'I would love to make a film in Italy'

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Actress Freida Pinto; Afshin Ghaffarian, who the film Desert Dancer is based on, and actor Reece Ritchie. Photo: Loic Venance/AFP
15:49 CEST+02:00
British actor Reece Ritchie, who plays the lead in Desert Dancer, which opened Ischia’s Global Film and Music Festival on Sunday night, told The Local he would love to make a film in Italy one day and is currently learning Italian.

Ritchie travelled to the island in the Bay of Naples alongside costars Freida Pinto, the Indian star of Slumdog Millionaire and Tom Cullen, a Welsh actor who played Lord Gillingham in the British series Downton Abbey.

“I had only been to Italy a few times but I’m totally in love with it,” he told The Local, adding that Ischia is an “absolutely charming but under-stated” island, especially when compared to its more famous neighbour, Capri.

“The scenery, the people, everything is beautiful. We don’t get to choose where our projects are based but I would love to work in Italy,” he said, adding that “Italian is on the top of my list of languages to learn and I even have an app on my phone for it.”

His costar Pinto, who was spotted enjoying an ice-cream after arriving in the island on Saturday, agreed, telling The Local, "Of course, I would love to make a film here!"

Ritchie plays the role of Afshin Ghaffarian in Desert Dancer, a film set in Tehran against the backdrop of protests against the Iranian regime during the elections in 2009-2010. The film tells the true story of a young Iranian dancer and the risks he took to perform his art despite a government ban.

Ghaffarian eventually escaped to Paris, where he was given political asylum by the French government.

Ritchie, who also starred in The Lovely Bones, said it was a challenging project and that he feared his performance would “fail to honour Ghaffarian”.

“I want to do films where I keep telling stories. I also need to feel the fear [of an unexplored territory] when I work, as if I don’t, I start to itch.”

The low-budget film is the first by British director Richard Raymond, who was inspired to make it after reading a story about Ghaffarian’s asylum in France in 2010.

The film is set to be released in the US next year.

“I’m very pleased to have made it, so any [success] beyond that is a bonus,” Raymond said during a press conference in Ischia on Monday.

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Pinto, who said she had to “fight stereotypes” in order to break into the international film business, added that she wanted to be part of stories that “people are perhaps afraid to tell”.

The festival continues on Tuesday night with the showing of The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby, starring American actress Jessica Chastain.

Chastain, who also starred in The Help, is set to receive the actress of the year award during the event while Chiwetel Ejiofor, who was nominated for an Oscar for 12 Years a Slave, will be honoured as actor of the year.

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