Friday, September 30, 2016

The Official Lineup of the 2016 Rome Film Festival

Official Selecion: Opening Film

Moonlight, di Barry Jenkins

7 Minuti, di Michele Placido
7.19 A.m, di Jorge Michael Grau
The Accountant, di Gavin O’Connor
The Birth Of A Nation, di Nate Parker
La Caja Vacía, di Claudia Sainte-Luce
Denial, di Mick Jackson
The Eagle Huntress, di Otto Bell
La Fille De Brest, di Emanuelle Bercot
Al Final Del Tunel, di Rodrigo Grande
Florence Foster Jenkins, di Stephen Frears
Fritz Lang, di Gordian Maugg
Goldstone, di Ivan Sen
The Hollars, di John Krasinski
Into The Inferno, di Werner Herzog
Irréprochable, di Sébastien Marnier
Javdanegi, di Mehdi Fard Ghaderi
The Last Laugh, di Ferne Pearlstein
Lion, di Garth Davis
Manchester By The Sea, di Kenneth Lonergan
Maria per Roma, di Karen Di Porto
Medinat Hagamadim, di Yaniv Berman
La Mujer Del Animal, di Victor Gaviria
Pagai Iiwakw, di Miwa Nishikawa
Naples ’44, di Francesco Patierno
Noces, di Stephan Streker
Powidoki, di Andrzej Wajda
Richard Linklater: Dream Is Destiny, di Luois Black e Karen Bernstein
The Rolling Stones Olé Olé Olé!: A trip across Latin America, di Paul Dugdale
San Shao Ye De Jian 3D, di Tung-Shing Derek Yee
The Secret Scripture, di Jim Sheridan
Snowden, di Oliver Stone
Sole Cuore Amore, di Daniele Vicari
Todo Lo Demas, di Natalia Almada
Tramps, di Adam Leon
True Crimes, Alexandros Avranas
La Ultima Tarde, di Joel Calero
Una, di Benedict Andrews

Conversations
Busanhaeng, di Yeon Sang-ho
Genius, di Michael Grandage
Hell or High Water, di David Mackenzie
La Tortue Rouge, di Michael Dudok de Wit

Special Events
Ralph Fiennes, Juliette Binoche e Kristin Scott Thomas presentano Il Paziente Inglese
Michael Bublé presenta Michael Bublé - Tour Stop 148
Elio e le Storie Tese presentano Ritmo Sbilenco - Un filmino su Elio e le Storie Tese
Gilbert & George presentano The World of Gilbert & George, Hong Quan Yu Yong Chun

Meet the Filmmaker
Tom Hanks
Renzo Arbore
Bernardo Bertolucci
Lorenzo Jovanotti Cherubini
Paolo Conte
Don De Lillo
Gilbert & George
Daniel Libeskind
David Mamet
Viggo Mortensen
Oliver Stone
Meryl Streep
Andrzej Wajda

Retrospective
Politica americana
Tom Hanks
Valerio Zurlini

Tribute
Michael Cimino
Luigi Comencini
Gregory Peck
L’armata Brancaleone
Gillo Pontecorvo
Alberto Sordi
Gian Luigi Rondi
Fritz Lang
Citto Maselli
Dino Risi

Friday, September 23, 2016

Director Giovanni Veronesi Kicks Off a Cuba-Italy Partnership with "No Country for the Young"

Update January 23, 2017
"No Country for the Young" will make its U.S. premiere at the Los Angeles-Italia Film Festival on February 9.


"Now is the time when Cuba can become an important co-production partner” said Rome Lazio Film Commission head Luciano Sovena, who recently launched Italy’s top co-production fund between the two countries.

The first production of that partnership is Non è un paese per giovani (No Country for the Young). Directed by Giovanni Veronesi, the film features a great cast that includes Filippo Scicchitano, Giovanni Anzaldo, Sara Serraiocco, Sergio Rubini and Nino Frassica.

