‘Summer 82: When Zappa came to Sicily’ is a moving documentary by Salvo Cuccia that intertwines Frank Zappa’s Sicilian concert with the director’s personal and spiritual journey.
In this Exclusive Interview Salvo Cuccia tells us how the documentary came to life:
Tell me about your passion for Frank Zappa…
It begun in the 70s, when I used to play. As a matter of fact, I bought a guitar in New York and I had to wait for three months to get that Gibson SG that he used to play. This musical discovery has been crucial for me, because it taught me so many things I ignored at the time and that eventually helped me become the film-maker I am today. I’ve worked with music a lot, and Frank Zapppa’s lesson is essential to listen to all music genres.
What is the trait you like most of his music?
The irony of his lyrics that work as counterpoint to more serious compositions. The way he managed to fit in desecrating lyrics, that were extremely amusing and that he used to mock the American media, to fight is civil battle against censorship.
How did ‘Summer 82: When Zappa came to Sicily’ come to life?
It was a very particular moment of my life, my father suddenly became ill and this determined a transition in my life, since he died soon after our trip. During his sickness Zappa was on tour in Italy and I was on military service in Pordenone, but I decided I wanted to attend the concert in my city, on the day of my birthday. Unfortunately I didn’t make it in time, but I took this long road trip with my dad, that turned out to be a very spiritual journey for us, since we recuperated our father and son relationship.
In the documentary, your personal story runs in parallel to Frank’s concert in Sicily…
That was a sort of counterpoint too, with some melodramatic flair, but Zappa lightens up the heart-rending journey I had with my father.
In the making of the movie how was it to spend time with the “Zappas?”
Fantastic! His children are wonderful. I met his son Dweezil for the first time in Naples, he had a concert ‘Zappa plays Zappa’ and then he started to play, his face changed into something heavenly, as he played his father’s music. After that I also got to meet Frank’s daughters Diva and Moon Unit and his wife Gail. While shooting the documentary I took Dweezil in a recording studio and I gave him a fender and we jammed a little. He vents his emotion through music. I used some of the pieces we recorded in Partinico for the documentary’s soundtrack.
What was Frank’s perception of Italy as opposed to the one of his family?
Frank describes his impressions of Partinico in the documentary, he registered reality in a very truthful manner, with its pros and cons. He had the ability of giving a very sensitive and deep response of what he saw. As for his family, his children in particular have been very affected by this experience. Some episodes in Italy, have made them discover their origins and will mark them forever.
Frank Zappa’s Man from Utopia came from Italy…
This is key to Frank Zappa’s beliefs. His father had bequeathed him the idea that everything started from Sicily, culture, art. And Frank he always carried this thought with him.
Is it easier to see the beauties of Italy from afar?
This occurs to me when I’m invited to American universities: I fall in love once again with my home country. But it’s always important to have a strong sense of reality, as Gail said in the documentary: to put together contrasting materials. That’s what life is about.