ROME – The theme may be familiar but the technique is new: A standard cell phone camera to shoot an entire feature-length documentary on love and sex.
Italian filmmakers used a Nokia N90, a higher-end cell phone sold around the world, to produce the 93-minute "New Love Meetings," which they say is the first feature film to be entirely shot with such a tool.
The technique underscores what has become a fixture in today's world: The use of amateur video and cell phone cameras to immortalize moments in people's lives.
"With the widespread availability of cell phones equipped with cameras, anybody could do this," documentary co-director Marcello Mencarini said in a telephone interview from Milan. "If you want to say something nowadays, thanks to the new media, you can."
In news gathering, early footage is often shot with a cell phone, and, in the case of major events, authorities and news outlets have been known to call on amateurs to come through with video.
When it comes to movies, though, cell phone cameras present limits, such as the difficulty to film in darkness or the lack of high-quality microphones.
As a result, the movie mostly features close-ups, and the image, while overall clear when seen on a computer, is slightly shaky.
Mencarini said the movie could be viewed on big screens, though "it wouldn't be high-definition."
The movie's directors said no post-production manipulation was made on the image.
Low costs and greater flexibility were among the reasons why Mencarini and co-director Barbara Seghezzi decided to use a cell phone.
The filmmakers say the project cost only a few thousand dollars, including their travel and accommodation expenses and the production of several DVDs.
Although no professional lighting was needed, a pocket flashlight was used at times, said Seghezzi.
The approach offers the advantage of being intimate, leading people to open up a little more easily, directors say. In a documentary about love and eroticism, that doesn't hurt.
For two months last year, the directors interviewed some 700 people across Italy — at bars, open markets and on the beach. About 100 of them ended up in the movie.
"To use a small instrument that belongs to people's daily routine allows you to establish an intimate dialogue, instead of using a regular camera," she said. "The interview becomes more like a chat."
Mencarini said some people were intrigued that such a familiar item was being used to shoot a movie.
The phone had enough memory for about an hour of footage, and scenes were transferred to a computer approximately every two days, Mencarini said.
Now, producers are looking at ways to distribute the film.
The directors' idea was to do a modern version of the 1965 documentary "Love Meetings" by Pier Paolo Pasolini, the famed film director and writer found beaten to death 30 years ago.
In his documentary, Pasolini interviewed Italians to find out their views about sex in postwar Italy. Attitudes across the country showed people had taboos and self-censorship was widespread.
"New Love Meetings" explores subjects ranging from first sexual experiences to homosexuality and jealousy, in interviews that include transsexuals and a priest. And it found that not much has changed.
"When it comes to sexuality a certain malaise is still there, taboos and problems persist," Seghezzi said.