) }}
Do you think it's possible for other areas of the world to adopt the same pride and respect towards their local foods as Neopolitans with their pizza-making traditions?
What impressed me greatly was the desire of the pizza makers to do their best and the pride in their work to perfect this very simple product. Naples is the pinnacle of what pizza can be and with this knowledge, tradition, and experience, the pizzaioli are always striving towards this very high standard. 
 
You see examples of cultures having that kind of pride towards their local foods, certainly in all of Italy where cuisine is very important and where every region has their own amazing specialty. I was at the Slow Food Salone del Gusto in 2012 in Torino and witnessed this, not only in the “Italy pavilions” representing each province, but in all the other regions of the world where farmers represented their products.
 
This is certainly a reality in other areas of the world where chefs are taking local ingredients that are connected to their land and specific culture and creating dishes that reflect that. This is arrangiarsi: the art of being resourceful with what you have in front of you. 
 
In what ways were you influenced by the Slow Food Movement?

Having already been a foodie, before shooting any footage I decided it would be interesting to “dissect” pizza into the ingredients that comprise it: filming the wheat, tomato, and olive harvests, Italy's only organic buffalo mozzarella farm, as well as even having the water analyzed.

It was very important to me to film at places that embodied the Slow Food principles of good, clean, and fair, places that had great integrity and shared the values of the best pizza makers in Naples which make it so special.

I was in search of the secret of why the pizza there is so sublime, unparalleled, and quite frankly another universe. It was clear that one of the main factors that makes Neapolitan pizza so exceptional is the ingredients. If I was going to spend what ended up being eight years and tens of thousands of dollars doing this, why not film at places that exemplify the maximum integrity and passion that mirrors that of the pizziaoli or pizzamakers?{{ image(5891, {“class”: “fill round”, “width”:640, “height”:340}) }}

Solania, the San Marzano tomato farm where I filmed is family-run and certified D.O.P (protected destination of origin) meaning that by law, to call it a true D.O.P. San Marzano Tomato, it can only be produced in that very small region at the foothills of Mount Vesuvius, like Champagne in France. There are many imitations of tomatoes that are called San Marzano, but few that have the D.O.P certification. One of the main factors that makes these tomatoes so flavorful is the dark, rich, volcanic soil which contains an inordinate amount of potassium. Along with the perfect climatic conditions, this zone, as well as much of Italy in general, is the perfect storm of climate, soil, and location.{{ image(5753, {“class”: “fill round”, “width”:640, “height”:340}) }}

Pornanino, the family-run and owned olive farm in Chianti where I filmed, has the utmost integrity. Not only are they organic, they are “super” organic. By law, organic olive oil can have small traces of pesticides and still be certified. This is largely due to the fruit flies which are now becoming more of an issue with climate change that makes spraying sometimes a necessity. Pornanino, because they are located high and also shielded by a mountain range in Chianti, has been protected from the flies which never reach their farm. So they never spray at all.

As you may know, 82% of all olive oil world wide is “lamp oil:” chemically refined and containing artificial flavor and color. 82%! This means that eight or nine oils out of ten on any supermarket shelf are absolute rubbish and do not have any medicinal value whatsoever. The agribusinesses, largely in Australia, Tunisia, Morocco, and Spain, don't harvest the olives. They let the fruit rot and fall down on the ground where they vacuum-clean the rancid olives with the soil. Then, they have to filter out the insects and dirt, chemically lower the acidity, and add artificial color and flavor to make it fit for human consumption, reaching what they call a “neutral greasy fluid.” Any good olive oil will NEVER be filtered. It will be cloudy, spicy, bitter, peppery, and will contain antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties like Ibuprofen has.{{ image(5754, {“class”: “fill round”, “width”:640, “height”:340}) }}

Vannulo is Italy's only organic buffalo farm. That says it all. The buffalos are treated with the highest care and respect, supporting their belief that only happy buffalos can give good milk. You will see in the film the buffalo getting “massages,” and milking robots which allow them to be milked whenever they choose instead of waiting in line for hours in stress and in pain. You will never find buffalo mozzarella, yogurt, or gelato that is better, cleaner, or more fair in all the world than at Vannulo. There is no one like them on earth.

They don't deliver to restaurants or anywhere. They don't supply or ship anywhere. You have to go there if you want their products. They are a local-only farm of about three hundred buffalo that is inarguably the best in the world…the epitome of Slow Food integrity—you HAVE to go there!

 

Besides the great integrity, all of the farmers I met commonly shared passion, dedication, and devotion for their work. I found this to be inspiring and fascinating and clearly these were the folks who I wanted in my film.{{ image(5756, {“class”: “fill round”, “width”:640, “height”:340}) }}

View the trailer here.