I was happy to find a very detailed description of the story in English:

Every year, five hundred thousand young people leave Italy and flee overseas. They call it “brain drain” but among the new emigrants there are a lot of ordinary young people seeking their fortune. Sandro and Luciano are two of them. Sandro, 24, comes from Rome and is curious about his future but he doesn’t have a clear idea yet. He graduated a while ago and he may want to become a writer. He still lives with his parents and works part-time On his first evening shift as a waiter he meets Luciano, who is a little older than him and always earned his living. He has an elegant way about him, but according to his colleagues, looks a bit gay and they can’t help mocking him. Sandro is curious about him instead. Luciano is enigmatic to him. They become good friends after lots of lifts on his moped at the end of the evening shift. Sandro learns about Luciano’s plan. To start up a new business in Italy is a hopeless dream for young people. Now there’s a place instead where everything seems possible. It’s at your fingertips: Cuba. While his friends scrape out a living in London and his girlfriend is ready to start her career in the Silicon Valley, Sandro decides to break up with her and set off for what it seems to be a real adventure together with Luciano. Thanks to Luciano’s ten thousand dollars and another ten thousand, which Sandro asked his father for as a kind of upfront inheritance, the two will be able to open a new restaurant: Cuba is their new aim now.


Upon their arrival in Cuba, they are warmly greeted by Nora, an Italian girl who runs the home where they will live. She has shaved head with a scar, but these is so much more underneath. She is beautiful, confused, incoherent when talking, straightforward and honest. Felipe, a 40-year-old man from Cuba, manages their deal and signs as a partner in the restaurant. In Cuba, foreigners can start a new business only with Cuban partners. As soon as Sandro and Luciano see the wooden shack on a wonderful beach they have already in mind the restaurant it will become. Sandro and Luciano celebrate the event with Nora, who leads them to Havana at night. They end up learning about the world of boxing matches in Havana where Cuban people and foreigners, seeking for strong emotions, face each other no holds barred. As euphoric and drunk Sandro jumps into the fray and risks life and limb. Luciano steps in and saves him showing unexpected physical strength and power. That event will change their lives. Sandro and Nora get closer and closer, whilst Luciano drifts apart. Sandro doesn’t understand what is happening to him as he is very busy with some problems at the hovel. Luciano seems losing more and more interest in the restaurant.

One night Sandro realizes his friend gets back home with injuries on his face. So he decides to follow him. The next day Sandro finds out that Luciano is still taking part into the fights. He likes them and feels good. Everyone calls him “Pavarotti”. He has become famous in that environment. And that’s not all. Luciano takes pills to bear the pain and admits getting them from his friend Nora. Sandro can’t believe it. When he argues with his girlfriend she confirms that. Sandro refuses to listen to reason. He doesn’t want to see them anymore and leaves. When he is about to leave Cuba, he decides to go to the shack. After all, that place is all he has. Sandro can’t sleep that night as he has too many worries. He decides to stay and start a new life on the island. And first of all he decides to start writing his novel. He wants to tell the story of Luciano Capriotti, alias Pavarotti. Sandro spends his days on the beach writing his book. But he soon learns of problems with his father back home, and before long, grave problems with his friend, Luciano, who ends up in the hospital fighting for his life.

The film is currently in post production and will surely feature a rocking soundtrack with Negramaro at the helm. We'll keep you posted when a release date becomes available.

#RomaFF11 - Early Confirmations for the 2016 Rome Film Festival

7 minuti by Michele Placido
The 11th edition of the Rome Film Festival aka Festival di Cinema will take place in the Eternal City from October 13 - 23.

The program “Close Encounters” will feature discussions with the following filmmakers: Academy Award winners Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep, actor Viggo Mortensen, film director and screenwriter David Mamet, novelist and playwright Don DeLillo, architect Daniel Libeskind and singer-songwriter Lorenzo Jovanotti Cherubini.

American cult filmmaker Oliver Stone will meet the audience and will discuss American politics on the eve of the presidential elections.

The Fest will also devote a tribute to American director, screenwriter and film producer Michael Cimino.

In guerra per amore by Pif

The first titles in the line -up:

Afterimage (Powidoki) by Polish director Andrzej Wajda

7 minuti by Italian director, screenwriter and actor Michele Placido

In guerra per amore, by Italian director and actor Pierfrancesco Diliberto (Pif), will be presented on October 12, as a “pre-opening” event, ahead of the Rome Film Fest opening.

Captain Fantastic by Matt Ross is the first title announced in a series of screenings presented jointly by the Rome Film Fest and the parallel and independent sidebar Alice nella città.
 
The program, #ACortodiCibo will feature three short films about world hunger. The first video that has been released is by Luca Ferrari, director of last year's documentary film, Showbiz. Watch Ferrari's video..  
 

