Composer Paolo Buonvino (‘Fatima’) on working with Andrea Bocelli and 16 children: ‘Can you imagine this like magic?’

By Tom O’Neil
February 6, 2021

Italian composer Paolo Buonvino competes in the Oscar music races (best score for “Fatima” on Netflix, best song for “Gratia Plena”) with at least one strong advantage: Andrea Bocelli giving a booming, bravura performance of the theme song. But he also took on a huge creative risk. Buonvino arranged the accompanying vocals for what could’ve turned out to be a sonic train wreck. The latter is performed by a chorus of children singing simultaneously in 16 different languages which, mysteriously, almost impossibly, harmonize into an inspirational listening experience.

“Can you imagine this like magic?” Buonvino asks in our chat with Gold Derby and translator Tommaso Cartia, the co-founder and editor in chief of Creative Pois-On, storytelling platform and multimedia production boutique representing Buonvino in the U.S. “This chaotic diversity on the surface, in truth, is so extraordinary to think that we can be all united in the beauty of our diversity. And so like our languages when they are close to each other. They’re so beautifully together. And that’s a strong message of union in the end, the beauty of all of that diversity that comes from the chaos and becomes like something that’s completely opposite to its harmony: its beauty.”

Inspiration and unity are such key themes of this film that retells the alleged tale of three Portuguese shepherd children who claimed to witness visions of the Virgin Mary. It was in 1917, during the height of World War I when everyone was in desperate search for divine intervention in a world gone mad. The incident sparked international attention while legions of religious devotees flocked to Fatima in hope of seeing the vision, too.

“You don’t have to be religious to appreciate the film,” asserts our contributing editor Rob Licuria. “It’s about purity of heart. And it’s what we need right now in this age that we’re living in.”

While teaming up with Bocelli, Buonvino had the opportunity to “to talk about the theme of the song for an entire day” before recording. “I was envisioning Andrea Bocelli as a sort of like big brother for the chorus of kids with this idea of ‘Gratia’ playing as a prayer that circles the world. We had the time to also go into the depths of spirituality. And it was, again, complicated in a way, but very simple because it was very organic. And also it was something for him that was a little bit different from the things that he usually does.”