Mauro Caruso . Luca Gozzo . Joseph Biais . Felipe Bartolome
Mauro Caruso . Ale . Luca Gozzo . Ludo Azemar
Azzurro is a dream.
Azzurro develops from the grey skies of Berlin and then moves to a Sicilian city born from an impossible idea.
Azzurro was born thanks to an architectural mystery wanted by a visionary governor, who hoped for the rebirth of a territory, destroyed by the forces of nature and man.
Azzurro is the idea of being able to combine skateboarding with a unique Sicilian flow.
Azzurro is the desire to be reborn from its ashes.
The following article appeared in A Skateboarding Annual 3, edited by Carhartt WIP, published in 2017.
Gibellina is a small town in western Sicily, known for having been completely destroyed by an eathquake in january 1968. The city was not rebuilt: 11 kms from where gibellina stood, a new city - Gibellina Nuova - was created from scratch. With a humanist and progressive agenda, hoping art would help the city to reborn, the then-mayor asked some of the most prominent Italian artists and architects of the day to contribute. Today, the city is a kind of ex-nihilo open-air museum of modern art and architecture. Though, perhaps one with a slight bias toward the ideas of the ´70s and ´80s.
Davide Cattaneo, a good skater and a friend of mine from Milan, was at a photo exhibition and saw something about Gibellina. A few weeks later, by coincidence, he saw a show on television about the city. He called me up and told me to go check it out. I had never heard about the place and to this day, many people - even in Sicily - haven´t either.
The city is a four-hours drive from my place and sists in the middle of nowhere. I went in august; I think it was like 45°C. When I arrived the city was empty. Apart from a few elderly people, it was a complete ghost town, except one with huge plazas, monumental sculpture on every corner and this enormous metal installation called Stella, by Pietro Consagra, that´s the entrance to the town. The place felt crazy, surreal. There were some great-lookings spots, too.
I went to check the old town, a 20 kms drive from Gibellina Nuova, after which you end up deeper in the middle of nowhere, in the Valle Del Belice. There you find a sculpture di Alberto Burri, the Grande Cretto, that´s really immense. It´s essentially huge blocks of concrete, built on (and with) the ruins of the city, that drwan a pattern of cracks. It´s a place that is really hard to describe; even with photos you can´t really grasp the whole thing, how big it is. Everytime I go back I´m shocked, and it´s the same with everyone I brought there.
I was so drawn by the vibes of this town; it´s so empty and strange - the monuments and the light, the few spots, and then these old people speaking this typical Sicilian dialect, the mentality. Everything is 100% sicilian, but you are surrounded by modern art and architecture. It´s so confusing… everything was making me go: “Shiiit, I need to do something here”.
I shot photos and went home, and started talking about it with davide and another friend, Ale Formenti. We realized we couldn´t do just a random skateboarding clip, that we had to be more ambitious, show the bigger picture and tell the whole story. So we decided to take our time, find the right people, and so on. A few months later, Davide was on a trip to L.A. and randomly met an old friend from Italy, Lorenzo Fonda, who used to skate and he´s now a director. Afterr seeing some pictures, Lorenzo became super interested in the story and wanted to do a documentary about it. He started his research and we thought: “Ok, this is it, it´s happening, we have our medium”.
We wnt to Gibellina for two weeks in september to shoot. Everyone was hyped. We had lots of ideas, all the time. We were three skaters, two filmers, two photographers and an illustrator. Everyone was working, thinking about the movie, a book, a premiere in L.A., festivals, getting more people involved, and so on. Euphoria full on. Everything was working out fine, everyone was focused. We got tons of work done during those two weeks.
The name of the documentary was going to be “Archeology of the Future”, and it was meant to address what an earthqiake, archeology and skateboarding have in common. Lorenzo wanted to tell what happened in the city through lots of interviews, to show the place and to show how skateboarding had brought all these people from different stories together in this small sicilian village. He wanted to start from the beginning of the story, to explain about how Burri was inspired by the dried lake beds of Death Valley in California to create the Grande Cretto. It sounded awesome.
The plan was to release the documentary a few months later. we kept on exchanging emails and ideas back and forth, until I stopped hearing back. After a while, Lorenzo got back and explained he was having problems with the rights for what we had shot in the old town, that he didn´t have the budget for an editor, that there were problems with the skating and that he was going to get back to me. Now it´s 2017 and still I haven´t heard back.
So that was the first time we were struck by the curse of Gibellina.
