Affiorare (Surfacing) is a VR experimental documentary set in prison. Like in a fairy tale, the viewer is immersed in the everyday life of mothers and kids living in special places: prisons and custody institutions for inmates with their children. 360° footage at children’s eye level and animations embark us on a magical journey from the iconic Panopticon system of control, to the most recent confinement centres. Like the hero’s journey, the protagonists tell us - in a deep and poetic way- their first impressions of the prison, the smells, the fears, the challenges. Their perception of prison as a submerged world is mirrored by illustration (made in collaboration with mothers and children) depicting their past memories and their dreams for the future. Animations enhance this surreal world using the metaphor of an underwater world where animated animals are free to move and breathe. A tale of pain but also resilience and hope, at the boundary between reality and imagination, which is able to speak to everyone and connect with personal memories of childhood.

When I first visited a new soft custody institute for mothers and children living together in prison, unexpected sounds seeped into my ears without giving time to prepare. Screams, alarms, squeaky gates, opening and closing doors create a special atmosphere where the environment hardly attunes to what eyes can perceive. The small garden was surrounded by a wooden fence that children are forbidden to cross. Above the enclosure, surveillance cameras every 20 meters. In the distance, police trucks and prison guards. I wasn’t able to ‘define’ my feelings, meaning that probably, the situation was too ambiguous and complex to grasp. I was feeling as if I was inside The Truman Show: a fake world, expressly conceived for the main character, a boy who was born and had grown there, like many of the children I met in this ‘attenuated’ prison. I asked myself many questions: how do children perceive this space? What has been explained to them, do children realise that this is a distorted reality, specially built for them? Do they feel cheated?

To answer these and the many other questions, we have worked for more than two years in different confinement institutions, together with psychologists, educators and illustrators. In strict collaboration with the protagonists, mothers and children, we built an experimental documentary to express their points of view and their sense of space in a confinement. But we also want to show their fantasies of escape, the shelters, the fears and dreams. Emotions and desires that are universal and concern the childhood of each of us.


Director of photography
Film Editor
Original Music
Norina Liccardo, Rodolfo Mongitore
Rodolfo Mongitore, Marco Marasciuolo (Sound Design)
Altri credits

Matteo Barbeni (VFX Director, 2D - 3D Compositing); Beatriz Bagulho (Illustrations); Carlo Cagnasso, Gabriele Pastè, Fabrizio Bonaga, Fabrizio Rumore (2D - 3 D Compositing); Enrico Aleotti (Editing, Drone Operator); Anna Forlati (Illustration Workshop and Final Portratis); Davide Santilli (Color Correction); Marco Marasciuolo, Sara Limonta, Elisabeth Armand (Sound Recordist); Cristina Ugo (Scenic Design); Arianna Grasso (Graphic Project)

Executive production
Margot Mecca
con il sostegno di Film Commission Torino Piemonte - Short Film Fund - dicembre 2020
Assistente di produzione
Marysaba Mennuti
Last update: 01 June 2022