The youth festival, Alice in Città, which runs parallel to the Fest released its program in a live tweet session today. Among the Italian titles is Acqua, Oceano e Cielo, a short film by Anna Foglietta, Thomas Trabacchi and Piera degli Espositi for the program Nature is Speaking.
 

2Night
In the Alice Panorama program: 2Night by Ivan Silvestrini, starring Matilde Gioli e Matteo Martari, is the story of two young strangers who meet at a nightclub in Rome. They are only interested in a one-night stand, but cannot find a place to park on a busy Saturday night. As they fall victim to the city's poor urban planning, the conversation deepens, revealing an intimacy that will force them to change their plan.
 
The jury of Alice in Città will be headed by American actor Matt Dillon and will consist of a number of Italian filmmakers: actress Anna Foglietta, director Gabriele Mainetti, director Claudio Giovannesi e screenwriters Giordano Meacci and Francesca Serafini. The full lineup can be found on Alice in Città's website.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Gianfranco Rosi's Fuocoammare (Fire at Sea) to be Released in America on October 21

Winner of the Golden Bear at the Berlin Film Festival, Gianfranco Rosi's documentary "Fire at Sea" is a startling document of the European migrant crisis seen through the eyes of 12-year-old Samuele, who lives on an island in the middle of the sea. He goes to school, loves shooting his slingshot and going hunting. He likes land games, even though everything around him speaks of the sea and the men, women and children who try to cross it to get to his island. But his is not an island like the others, its name is Lampedusa and it is the most symbolic border of Europe, crossed by thousands of migrants in the last 20 years in search of freedom. Watch the trailer..


The U.S. dates are as follows:

New York Film Festival New York NY October 7 - October 8, 2016
Chicago Film Festival October 22 and 25 - Click here to buy tickets
Lincoln Plaza Cinema New York NY October 21 - October 27, 2016
IFC Center New York NY October 21 - October 27, 2016
Laemmle Playhouse 7 Pasadena CA October 28 - November 3, 2016Ragtag Cinema Columbia MO October 20, 2016
Philadelphia Film Festival Philadelphia PA October 20 - October 30, 2016
Hamptons International Film Festival East Hampton NY October 9 - October 10, 2016
Oklahoma City Museum of Art Oklahoma City OK September 18 - September 20, 2016

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Midnight In Paris & Carla.. the Other Bruni Sister



Carla Bruni and Owen Wilson in a scene from Midnight in Paris
Tree-lined cobblestone streets, golden-baked baguettes, 13th century gothic architecture, outdoor cafes, the Pyramid of the Louvre, the grand Arch di Triumph... These are just a few of the images that open Woody Allen's Midnight in Paris. Fast forward a bit and there she is.. Carla Bruni and she is fabulous. You may know Bruni from her headlines as the First Lady of France and the sister of Italy's beloved actress/director Valeria Bruni Tedeschi, but Bruni is a talented artist in her own right, and that talent goes back decades. 

Born Carla Gilberta Bruni Tedeschi in Torino, she is heiress to the giant Italian tire manufacturing company CEAT, which was founded in the 1920's by her grandfather Virginio Bruni Tedeschi. In a 2008 interview with Vanity Fair, Bruni said that her biological father is Italian-born Brazilian grocery magnate Maurizio Remmert. He met Bruni's mother, Marisa Baroni at a concert when he was a 19-year-old classic guitarist and she, a classic pianist. Bruni was raised by her mother and Alberto Bruni Tedeschi, a classical music composer. 

The Bruni-Tedeschi sisters, along with their brother, Virginio, who passed away in 2006, grew up in France and attended boarding school in Switzerland. The family left Italy in the 70's to escape the kidnapping threat of children from wealthy Northern families by the Red Brigades. The notorious kidnappings were the subject of Gabriele Salvatores 2003 film, Io non ho paura (I'm Not Scared).  Upon completing boarding school, Bruni moved to Paris where she studied art and architecture, but ended up dropping out of school to pursue a career in modeling. Since then, she has enjoyed a successful career as a top international model and has also become a respected singer/songwriter and actress in the last decade, with her most high-profile performance in Allen's "Midnight in Paris" in which she plays the part of a tour guide. She is so natural in front of the camera, you would never know she was acting. Perhaps her background in Art History gave her the confidence to deliver her lines about a masterpiece of the French sculptor, François-Auguste-René Rodin. Bruni's scenes capture her classic, subtle Mediterranean beauty. Her role in this film utilizes her acting skills, art background and her French-Italian style. 

