It is difficult to describe a disease without falling into rhetoric. But when the script is born from a true story everything takes a different turn and the emotions go straight to the heart. As happens watching ‘What will be’, the director’s autobiographical story Francesco Bruni former patient suffering from a form of leukemia, myelodysplasia. The film, which has toured the world participating in festivals in over 30 countries, also received two David di Donatello nominations.
The cinematic story
The film “What will be”, which was shot and mostly set in Livorno, tells the story of the disease in a light and original way. It is inspired by the experience of Bruni himself who experienced firsthand a path similar to that of the protagonist, between despair and hope. Bruno Salvati, played by Kim Rossi Stuart, he is an unsuccessful film director, recently separated from his wife Anna, with whom he has remained on good terms. Anna and Bruno have two children: Adele, a 20-year-old manager, and Tito, a teenager full of problems. After the analyzes carried out following a blow to the car door, Bruno discovers that he has a form of leukemia. His father, Umberto, since Tito and Adele are not suitable for hematopoietic stem cell transplantation, decides to reveal to him the existence of his half-sister. The director thus sets out on a journey, with his father and children, in search of a woman named Fiorella. The four manage to find Bruno’s half-sister, who initially proves reluctant to have her marrow removed, but later agrees to the donation.
As in his three previous films (Scialla! From 2011, Noi 4 from 2014, and Tutto che questo from 2017), the screenplay has an autobiographical basis, on which the fictional invention is superimposed. In fact, what really happened to the director Francesco Bruni is not very far from what is told in the film. “It went very similarly”, he says, speaking at the presentation of the first national census on myelodysplastic syndromes conducted by the Italian Association of Myelodysplastic Syndrome Patients (AIPaSIM) together with the Italian Myelodysplastic Syndromes Foundation (Fisim). “In 2017 I did blood tests and found out that I have very low platelets. So I went to a specialist who confirmed these results and referred me to the Gemelli Hospital in Rome where I was diagnosed with the disease. For me it was totally unexpected news ”.
Waiting for the transplant
Once the diagnosis is received, a long waiting period begins, which is difficult for a patient to accept. A stem cell transplant was needed and a donor was needed. “I was told that I had to wait for my condition to worsen because those months waiting for the transplant were months gained. Fortunately, I immediately found a donor, my brother and a year later in 2018 I was able to have the transplant ”.
Not the usual hero
One of the things that are appreciated most in the film is the fact that the protagonist is a normal person and not a hero as often happens: “I can’t stand the rhetoric of the warrior,” explains Bruni. “Everyone is struggling to survive. Those who do not make it should not be considered uncouth. For the film I chose a character who does the same job as me but with less luck and is a bit frustrated but through the disease he looks up from himself and finds out how many people he is close to. It is an event that finally distracts him from the true illness of his life which is egocentrism ”, continues Bruni.
The human experience
How did you experience the disease from a human point of view? “In the family environment everyone has squared off giving me their availability”, says the director. “My children were also ready to donate if my brother wasn’t compatible. In the sphere of friendships, however, something strange has happened: the landscape of relationships has completely changed. Faced with the disease, some people disappear only to come back when you are discharged saying they did not want to disturb ”, reflects the director. Disappointments, then? “Not really, I just realized that there is a lot of fear. There are so many people I didn’t usually hang out with and whom I underestimated. I got more warmth from them. Let’s say that the disease has redesigned the landscape of my social life ”.
Myelodysplastic syndromes are complex blood disorders, classified as rare diseases, which mainly affect people in old age and manifest themselves through anemia, decreased white blood cells and thrombocytopenia. They have an incidence of about 3,000 new cases per year, even if in some cases the patients do not receive a correct diagnostic classification and for this reason they do not start the therapeutic path in a timely manner. To date, stem cell transplantation is the only cure that can erase the disease in most cases, but only 4% of patients can access it. Was the transplant painful? “I was very worried because I imagined they would tear me apart,” replies Bruni. “In reality I was given an aspirated needle which is certainly not a walk in the park, but it can be done easily”.