Life as a Artist: “The daily struggles of an undocumented immigrant in the greatest city in the world.” By Loredana Gasparotto

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“Camera, action! Sofia, the lead character of Pentimento walks into her basement apartment, rundown, shabby, sad.” Little did I know 18 years ago that this would be the NY I would choose to depict in my feature film Pentimento.

A depressing immigrant neighborhood instead of skyscrapers or the bohemian buildings of the village. I have always loved those old New York buildings shabby and dusty, but in a pre-war romantic way. They inspired feelings of dreamy nostalgia and hope, not futility and depression.

I’ve always perceived old NY buildings the way they appear in my favorite movies as a metaphor for the characters’ destiny: poor, but beautifully poor. The whole idea of artists, musicians and other creative types struggling while trying to make it in the city is always depicted as a fun even if at times arduous, experience. It was this idea of a romantic, beautiful, and inevitably rewarded at the end, struggle that drove me to NY.

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I remember spending the first few months meticulously visiting all the locations from my favorite movies: the Empire Diner, the Cherry Line Theater, Port Authority and the great bench with the view of the Brooklyn Bridge from Annie Hall.

I had landed in the biggest living movie set in the world! NY was electrifying! It was pure, harsh, romantic poetry, with its gritty streets, graffiti, old subway cars, smoke coming from the underground holes, and iron fire escapes hanging outside. However, the fairytale came soon to an end.

And instead of settling in the East Village I had to dock in Bushwick with its constant gunshots, murders and in an apartment without a fire escape, but rat infested.

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A little by little, the harsh trivial reality of surviving in NY consumed all my time. As I was wiping gross pubic hair from a public bathroom to make rent, my idealistic perception of NY was gradually changing. The excitement wore out. What if this was going to be my life for the next 10 years? How long would it take before becoming a big star and would it ever happen at all? As the beautiful, cinematic fantasy of NY clashed with its cruel actuality, I created my own unique picture of what it’s like to live in it.  And years later, that insight, uncertainty, and fear inspired me to tell the stories of all those artists/immigrants who come to Big Apple to be creative and free.

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My memories translated into Pentimento, a film that might shape other people’s view of the city, continuing the progression of creativity and hopefully redefining common perceptions about NY. …Oh yes, and just for the record the bench where Woody Allen and Diane Keaton were sitting in Manhattan? It was just and only for the movie.

Loredana Gasparotto is an independent filmmaker, residing in Queens and her most recent film, Pentimento, details an immigrant struggle in New York and many of the sites in the movie are based on her own experience as an immigrant herself. Her movie is available on Amazon and she has been a guest on occasional basis on the Donelson Files. 

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