Francesco, a Sicilian artisan drum maker, is following his dreams by making goatskin tambourines. The goat feeds on the earth, Francesco says, and returns to the earth in a new form, the drum. When Francesco creates an instrument, a true ritual is taking place, because he is giving back a voice to something that lived, died, and then returned to life. He looks at the drums as children, all with different personalities. At some point he must let them go so they can travel far away to learn to be on their own. Our lives vibrate to a primordial rhythm even before we have ears in the mother’s womb; that’s how we all are connected with the drum.
Peppe, a percussionist and traditional music researcher, was first introduced by his grandmother to drums at age 10. His mission is to keep alive this ancient musical instrument to children of the present generation.

The manufacturing of these musical instruments is laborious and meticulous. I have known Francesco since we were children. In our youth, our generation tended to migrate to the north of the country in search of better opportunities. Francesco left Sicily many times, working in different places, but always returned to Sicily, his homeland. Today we understand why. He left the certainty of one way of life to make new life from his hands. The drum is part of his philosophy of life. When he tans a pelt, he mutters a prayer, acknowledging the violence the animal may have suffered. There is a sense of intimacy, and he voices to the goat how it will live on through the drum and not die again.

In Peppe’s home, figures of Saints and various other folklore scenes were painted on the drums. His grandmother would take the drums down from the wall and play with a technique all her own. Today, he teaches the Sicilian tambourine because he believes it to truly be an identity factor of Sicily, particularly Southern Italy. Teaching children became a true passion for Peppe, because passing this tradition down, especially to the youngest ones, allows him to not break this thread. According to methods of the Sicilian Greek philosopher Empedocles, Peppe utilizes that method playing onomatopoeic sounds taking his cues from the ancient Sicilian dialect. This descriptive music also is influenced by nursery rhymes and the rhythmic sequence corresponding to vowel sounds.

The idea for this project came after viewing a Facebook video of a solo performance by Peppe Di Mauro playing a small 3 inch tambourine named “U PICCIRIDU” (the baby) made by Francesco Amara. The post was so intense that it boasted over 10,000 views. This film project was shot in their homeland, Sicily. The project is a mixture of love, meaningful life messages, and emotion from both the artisan’s almost ritualistic manufacturing of these instruments, and the personal mission of the music teacher to continue the legacy of the music created from the historic tambourines/drums made from the skins of goats living and then dying on the beautiful Sicilian landscape. The visual challenge was how to bring this small part of Sicily to the rest of the world, and to enable the viewer tone part of it. I decided to film eighty percent of the project with only one wide-angle lens and to stay close to the action to amplify the visual perception. Only natural light was allowed during filming because I wanted to keep that little world untouched. Much of the film was shot indoors, like the inside of a mother’s womb with the rhythmic heartbeat present from the beginning, and continuing in another life: that of the handmade tambourine.

Born and raised in Lentini (Sicily), Giuseppe honed his skills through vast experiences he captured in photographs and heartfelt stories that had significant impact on him as he filmed their emotive content. After extensive travel throughout Europe and other parts of the globe, he eventually landed in New York, where for a while he studied English and then dabbled in teaching film classes. He realized he didn’t need a diploma to start his own company, Art Motion Pictures, a media production company that brings to life the light, truth, and vulnerability in all aspects of our daily lives. Giuseppe instinctively captures raw emotion in whatever project he is working on. Some of his noted works earned him titles such as award-winning cinematographer of the Golden Panda at the Sichuan TV Festival in China for his documentary Last Stop, produced by RAI Cinema. He started his collaboration with the photography company Magnum Photos, filming a series of documentaries on iconic masters such as Elliott Erwitt, Bruce Gilden, Steve McCurry and Thomas Hoepker. His work has been shown in major international film festivals: Tribeca with the feature movie, Blackout in 2008, the Venice Film Festival in 2009 with the documentary Ward 54, and in 2011 with the documentary Dante Ferretti, Production Designer featuring Martin Scorsese and Julie Taymor, shown at MOMA.
Deeply moved by all that is happening in the world today, Giuseppe continues to look for the right story to tell, but more often than not, the story finds Giuseppe!

Genres: Documentary
Duration: 14 mins
Country of Origin: USA | ITALY
Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1
Language: Italian / English Subtitle