Nico Santucci began conceiving an idea for a screenplay in 2017 by choosing 2 Asian female protagonists, spirituality and mental illness in particular as themes. All are highlighted in his feature film, "Sarogeto" and currently across many headlines worldwide. As an Italian kid from the back of a mobster speakeasy - who would imagine that he would have an eerie clairvoyance that not only compelled him to write, but direct this debut project?
Santucci artfully shares his story revealing a complicated and emotional struggle that Japanese American Grace / Mimi Stanton faces. Such ambitious prowess would prove tricky for any filmmaker, but in his hands it blends provocative and powerful subject matter with an eager new set of eyes. We were curious and asked him to reveal deeper...
Q: What compelled you to these particular topics?
NS: "Part of the wonders of the world include experiencing other cultures, traditions, values and beliefs. They are often vastly different from our own and I wanted to fully explore those possibilities being internationally understood and accepted."
Q: Ikumi Yoshimatsu certainly had some intense emotions on display in her performance. What motivated you to make a film predominantly about the troubled life of a Japanese woman?
NS: "I feel a deep curiosity and admiration for the Japanese culture. The ancient, artful tradition paired with refined elegance and grace is very powerful when revealed in a soulful way. I wanted to translate Grace as a traditional Japanese mother and wife and Miki Endo (played by Ruby Park) as a modern millennial who understands Grace's mindset."
Q: Tell us about your style of filmmaking - how would you characterize it?
NS: "Well...although this story is slightly nouveau, it's quite timeless and classic in composition. Sarogeto is always moving and evolving visually and emotionally, so I was adamant about the camera and lens package. Opening very wide...but, as emotions build the 80mm became the lens of choice with many scenes larger than life in scale and impact. Lenses can become addicting when telling your story and in life and I can't see doing anything other than directing films in my next chapter."
Q: Sarogeto has been described as "controversial." Explain.
NS: "Well, at the time I had no idea this would be a trending or controversial topic around the world. It's not something I'm happy about, but at the same time - what was in my mind's eye led to a journey of discovering one's self (Grace, in this case). She felt her actions would define her character in the end and the audience is able to see the variables of what the cost of our actions are in this life and forever after... and we are left with questions of good vs. evil and we're definitely left questioning our religious or spiritual beliefs."
Q: What does "Sarogeto" mean and why did you choose it as your title?
NS: "It's Japanese for surrogate, which is quite misunderstood as is Grace's story in the film."
Q: Sarogeto is dedicated to Eva Tillman. Who is she and why?
NS: "Eva was Martin Tillman's muse and partner in life for many happy years. Martin's musical compositions and cello music heavily influenced my choices in Sarogeto and I decided to dedicate the film to Eva's ultimate choice."
From 2017 when issues like religion, spirituality and terminal illness were whispered about and kept behind closed doors - fast forward to 2021, and these concerning themes that Nico omnisciently dreamed, wrote, and filmed years ago are front page news today.
SAROGETO STARS: Ikumi Yoshimatsu, Eric Roberts, Winsor Harmon, Ruby Park, Koji Niiya, Aki Aleong, Angelica Bridges, Derek Warburton and Nikki Nikita, with original scores and music created by world renowned composer Martin Tillman, Jakob Balogh and Keaton Simons. Dedicated to Eva Tillman, who was euthanized by her choice in Switzerland during the making of Sarogeto.