Four years had passed since we shot the footage for the documentary, nad I knew I wouldn´t be happy with the skating in it, after so much time. I knew that if the documentary came out, I would want to go back to Gibellina and reshoot some better skateboarding and drop a sick clip. we had released a clip about skating in Modica that had been well received, and the filmer was keen on doing the same with Gibellina. But the documentary still hadn´t come out, and I was hesitant to go to Gibellina because I didn´t want my clip to mess with it. I spoke with all the other people involved in the documentary, and everyone was cool with the idea of me coming back to shoot, as long I didn´t mention the earthquake and the whole background story. So we planned a month there to produce a clip of me skating and pushing around the village, like in Modica. The filmer had picked some experimental symphony from the ´80s for it, so even the music was going to relate with the art and architecture there, which seemed appropriated.
We went in April. Not much had changed in Gibellina, except there were less people, less teenagers, and the derelict buildings were becoming a bit more derelict. We tried to get soemething worthwile for weeks, but between a new camera that we weren´t comfortable with, the bad weather, me falling and getting nine stitches next my right eye, lines shot from too far away, and shaky footage, we didn´t really produce anything we liked. Cursed again. Sam Ashley came for a few days, and we manage to shoot decent photos, though. Time was running out, and we knew the footage was not going to cut it, so we were already planning to come back. It was early May by then, and already too hot, so we decided to aim for the following autumn.
The following autumn, I was on a skateboard trip in Sicily. On the third day, I landed a kickflip over a rail ankwardly, tore my ACL, and damaged my meniscus. I underwent surgery in December and then went through six months of rehab and started skating again in june 2016. I had lost lots of muscle, and it takes time to rebuild. I was thinking about Gibellina almost every day, unsure if I could go back to skating the spots again with my injury. To make matters worse, I was starting to feel pressure around me (magazines, sponsors) who were expecting something to come out. I wanted to get it over with for myself, and I didn´t want to let anyone down. I also wanted to stop feeling like I was banging myself against a wall.
I kept doing rehab to get prepared, and I planned a trip for september to finally finish that clip. I organized a place to stay, a car on location, filming gear, bought plane tickets, etc. Everything was working out fine. And then, cursed again: out of the blue, the filmer bailed on the project and we ended up in an argument. So, no more filmer, back to square one.
I thought of another filmer who might be a good fit, but the idea behind the clip had fallen through, so I had to come up with something else. At that time Ale and I were starting this brand, La Dolce Vita, and I thought: “Let´s just do something for us - we will produce it and hopefully the sponsors will be down with it, and if not, too bad, at least we will have our clip”. So things started to roll again - we brainstormed ideas, the filmer was hyped, I started organizing again, house, car, tickets for Ale and the filmer and then… cursed again: the new filmer bailed. I was so over it.
Still, at that point, I couldn´t really drop the ball because Sam wanted to run his photos in Free. Without a clip, someone would have run to Gibellina to film one. Also, Carhartt was involved in the project and wanted to see something come out, which is fair enough. Plus, despite the hurdles, I personally still wanted to film that clip!
Ale and I decided to make things happen. We tried for a month to find someone to film with us and then we said: “Fuck it, let´s go there and film 24/7 ourselves, something will come out”. We got this other skater friend that was down to skate there, we had some ideas for the final edit, but really it really was just go there, live a minth there and see what comes out.
So we get there and it´s curse time again. After three days the camera battery dies, and this is in the absolute middle of nowhere, so we had to order another one online and lose precious time and budget. And the house where we were staying had no address, by the way, so it is a mission even to receive the package. Then one evening, as we were driving back to the house - bam! - the timing belt disintegrates. There´s a car shop, but it takes ten days to get the part, so in the meantime we have to hike ten kms uphill everyday with the gear to reach the spots. This includes two days of carrying a large sheet of metal for a spot to be skateable.
At this stage, we were just laughing about how surreal the whole thing was and hoping real hard we were going to pull it off. We were also realizing that even if we were happy with that we were shooting, it was not going to be enough. We´d probably have to go back to finish things off.
We managed to organize a trip with Ludo Azemar as a filmer to get some more footage. It started with my board disappearing from the car, and then, out of the ten days we spent on location, six were rainy. Business as usual.
I organized the final trip with Ludo, Joseph Biais, Felipe Bartolomé and Roger Gonzales, a photographer from Madrid. At that time it was just a matter of getting the last clips, but I was still apprehensive. When we were exiting the freeway to enter Gibellina, I almost crashed into a car that was stopped in the middle of the exit ramp. The braking sound woke up everyone in the car. Some kind fo welcome, I guess. Later on, I managed to ruin the side of the car trying to drive between two sidewalks. And then I almost ran Felipe over. Other than that, the curse was kinda gone: the trip was super nice and we got everthing done, including a barbecue with friends - homemade olive oil, fresh cheers and a last-minute trick that necessitated a race to the airport. The good life.
At the time of this writing, everyone has safely returned from Gibellina is editing clips while we finish off the mag. And if the gods of project management have been kind to us, you should be able to read this and watch Ludo´s clip simultaneously. Crazy.