When Australian filmmaker Ruth Borgobello met her husband Davide Giusto, they had no idea that they would go on to fall in love and make history together.
Ruth had just landed in her father’s hometown of Gorizia, in the north-eastern Italian region of Friuli-Venezia Giulia, to discover her heritage before heading off on a six-month European adventure.
“When I arrived at Trieste airport I hadn’t seen anything or met anyone, but I started crying because I felt like I was home,” she recalls.
Davide was born and raised in Gorizia and close friends with the cousin who Ruth was staying with.
Incredibly, his mother was born on the same night as Ruth’s father, in the same hospital.
Davide was about to venture to Australia on a working holiday visa and offered to show Ruth around Gorizia so that she could experience the town through the lens of a local and he could scrub up on his English.
It was a win-win situation.
Only, the day Ruth arrived, Davide lost somebody close to him in a car accident.
The pair spent time together as they’d planned to, developing a strong bond as Davide dealt with his grief.
“To me, one of the most revealing moments in life is the strange intersection between love and loss,” Ruth says.
“The birth of a new relationship that often follows the departure of an old one. The worst moment in life that collides with the best moment, changing us forever.”
Fast forward a few years and the couple were married and living in Australia.
However, their profound connection to Gorizia and its surroundings was far from forgotten.
Ruth was inspired by that moment in time when she and Davide met and bonded, so much so, that it became the starting point for her debut feature film, which Davide would go on to produce.
‘The Space Between’ is a poignant tale of love and loss which traces the journey of Marco (Flavio Parenti), a 35 year-old ex-chef who has given up on his career in order to return to Udine to nurse his ailing father, and his relationship with Olivia (Maeve Dermody), a spirited Australian pursuing her passion for design while on a family mission in Udine.
Set against the backdrop of vineyards, jagged mountains and the electric blue Adriatic Sea, these two very different people find themselves at a crossroads that will change their lives forever.
‘The Space Between’ premiered in Italy in October 2016 at the Rome International Film Festival and was released in Italian cinemas on May 4 across an impressive 31 cities.
Moving beyond European screens, it recently screened in Toronto at the Italian Contemporary Film Festival to sell-out sessions, where Ruth was awarded the festival’s Award of Excellence.
It was also a hit at the Lavazza Italian Film Festival 2016, where it was voted an audience favourite.
Not only notable for its popularity, ‘The Space Between’ also made history as the first official feature film co-production between Italy and Australia since the treaty was signed in 1996.
“We understood why maybe it hadn’t been done before, as it was quite difficult,” Ruth explains.
The pair admit that Italians are more “flexible” when it comes to deadlines and enjoy a more lenient work/life balance, but that when it comes down to the crunch, they always deliver.
“We were fortunate in that I’m Italian-Australian, so I understand both cultures and having grown up in Italy and lived there until I was 24, I known how Italians work,” Davide says.
A former chef with a degree in International Studies, Davide was far removed from the film industry before meeting Ruth.
But, as it turns out, he was destined to be a producer.
“When Ruth began working on the film, I supported her as a husband should, making phone calls in Italian and helping in any way I could,” he explains.
“After three or four years, we needed a producer in Australia and the Italian co-producer [Claudio Saraceni] suggested that I do it.”
Davide laughed at the idea to begin with, but after some reflection, he realised he’d been playing the role of producer for a long time without even knowing it.
The powerhouse duo proved to be a dream husband-wife team and, over the course of eight years, created an internationally revered film.
So much more than a love story, ‘The Space Between’ serves as a voice for a generation of Italians with broken dreams and stifled talents, where severe economic crisis and disillusionment have plagued the nation’s youth.
Having spent long periods in Italy while developing the film, Ruth and Davide became all too familiar with the hidden side of Italy that tourists would be shocked to encounter.
“The thing that astounded me, was talking to friends our own age who were all doing things that they didn’t want to do,” Ruth recalls.
“I found it was really taboo to talk about your dreams, and it was almost as if they’d given up on the possibility to be free to do what they really wanted.”
As the pair realised the tragic situation unfolding, they decided to use the film and the character of Olivia as a vehicle to shift the perspectives of their peers by opening their eyes to the beauty surrounding them.
“The funny thing is, when we showed the film in Udine, so many people came up to us afterwards and said they never knew that their town was so beautiful,” Ruth says.
Now, audiences across Australia will have the chance to experience the beauty of Italy’s north-east wrapped up in an emotional story of self-discovery; from July 20, ‘The Space Between’, presented by Alfa Romeo, will have a one-week theatrical release at Cinema Nova in Melbourne and Palace Cinemas in Sydney, Canberra, Adelaide, and Brisbane.
Joined by the film’s award-winning cinematographer, Katie Milwright, Ruth and Davide will be hosting a special opening night Q&A at Cinema Nova in Melbourne on Thursday, July 20 at 6:30 pm.