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Mary Magdelene Biopic to be Shot in the Sassi of Matera

Monica Bellucci as Mary Magdelene in "The Passion of the Christ" also filmed in Matera
The 2019 European Capital of Culture for 2019 will again serve as the set for a Hollywood biblical epic. Shooting is scheduled to begin in November for the story of Mary Magdalene. Filming will take place in the ancient Sassi district of Matera and will last for 6-8 weeks.

The project is still untitled, but has been described as a "biopic" about the story of Mary Magdalene, presenting "a human and authentic portrait of the most enigmatic figures in history."
The American production director Garth Davis will direct Rooney Mara in the role of Mary Magdalene. Joaquin Phoenix will play the part of Jesus. If you live in the region, a casting call has been announced for male and female children, aged between eight and 13 years with a dark complexion and Mediterranean features. They also welcome children of African and Central American descent. They ask that children must be thin, preferably with long, dark hair. For more information, contact the local Matera production company, Blu Video.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Documentary Filmmakers Tell the Story of Three Western Volunteer Fighters in "Our War"


The documentary film, Our War by Benedetta Argentieri, Bruno Chiaravalloti and Claudio Jampaglia premiered "Out of Competition" at the 73rd Venice Film Festival. An intense, fascinating story about three Western volunteer fighters for the YPG (People's Protection Unit) or the Kurdish Militia, the film takes us to the front lines of the war between the Kurds and ISIS.
 
Our War begins with narration from the perspective of a Kurd in the region of Rojava talking about the fight against the Islamic State and how this battle has not only destroyed his land but has also caused his people to be accused of terrorism. The people of this region just want to live in peace and have the same liberties and freedoms as everyone else. That is why they are continuing the fight in search of a "common solution".


Joshua Bell of the United States, Karim Franceschi of Italy and Rafael Kardari of Sweden open up about the reasons they volunteered to leave their safe homes for Kobane and join the Kurds in taking back their land. Actual footage of the fighting amidst the destruction and leveled structures of Kobane along with the recollections of these brave men, give us an idea of what they went through and why this war is so important to each of them. They talk about how they managed to survive, how the experienced changed them and what they are doing to bring awareness to the plight of the Kurds and the work being done by the YPG.
 
"You're not fucking Rambo." Joshua Bell talks about the problems with many volunteer foreign fighters and how they don't respect the culture. "They think they're just going to be handed a gun and told where the bad guys are." 
 
They each talk about experiencing the loss of comrades. Bell shares the story of finding out about the death of a woman he befriended with whom he talked at length about ideology and life. He was sad and shocked to hear about her death but knew that he had to move on and not let the loss change him and make him a "liability in the battlefield rather than an asset."
 
Although the images and subject matter are strong, there are also some light moments. In one scene, a fighter is pretending to call President Obama on the phone to thank him for the airstrikes. We also see each man at home living his daily life. We see Bell being interviewed by FOX News in New York about the experience. He also travels to Washington D.C. to hold the YPG flag in front of the White House and to bring attention to the militia.
 
Our War is a moving story of having the courage to stand up and fight for what you believe in. It offers insight into the heartbreaking images that we have been seeing- the children in particular that are the victims of a brutal war. The film is available on Festival Scope until September 15. I highly recommend it.

Documentary Filmmaker Gianni Minà presents "Pope Francis, Cuba and Fidel" in Toronto

Gianni Minà and Cristiano de Florentiis
Update February 2, 2017
It's recently been announced that documentary filmmaker Gianni Minà will receive an honorary Nastro d'Argento award for career achievement. Read the full story on Ansa Italian news.


The World Premiere of “Pope Francis, Cuba and Fidel,” directed by Gianni Minà and presented by ICFF and AMBI screened in Toronto in occasion of the TIFF, Toronto International Film Festival, was met with standing ovation and appreciation from Canadian critics.

ICFF Artistic Director Cristiano de Florentiis awarded Gianni Minà with the ICFF Award of Excellence for addressing themes of historical, economic, social and cultural development with insight, nuance, professionalism and personal commitment.


