Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Italian Selection of the 54th New York Film Festival Reflects Artistry of Yesterday and Today

The New York Film Festival announced its lineup this week and will offer a diverse Italian presence, which will include a contemporary documentary filmmaker, a female director and a restored classic.
Award-winning director Gianfranco Rosi will present his documentary, "Fire at Sea" (Fuocoammare). Winner of this year's Golden Bear at the Berlin Film Festival, this screening will mark Rosi's debut at the New York Film Festival, although he presented his 2014 "Sacro Gra" at the Film Society of Lincoln Center's annual series, Open Roads: New Italian Cinema. "Fire at Sea" is an observation of Europe’s migrant crisis from the vantage point of Lampedusa, a Mediterranean island where hundreds of thousands of refugees, fleeing war and poverty, have landed in recent decades. Rosi shows the harrowing work of rescue operations but devotes most of the film to the daily rhythms of Lampedusa, seen through the eyes of a doctor who treats casualties and performs autopsies, and a feisty but anxious pre-teen from a family of fishermen for whom it is simply a peripheral fact of life. The film shows an ongoing tragedy, which doesn't show any signs of ending. The films is scheduled to be released nationwide on October 21, 2016.

The Revivals section, which showcases masterpieces from renowned filmmakers whose works have been digitally remastered, restored,and preserved, will screen Gillo Pontecorvo’s epic film, "The Battle of Algiers". The film opened the NYFF in 1967 and will return this year to mark its 50th anniversary in a new 4K restoration. Legendary composer Ennio Morricone wrote the score, which sets the tone for the black-and-white cinematography and newsreel-effect footage. Pontecorvo’s account of the popular uprising that led to Algerian independence from the French took “documentary realism” to a new level, creating a structure in which the events themselves took center stage, cast the film almost entirely with non-actors, and filmed in grainy black-and-white to create a heightened “you are there” immediacy. Banned in France, embraced by the Black Panthers, and studied by the Pentagon following the 2003 invasion of Iraq, "The Battle of Algiers" is based on the book "Souvenirs de la bataille d’Alger" by Saadi Yacef (who also plays a character based on himself). The film was restored by Cineteca di Bologna and Istituto Luce – Cinecittà at L’Immagine Ritrovata laboratory, in collaboration with Surf Film, Casbah Entertainment Inc., and CultFilms.

Alice Rohrwacher
Earlier this year, the Film Society of Lincoln Center announced its 2016 artist in residence is the Tuscan native director Alice Rohrwacher. The "artist in residence" program was launched in 2013 by Jaeger-LeCoultre and the Film Society of Lincoln Center as an annual initiative designed to support filmmakers at an early stage in the creative process against the backdrop of New York City and the New York Film Festival. “I can’t imagine a better gift than to spend time in New York, take part in the events at the New York Film Festival, and to have the time to research in local archives and libraries for my next film,” said Rohrwacher upon being named. During her residency, Rohrwacher will continue to write her third feature, “My Bitter Land” about the adventures of a man living on the margins of his society who can seemingly travel through time.
Born in Florence in 1981 to an Italian mother and German Father, Alice Rohrwacher attended Torino University where she graduated with a degree in Classic Literature. Her first jobs after college included writing for theater and playing music. She entered the film industry as an editor of documentary films before directing her first feature, “Corpo Celeste” (Heavenly Body), the tale of a teenage girl painfully assimilating into the culture of southern Italy and the Roman Catholic Church. The film premiered in Cannes Film Festival’s Directors’ Fortnight in 2011, and was then selected for a number of international film festivals before being released in the United States.
Rohrwacher’s second feature, “Le meraviglie” (The Wonders) centers on a family of beekeepers living in isolation in the Tuscan countryside. She called on her own experience of growing up in two cultures with an Italian mother and German father. The film explores the challenges of a newly immigrated German family trying to succeed in Italy. The dynamic of their overcrowded household is disrupted by the arrival of a silently troubled teenage boy taken in as a farmhand while a reality TV show (featuring a host played by Monica Bellucci) is intent on profiling the family. Both intrusions capture the attention of the eldest daughter, Gelsomina, who is struggling to find her purpose in the world. Rohrwacher gracefully conveys her adolescent sense of curiosity and confusion. The film won the Grand Jury Prize at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival where it premiered and features her sister. Italian A-lister Alba Rohrwacher.
In 2015 she directed “De Djess,” a short film commissioned by Prada as part of its women’s-only label Miu Miu. The ninth installment of the “Miu Miu Women’s Tales,” the film was shown in the Venice Days section of the Venice Film Festival. Also starring her sister Alba, “De Djess” features a stunning designer dress with crystal beads, which practically comes alive with emotion. The dialogue is presented as a made-up language and pokes a bit of fun at the world of high fashion with its temperamental models and hysteric paparazzi. Watch "De Djess"..
The common trait that Alice Rohrwacher’s films have in common is their sense of fantasy. Perhaps it’s the atmospheric lighting or the long, complicated silences between her characters. Whatever the process, she consistently succeeds in achieving a surreal atmosphere and this is the trademark and signature style of her work. She also tends to tell stories from the point-of-view of innocence, whether it be a child or teenager. In accepting her awards and talking about her work, she comes across as humble and grateful for the success she has had. The Film Society of Lincoln Center Deputy Director Eugene Hernandez describes Rohrwacher as “a distinctive filmmaker with a warm, infectious spirit.” 

Alice Rohrwacher is currently working on directing her first opera, a new version of “La Traviata” for Teatri di Reggio Emilia that will open in November. The 2016 New York Film Festival will run September 30 – October 16 at Lincoln Center. Click here for the complete lineup.

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