Women in Monaco series: Lady Monika Bacardi

Lady Monika Bacardi has established herself as a major player in the world of film in a very short space of time. She co-founded AMBI Pictures in 2013, a company which has managed to produce eight to 10 quality movies a year featuring high-profile names. One of their recent films is award-nominated ‘Waiting for the Barbarians’ starring Johnny Depp, while a cartoon designed to educate kids about climate change is due out in November.

The businesswoman, film producer and philanthropist sat down with Monaco Life to talk about why she decided to enter the world of film, and how she uses the medium to send important life messages.

Monaco Life: What was your motivation behind entering the cinema industry?

Monika Bacardi: I have always been passionate about every form of art since I was a child and I entered cinema because I think it is a powerful instrument to send messages to the world. Also, cinema is about so many things: it is producing, the music, editing, publicity, the relationship with actors and actresses – it is the whole process. So, I think cinema is one of the most complex forms of art and I really love it.

Why did you decide to create AMBI Productions?

I founded AMBI in 2013 with Andrea Iervolino and our original goal was to make films in Italy with American actors. Then we opened a distribution company in Los Angeles, because of course distribution is fundamental. After this we acquired the Exclusive Media Group movie library (which owns the rights to properties including ‘Donnie Darko’ and ‘Memento’). So, it is an interesting experience. We just had a film premier at Venice, ‘Waiting for the Barbarians’, directed by Ciro Guerra and starring Johnny Depp.

I have to say that every film is a new story, a new life, and it is very powerful. On 1st November we are releasing our new cartoon called Artic Dogs in 3,500 cinemas in the USA. It is a very powerful educational film for children and adults, raising awareness about melting ice caps, climate change and the environment. We can not wait for action anymore, we must do something now or it will be too late.

How has Waiting for the Barbarians been received so far?

We were nominated in Venice but didn’t receive the award, though it was great to be nominated and it received very good reviews. It also features Robert Pattinson, Greta Scacchi and Mark Rylance, who gave an amazing performance, and is about a magistrate presiding over an unidentified colonial outpost in the middle of the dessert who begins to question his loyalty to the empire. The film is actually a story of peace, and we are now taking it to London as well as the Deauville and Zurich Film Festivals. We are also trying to run a campaign for the Oscars.

Tell us more about the cartoon that will be released in a few weeks’ time…

Artic Dogs features the voices of a number of Hollywood celebrities: Heidi Klum, James Franco, Alec Baldwin and John Cleese, and they all agreed to take part because of the message of the film, that the polar ice caps are melting and climate change is happening.

You have also produced The Music of Silence, a biopic about Italian singer Andrea Bocelli…

It was actually written by Andrea Bocelli, and he made a guest appearance in the film. It is a story about the fact that even if you have a handicap, like Bocelli – he can not see – you can still make something of your life. It is a film of hope and the message of life: if you want something bad enough you can achieve it.

We are here today to watch a screening of ‘Be natural: the untold story of Alice Guy-Blaché’. As a female in the male dominated film industry, what kind of challenges have you personally had to face?

In this industry, it is still a man’s world, especially in producing. So, it is very difficult for a woman to stand up and say “this is my place”, sometimes you have to fight for it. But women must stand together, not in competition with men, but they must join forces and work together. A woman has as much right as a man if she provides the same work, so I encourage all women to be strong and work towards their goals, and not be dismissed for their gender.

Do you encourage equal pay in your films?

We are trying to get more involved in this area, one of our next goals is to contribute in this process.

Do you see more of a crossover between your films and social movements in the future?

Yes, of course. Now, for example, we are encouraging young stars to take part in the ‘Giving Back’ campaign, which teaches you that when life gives you something you have to give back. We are also doing a film made only by women, from the writer to the director and the actresses. It is not because we want to fight men, it is because women need to stand up for their rights and demand that their work roles be accepted.

Where does cinema fit in to a world of Netflix and Amazon Prime?

With the growing popularity of these streaming sites, demand for cinema is weakening. So, you have to adapt to the times. A lot of teenagers like short films, so we are cutting movies down into series, as teenagers don’t have the attention spans like we did growing up. It is important to understand the movement of the time and to adapt. Young people are the future and we have to give them what they want, there is no point resisting it. So, if we have to cut a film into episodes (which I think is a pity), then we do it.

Lady Monika Bacardi with Andrea and Veronica Bocelli

What are your favourite films?

I don’t have only one favourite film or genre. It’s a mix, because every film is different and each film has a purpose to serve. It’s like in life, I like many different things and the same goes for film.

Philanthropy is a very important part of who you are, why is this such a large focus of your life?

I am a resident of Monaco and I think that many organisations in the Principality are doing a lot for the world. When I am giving to charities in Monaco, I point out that I support the Principality as a strong country which gives a lot of support to the world. So, yes, I am behind these charities and our Sovereign Prince who really does so much for his country, the environment, and the ocean; he gives his time to so many causes. And I always try to contribute in my little way.

Like Princess Grace said to Prince Albert: “I see the world not only with the eyes, but through the heart”. You have a completely different sensation when you look at the world through your heart. It will open doors.