Minà’s documentary explores the recent story of Cuba and its undisputed leader, Fidel Castro, through the lens of last year’s visit of Pope Francis to the Caribbean island. Fidel appears onscreen at age 89, his body marked by his venerable age, but also by a consistently determined spirit; he emphasizes the value of the revolution that he began over sixty years ago in Cuba.

“Fidel Castro was the only one to lead both a revolution and a country, Cuba, which - despite the long suffering - has never known defeat,” said Minà at the conclusion of the Q&A to the audience.


The protagonists of Minà’s film are, in addition to Castro, Castro’s brother Raul, President Barack Obama, and many other witnesses of the long Cuban epopee. Above all, the inimitable figure of Pope Francis, considered one of the leading protagonists in the ‘thawing’ of diplomatic relations between Cuba and the United States, gives the film its title and lasting impact.

The screening of the documentary was presented jointly by the Italian Contemporary Film Fesitval (ICFF) and AMBI Pictures, founded by producers Andrea Iervolino and Lady Monika Bacardi. ICFF is an official partner of the TIFF Bell Lightbox.

AMBI is also currently present in the official selection of TIFF 2016 with the feature film In Dubious Battle, directed by James Franco, as well as the latest production from director Philippe Falardeau, The Bleeder. The documentary ‘Pope Francis, Cuba and Fidel’ is produced by GME Production and distributed by RAI.Com and AMBI Distribution.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Interview: Director Maria Sole Tognazzi

"I have an innate passion for human relationships, and how people manifest emotions, reactions and feelings."  Those words come from Italian filmmaker, Maria Sole Tognazzi. Born in 1971, she grew up surrounded by cinema. She is the daughter of legendary comedy actor, Ugo Tognazzi, one of the most prominent characters of the "Commedia all'Italiana".  Maria Sole is the youngest of four children and took a different path than her siblings. Unlike her brothers, Gianmarco, Ricky and Thomas, all successful actors, Maria prefers to stay behind the camera. 

She started her career by working as an assistant director and made a series of video clips and a short film, Non finisce qui. Her follow up to that film, C'ero anch'io, set the foundation for her first feature-length film, the ensemble comedy, Passato prossimo. The all-star cast includes her brother, Gianmarco along with Paola Cortellesi, Valentina Cervi, Pierfrancesco Favino and Claudio Santamaria.

In 2008, she worked with Favino once again on the romance-drama, L'uomo che ama (The Man Who Loves), which shows love and loss from the point of view of a man. The man was being left and dealing with heartbreak, when so often we see the woman in this role. The film opened the 2008 Rome Film Festival and also opened to rave reviews in New York City at Lincoln Center's annual Italian film series, Open Roads: New Italian Cinema.  In 2010, her documentary Ritratto di mio padre (Portrait of My Father) also premiered at the Rome Film Festival. Among many unique elements, the documentary features home videos showing young siblings interacting with their beloved patriarch. The title is appropriate as Tognazzi really does present a beautiful, loving portrait of her father. Click here to watch the trailer for Ritratto di mio padre

  
Tognazzi latest film, Io e lei (American title- My, Myself and Her) is the story of two women in a relationship together, a relationship that is tumultuous at times and carefree at others. Margherita Buy and Sabrina Ferilli portray lovers, Federica and Marina in a way that puts love first and the fact that it's a same-sex relationship, second. When the film was released in Italy last ear, the two actresses made the rounds all over Italian television answering questions relating to gay and lesbian relationships. But when I saw the film, that element was clearly secondary to the love and affection the two feel for each other. Perhaps Ferilli's description in an interview with Italian media best sums it-  "a story about sentimentality rather than homosexuality." 

Maria Sole Tognazzi, Margherita Buy and Sabrina Ferilli at the Rome premere of Io e lei
Federica and Marina experience the myriad of emotions anyone feels while in a relationship and after it's over. Although they are happy together, they face the same challenges and obstacles that everyone faces whether they are heterosexual or homosexual: insecurity, fear of abandonment and envy.

Although the film is being called a comedy, I really didn't feel like I was watching a comedy. I felt sadness for the characters- sadness for Buy's character trying to overcome her shame of being in a relationship with a woman, as it was her first time, and sadness for Ferilli's character in dealing with the consequences of that shame. The film seemed more like a drama with comedy relief because while the characters were riding a rollercoaster of emotions, the writers definitely managed to slip in some hilarious moments, taking full advantage of actor Ennio Fantastichini's limitless talent for comedy.

