The new documentary from McCann Health Italy, called ‘PrEpared: True Protection, True Freedom’ is funded by grants from Viatris and Control and supported by the patronage of Anlaids Lombardia ETS the National Association for the fight against AIDS - and it’s a deep dive into Italian sexual habits and tastes.
The 45-minute film, which was previewed in Milan at Cinema Mexico last week and is now available to view on its micro website, is a first of its kind documentary about Italian sex education. Split into eight chapters, each of them zooming into the lives of everyday Italians and how and why they have sex, it’s all tied together by the message that there is no sexual freedom without protection.
Each of the stories’ main characters are located in their own contextual background, ranging from a Shibari-practising and teaching couple, a sexologist, a drag queen, somebody living with HIV, and many more.
Despite being shot entirely on 16mm film and bringing viewers back to the time of the first sexual revolution, utilising vintage film techniques and cinematography, the documentary also has a remarkably contemporary feel to it. In a country where conversations about sex are still very much a taboo, the documentary is determined to tell the full story about its main characters, from the beginning to the point where they know that without prevention, they would not be living life the way they are today.
The portrait painted by the film ends up as a non-exhaustive, but a very balanced image of why Italy needs its protection and why, above all, Italians and the whole world needs to be properly educated about the spread of sexually transmited infections.
LBB’s Zoe Antonov spoke to McCann Health Italy’s creative director Sarah Amatori about the conception of the film, the messaging and the future of Italian sex education.
LBB> How did the idea for the film come and what were the initial conversations surrounding that idea?
Sarah> The truth is that when we talk about HIV, we often fail to mention the main risk of contagion: unprotected sex. Countries such as Italy get even more heavily affected by issues like this, as there is a lot of socio-cultural conditioning and societal prejudice - sex is still quite the taboo here.
LBB> Why did you decide to split the film into chapters and what does each chapter bring to the richness and the research? How do they interplay with each other?
Sarah> PrEPARED is a social investigation, resulting in a big socio-cultural portrait of Italian sexual habits - addressing not only the gay community, but all people aged 18-40. We needed to open a new chapter for each sexual behavior. Not only this, but the project is also evidence-based. This means that each single story is inspired by different data that you find at the end of every episode. On the other hand, the leitmotif that connects all chapters is the inextricable bond between freedom and protection.
LBB> Tell me more about the funding scheme and the collaboration behind the film.
Sarah> The idea of the film is to create a greater and wider culture of protection. This is why we got on board with Viatris (for PrEP) and condom brand Control with an unconditional grant. Then Anlaids, the national association for the fight against AIDS gave us patronage.
LBB> How did you pick the locations and the real-life case studies within the film? Why did you decide those were the most appropriate ones?
Sarah> Regarding the scouting, we were looking for many different sexual habits that find themselves at the potential risk of contagion for a range of reasons. If you happen to be acting freely regarding your sexual practices, then you always need to be protected. As for locations, we asked the protagonists to bring us to the places they love most, in order to put them at ease and enter into their real, everyday lives.
LBB> Tell me about the cinematography - We know the documentary is shot on film, why did you decide that was the best approach? What were you going for aesthetically and how did you achieve it?
Sarah> The documentary is completely shot on 16mm film in order to give a cinematic flavour to each chapter. Aesthetically speaking, we were going for something vintage, and that can be seen even in the style of the chapter titles. We wanted to bring viewers back to the sexual revolution with the aesthetic, but at the same time keep it very cool and contemporary.
LBB> What kind of research went into the making of the documentary and were there any key findings that stood at its core?
Sarah> The key finding that we revolved the film around was that we really do have many differing sexual habits, orientations and tastes. Not only that, but a lot of the time it isn’t easy to get people sharing about this kind of thing. Basically, we could never really finish the research.
Historically, we can count on amazing examples of ‘anthropological’ investigations, such as ‘L’amore in Italia’ by great director Luigi Comencini on big changes in the ‘70s and ‘Comizi d’amore’ (Love meetings) by the great Pier Paolo Pasolini in the early ‘60s.
LBB> The release of the film coincides with some political turmoil in Italy with the recent election, especially when it comes to LGBTQA+ rights and sexual liberation. Was that planned or was it coincidental, and how do you think the political climate will affect the social issues spoken about in the documentary?
Sarah> Nope, that was entirely coincidental. Regarding the social issues we’ve touched on, I believe that you cannot stop the course of history. It might take a bit longer, but Italy has a deep-rooted culture of freedom and acceptance before all, and most of all it is well-known worldwide for its education and health system.
LBB> What do you believe is the responsibility of creative media when it comes to education and prevention?
Sarah> I think creative media has the responsibility, and the opportunity, to talk about and be inspired by the issues our society faces at any point of history. Creative media can really intercept topics close to people and effect behavioural changes. This case is a brilliant example of PrEPARED acting as an entertainment and educational tool at the same time, while remaining an engaging piece of cinema.
LBB> Do you believe sex education has improved in Italy for the past years and what do you hope to see as change in the near future?
Sarah> It definitely has, and in fact this documentary is the celebration of the freedom that has been achieved in Italy. But in order to keep it and make it even wider, we do need to improve sex education at school, at all levels. We need to inform – especially among students and young people – and provide better education, on both sex and protection in order to stop the virus.
LBB> How long did the film take, from the conception of the idea to the full release?
Sarah> From the brief and the conception (October 2020) to the premiere on October 17, 2022, it took almost two years. Considering we filmed during the pandemic.
LBB> If audiences had to take one message from the film, what do you want that to be?
Sarah> There is one big message to take home: there is no freedom without protection.
LBB> Any final thoughts?
Sarah> Prevention can be sexy.