I had collaborated with Andrea Segre on his documentary La mal’ombra and then again with Il sangue verde, I knew him and there was a relationship of mutual respect. Succeeding in making a feature film together that narrates the present and the pressing themes of our territory, merging the language of a documentary with a more cinematographic vision, was a challenge I felt was very close to the path we were following in our society. The strength of the story, its protagonist, its dreamlike dimension, yet at the same time rooted in the real world, the intermingling of local elements with the opening up to Asia, and the beauty and narrative power of places I knew well, convinced me that it was an adventure to set off on without hesitations.
The production history of Io sono Li thus started in July 2008 when we decided to present the project at the International Film Festival in Rome, in the section Fabbrica dei Progetti – New Cinema Network. Io sono Li (with the temporary title Shun Li and the Poet) was selected and awarded “Best European Project” for its “original, poetic and deeply human approach to the subject of immigration”.
In this occasion we met Francesca Feder from the French production house Æternam Films, who decided to co-produce the film and has been a part of our journey since then.
In the weeks that followed, Andrea Segre worked with the screenwriter Marco Pettenello on the first draft of the film screenplay, which was finished in time to participate in the Atelier of the 62nd Cannes Film Festival in May 2009, where Io sono Li was the only Italian project among the 16 selected.
In the meantime, a highly professional work team, on both a technical and artistic level, was defined and consolidated, which enthusiastically joined and supported the project, first and foremost the director of photography, Luca Bigazzi, who had also already had the occasion to collaborate with Andrea Segre in the documentaries Magari le cose cambiano and Il sangue verde.
The interest by the Chinese actress Zhao Tao, won over by the part of Shun Li, and by the actor Rade Sherbedgia in the role of Bepi, was immediate and fundamental, apart from Marco Paolini’s involvement in the project since the start. The collaboration with Roberto Citran for the role of the Lawyer and Giuseppe Battiston for the part of Devis enabled completing the cast, which, in its final form, puts renowned actors alongside non-professionals selected from Chioggia, in line with a documentary-style approach.