Tognazzi was recently in New York to presenting her film at Lincoln Center. We had a great conversation about her extraordinary childhood and about Italian cinema in general. We talked about its evolution from the 70's to what it has become today, and how the role of women in film has also evolved in Italy.

Tell me about your childhood and being surrounded by Italian cinema.
I am the youngest of four children. I have three older brothers. All three knew at a very young age they wanted to work in cinema. Ricky began as an assistant director and became a director and actor. My brother Thomas, who is from Norway, became a producer and also an actor. My brother Gianmarco always wanted to be an actor. He began when he was just 5-years-old. That’s why, being the youngest, I decided in the very beginning that I didn’t want to be involved in the industry. But.. there is a but. I grew up in a home where we just talked about cinema. I grew up in the country. There were always great directors coming over to visit.. like Pier Paolo Pasolini, Marco Ferreri, Mario Monicelli, Ettore Scola and Pietro Germi.. and also the great actors of that generation like Vittorio Gassman and Marcello Mastroianni. There was a great collaboration. Great films came out of dinners with everyone together. So I lived and breathed cinema since I was little.

So why did you decide to direct rather than act?
For one thing, I am shy and I don’t like to be in front of the camera. Even when I was 6-years-old at birthday parties, I didn’t want to be in pictures. I would always be behind the camera. So I knew from the beginning that if I ended up working in cinema, I would not be in front of the camera. I never had the desire to be an actress. All my brothers became actors perhaps because they wanted to emulate our father. It’s natural for a boy to want to be like his father. I began working in cinema after the death of my father.
La Grande Bouffe 
Speaking to your father’s amazing generation of cinema, how do you feel Italian cinema has evolved to what it is today?
We’re talking more than 50 years of the history of cinema. But we’re not just talking about the history of cinema because cinema also represents the history of a country. It captures the historical period of a society. For example, in the 70’s, cinema in Italy was free. There was an incredible freedom. For example, Marco Ferreri’s La Grande Bouffe would be very difficult to make today. That decade was very important for Italian cinema. It was marked by an incredible sense of anarchy and freedom. In the 80’s, everything changed. And then in the late 90’s, there was a rebirth of Italian cinema. It goes hand in hand with society. As the country is developing, cinema tends to represent it. So whether there’s freedom or not, cinema represents what’s happening at the moment. For example, in the last few years, with the exceptions of Paolo Sorrentino, Matteo Garrone and Luca Guadagnino along with other directors famous in America, Italian cinema is more conformist and that’s an issue because it tends to adapt to what the market wants instead of what the audience wants to see.
What is the situation for women filmmakers in Italy, directors in particular?
We are definitely smaller in number than our male counterparts but things are changing. There is a new generation of female filmmakers and they are great. Talented female directors like Alice Rorhwacher and Laura Bispuri are bringing hope that there is more room for women. Cinema is still dominated by men not only in the role of director but also in acting roles. Men have the more important roles and women used to be just the wife or a supporting character. But now, there are more roles and better roles for women.
Five Star Life
What do you want to say with your films?
I want to talk about women that I’ve actually met in my life but that I haven’t seen portrayed in Italian cinema- women that are free to choose how they want to live their lives. I did this in my last films, Five Star Life and Io e Lei. They are films in which I talk about women who are free. In the first case, about a single woman who is happy to be single. It’s her choice. In the second case, a woman who was married and has a son but then falls in love with another woman. I talk about women who have had very little representation on screen but they exist. I search to show them very true and realistic without creating caricatures. I want to shoe the reality of these women who are strong, independent and self-sufficient. They are new women that are not attached to the old stereotypes.

Most of Maria Sole Tognazzi's films are available through Amazon. Five Star Life is also available through Netflix.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Federica Di Giacomo's "Liberami" Wins Best Film in the Orizzonti Section of the Venice Film Festival

Federica Di Giacomo's film Liberami takes home the Golden Lion in the "Orizzonti" section of the 73rd Venice Film Festival.

