After discovering the magic of cinema through director Fellini, on the set of And the Ship Sails On, he purchased a Beauliey R/16 mm camera with his savings and set off for New York City. Once in New York he traveled through the streets of the South Bronx and created a documentary on the Waste Land inspired by the work of Thomas Stearns Eliot. In New York he had the luck to meet Dizzy Gillespie and Salvatore Scarpitta, two artists who would remain a great inspiration for him.
On his return to Italy, he continued studying at the University of Art in Rome (La Sapienza) where he met the French actress Annie Girardot and soon directed another documentary on her work using a group of young actors.
Soon after he was commissioned to direct his first documentary for the Rai, titled Sweet Harmonica Dreams, which he created in Jersey during the first Harmonica World Championships, with the participation of Larry Adler, Peter Madcat Ruth, Don Baker and Roland Van Straaten. He continued to work for the Rai, directing a documentary called Religion and Fashion that focused on the attraction for fashion between priests and nuns. This very controversial work captured the attention of national newspapers like La Repubblica.
Within a short time he traveled to Yemen creating a documentary titled Wedding in Yemen, revealing the true story of a man who would see the face of his future wife for the first time on the night of their wedding. When he returned from Yemen he made a series of 6 documentaries in 35 mm with a movie crew, in the most beautiful historic city centers of Italy. After this work he returned to Yemen to begin work on the documentary titled the String of Pearls and in Jordan (Petra) he created a short film called Once upon a time, a story inspired by the One thousand and one nights. This was followed by meetings in Cannes with executives from NHK Japan to produce and direct two documentaries connected to the political changes in Northern Italy.
He was then commissioned to direct another documentary for Mixer by Giovanni Minoli about the diary of a girl whose life was saved by a transplant from an organ donated by her sister. Luciano Pavarotti participated in the documentary. Padovano continued to direct and produce documentaries for Rai 1. The Awakening captured the story of an autistic boy with the amazing ability to recognise every single car model manufactured, Ray of Hope is the story of a young girl and her struggle to cope with cerebral cancer, Hearts is the emotional story about a couple in love who both need heart transplants, and Born Twice, the controversial story of a professional well-known father and husband who decides to become a woman by undergoing a sex change operation in London. All the documentaries received critical acclaim and more than 6 million viewers.
After these experiences he traveled 'under cover' to Armenia with Baroness Caroline Cox of the House of Lords. In the worst days of the conflict in Nagomo Karabah he told the story of The Prisoner in the Cellar. This incredible story follows an Armenian woman who holds an Azeri officer hostage in the cellar of her home in Stephanakert.
He soon created a series of historical documentaries: Who Killed Olof Palme? on the assassination of Swedish prime minister Olof Palme, Edward and Mrs Simpson, with King Edward's best friend's son David Metcalfe, and The Last Survivors of the Titanic where he interviewed some of the last remaining survivors from that fateful voyage. In New Zealand he created Everest, with the participation of Sir Edmund Hilary, and Transplant, a story based on the first heart transplant with the participation of Christian Barnard.
He was soon requested to create a series for the Real Film programme live, experiencing a new type of story that experimented with a new form of reporting. He then directed The Baby of the Night, the story of a boy with a rare disease that doesn't allow him to go out in sunlight; A Uterus for Rent, the tragic confession of a woman who is pregnant with someone else's baby; Beautiful, a hallucinatory journey into the world of beauty contestants; Help, on the desperate condition of a group of people waiting for a heart donation; and Auschwitz, a journey in the night to the concentration camp with survivor Nedo Fiano. Then he created a story based on the falling down of the Noto Cathedral, dedicated to the defence of the baroque heritage with the participation of Andrea Bocelli.
He then started the project Mysterious Places. These fourteen documentaries took him three years to complete in the most extraordinary places in the world: Easter Island, Chile; San Augustin, Bolivia; Nazca, Peru; Sahara, Libya; Petra, Jordan; and Giza, Egypt; all with the participation of the most prominent scientists in the world. This series twice put his life at risk but allowed him time for reflection and to meet some unforgettable people, especially Maria Reiche.
To regain his momentum he decided to move on to nature documentaries, especially those tied to the conservation of species, and then created The Return of the Whales and The Marine Park of Fajal, in South Africa; Wild Rescue on cheetah conservation with Ann Van Dyke; in Florida The Song of the Mermaids on the manatee and The Giant on manta ray conservation; also Monkey World with Jim Cronin and his efforts to support a refuge for chimpanzees; in South Africa Speaking with the Lions with Brian Jones; in Italy Saving the Marine Tortoises with Flegra Bentinvegna and Falcons in Sicily on the problems tied to illegal hunting; in Holland Seals filmed in the rehabilitation centre in Peterburn with Lenie t’ Hart and then, The Last Rhinoceros in Botswana about the last white rhinoceros in the world.
After these documentaries, he returned to social documentaries with two documentaries in Azerbaijan, A Peace Too Far and A Case of Emergency, that after his experiences during the war in Armenia allowed him to discover the other side of the conflict, and extraordinarily to find Zachir from the Prisoner in the Cellar.
Through his history in TV he successfully found the finances to create his first full-length feature film, titled The Four Doors of the Desert, filmed mostly in the Sahara desert with an international cast including the acclaimed actress Aure Atika as a main character. The film revolves around the colonial dominance in North Africa and tells the story of two men (inspired by the life of Charles de Foucauld and Moussa Ag Amastan), a Christian and a Muslim in a colonial time at the beginning of the last century. Unfortunately the film was affected by the government of Berlusconi, who halted all the money for the independent distribution of cinema works, ultimately denying the film's release. After a long pause in his work, he created Joe Petrosino, a documentary that tells the story of an Italian policeman who challenges the Mafia for the programme La storia siamo noi for Rai 2. Disappointed with the events regarding the film, he decided to move to England with his English-Italian family to work in a more stimulating environment.
Read more about this topic: Antonello Padovano
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