Private Project

Book of Jonah

Behind the windshield of a small car, Massimiliano can be seen reading a book. In this cluttered cabin he eats, sleeps and dreams. Constellations of photos, captured with his old cellphone, weave together his daily and inner life. Massimiliano lives on the street, in the belly of his car, but will he dare to come out and turn the page of his own book when he’s due to receive an important inheritance?

  • Zlatolin Donchev
  • Gianluca and Massimiliano De Serio
  • Project Type:
  • Runtime:
    1 hour 12 minutes
  • Completion Date:
    November 1, 2020
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  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
  • Festival dei Popoli 61° edition
    November 17, 2020
    World premiere
    TENK award for best Italian film
  • Trieste Film Festival
  • Glocal film festival
    Turin, Piedmont
    March 11, 2021
Director Biography - Zlatolin Donchev

Zlatolin Donchev (1990, Beijing) is a Bulgarian filmmaker, member of the artistic duo Milotta/Donchev. Currently he lives between Genoa and Sofia. Donchev has studied painting both in Bulgaria and in Italy, then filmmaking in the college APM of Saluzzo. Internship and work experience with film directors Gianluca and Massimiliano De Serio guide him towards the practice of contemporary filmmaking. Book of Jonah is his first film, produced by De Serio brothers, and awarded as a best Italian documentary film by TENK screening platform at the 61° Festival dei Popoli.

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Director Statement

The book of Jonah (The Old Testament) tells of a prophet that, attempting to escape the word of God, fell into the belly of a whale. Three days and three nights is the time Jonah spent in darkness, until he accepted his destiny and was spewed out on dry land by the whale.

I knew Massimiliano for some years. For two of these I've filmed him. I followed his life on the street, as he was constrained to live in a car, rejecting his past and his family. He spoke little of his relatives. His mind was occupied with the day-to-day survival, evermore distant from a normal life. The shooting of the documentary was carried out in periods when Massimiliano felt the need to leave a mark against the fleeting present: the street life was taking its toll on him and the shooting was intended as a testament. He was preparing to pass on to me a heritage of photographs taken daily with his old Nokia cellphone.

For Massimiliano, photography is a way to observe reality and a way to survive through his gaze. The screen of the cellphone is a window to the outer world, just as it is to his inner world. Massimiliano often looked up: where the light rays filter through the branches of the trees, where the glare of the streetlamps cut through the nocturnal darkness, where the clouds transform into recognizable shapes, where the glass windows of the church portray the prophets. Ultimately, photography was a mean of communication between me and Massimiliano, and we built our friendship upon this common affinity, as well as our film.

Everyday in different light, a tree reflected itself on the windshield of Massimiliano's car, like it was watching over him. Similar is the plant that grows over the head of Jonah by the divine will, in order to relief and comfort the prophet.