The first thought is “nothing happened to me,” the second is “turn on the camera.”
By Francesca Rizzo
Emanuela Bonchino and Francesca Gernini report on the emotions of a difficult profession, carried out while the earth trembles underfoot
“Sometimes it happens that in the ‘this side of our well-established well-being’ destruction arrives, that the event comes that makes you feel as if you are at war, and you have to try to tell about it”: thus begins, quoting Lucia Goracci, Emanuela Bonchino, journalist, who for Rai News 24 reported on the earthquake that almost a year ago deeply marked Central Italy.
At the Forum of Women Journalists of the Mediterranean, Emanuela Bonchino is present along with one of her fellow travelers, cinematographer Francesca Gernini, still one of the few women in Italy in that profession. The two met for the first time near Arquata del Tronto, in one of the areas hit hardest by the earthquake, where they made a report. Their words brought back to the Forum a crucial aspect of what it means to work in the field of information: having to reach areas from which many people flee, sometimes putting one’s life on the line to do one’s job. In those moments, “the priority was to tell the drama of what had just happened,” Gernini argues, moving, even with some recklessness, among the collapsed houses, in unsafe spots, to return the gravity of the situation, “the power of nature.” Of course, it is one thing to work in the marked places when the ground is still, after the earthquake, and another to be caught off guard. When one of the strongest quakes came, the one that destroyed much of Norcia’s buildings, Bonchino and Gernini were working. How do you report an unexpected event like an earthquake live? But even before that: how do you react to a live earthquake? As difficult as it may be, “The show must go on,” as Queen would say. “You don’t even have time to organize, at which point you start telling what you see,” Bonchino says. The only way to carry out one’s job with lucidity is to split oneself, to let the panic flow: “The camera in this helps,” says Gernini, “because the moment you turn it on (…) you are no longer an earthquake victim among the earthquake victims, but you are a professional who in that moment, through your own eyes, makes choices.
Beyond the contingent event to be recounted, a choice regarding the camera is at the heart of Francesca Gernini’s working life, who for many years has paid the price for following a strenuous, man-made path. “When I started this job,” Gernini explains, “twenty-five years ago, even more, there were really few of us (…), then when I joined RAI, even there the company was a bit protective, they made me work in the studio. But her dream was something else: to make her way into a closed environment and work outside, just like her male colleagues. It was not easy to realize that dream, to wait for the auspicious opportunity to carve out one’s place in the industry, but tenacity paid off. In 2005, Gernini participated in the making of a report on the Islamic Women’s Olympics in Iran, one of those rare circumstances in which the roles are reversed and it is the men who are banned, even if they have a camera on their shoulder. The report, which has won numerous international awards, represents a very important personal recognition for Francesca Gernini, a reminder to all women, “You have to struggle to be able to do certain jobs, but then, once the opportunity presents itself perhaps we have a greater charge because we have prepared for the event.”