Liberami is a story about the practice of exorcism. The contrasts between ancient traditions and modern habits meet in this powerful documentary. It has been described as "disturbing and hilarious at the same time". Although, I found it to be more disturbing than hilarious because there is great suffering by people desperately searching for answers. However, there are some much-needed moments of comedy relief. It's a film that makes you think and assess your own beliefs and spirituality.

Every year, in Italy, and throughout the world for that matter, more and more people feel possessed by the devil. The Catholic Church responds to this phenomenon by training more exorcist priests. The veteran Father Cataldo is one of them. The film's focus is on four characters- Gloria, Enrico, Anna and Giulia, who follow Father Cataldo’s mass and look for answers and a cure for their inner demons.

Director Federica Di Giacomo doesn't waste any time presenting the terror of an exorcism. The film opens with a woman sitting on a chair in a chapel as Father Cataldo anoints her with holy water. He then puts his hand on her head and prays. The woman immediately begins to scream obscenities in the voice of Satan. "Leave me alone. She's mine now. Leave me alone."

Father Cataldo visits a church in Palermo. There is a long line of people waiting to see him. Many are turned away and will have to wait until tomorrow. When the faithful get their chance to speak with him, they talk to him like he's a psychologist rather than a priest. They blame their misfortunes and bad luck on Satan. In some cases, Father agrees. In one case of a depressed housewife, he tells her that her problem is more likely psychological than spiritual. He asks one man who is convinced his bad luck is spiritual, "Did you try to live in the grace of God at least when you could?" The man replies, "I try, Father, but it's hard."

Later, the priest sees a woman with a nagging cough. Father Cataldo sits with her and her family. The woman is clearly uneasy and fidgeting. As he starts to pray with them, she visibly becomes more uneasy. As he puts his hand on her head, she begins to lose control. The family members gather around her and try to help keep her still. She falls to the floor and he anoints her with holy water. She weeps, they all say a Hail Mary and she seems to be healed.

Father Cataldo then holds a public mass for all of these people and during his message to Satan to leave them alone, a boy begins to have outbursts and then it's as if the priest is speaking directly to him. "Go away Satan." And the boy screams uncontrollably. Father Cataldo responds, "Be quiet. It's God ordering you to leave." The yelling continues. "Get the cross," says Father. A cross is then held over him while Father Cataldo continues to drive the devil away. Then it happens to others and some are forced to retreat to a designated room where they are all trying to recover and regain control. At times, it's tough to watch. Whatever the cause of these people losing control, they are undoubtedly suffering very much.

The director Federica Di Giacomo said of her film: "The film is the result of a lengthy research. A strange, postmodern puzzle had begun to form in my mind, one in which the exorcist is a new healer, often considered the last resort after a Via Crucis of magicians, psychiatrists, and alternative medicine, metaphor for a society in which it is important to find a rapid and conclusive cure. Even at the cost of giving yourself over to someone who calls you “Satan.” I decided to tell this story from the viewpoint of someone who experiences it every day. Because exorcists are nominated by bishops and their life is completely transformed. The so-called “possessed” are just ordinary people drawn to the Church in a critical moment of their life. Their experience vastly differs from imagined horror and takes on a complexity in which there is a place even for irony."

Liberami is available through Festival Scope. It's a tough film to watch due to the subject matter but that only gives testament to the talent of the director, Federica Di Giacomo. She made a complex, original film. Congratulations to her on a much-deserved award.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Venice Film Festival - Festival Scope Reviews

Thanks to a great online platform, those of us unable to attend the Venice Film Festival, and many other festivals for that matter, can still see highlights from the official selections. Festival Scope makes a number of films temporarily available to the public. There are five Italian world premiere films from this year’s edition of the Venice Film Festival online right now. All but one are available today. Our War by Bruno Chiaravalloti, Claudio Jampaglia and Benedetta Argentieri will become available on September 9.

Here are my reviews of the four Italian films currently available.

Franca: Chaos and Creation
Directed by Francesco Carrozzini


Franca: Chaos and Creation is the story of Vogue Italy’s Editor-in-chief, Franca Sozzani. Directed by her son, the film takes us through her life as a child to her reign as head of Vogue Italia, exploring her talent for finding innovative photographers to whom she completely hands her trust in creating epic, unforgettable photo spreads. 


Born in 1950 in Mantua, the capital of Lombardy and Italy’s 2016 Capital of Culture, Sozzani has been referred to as “Fashion’s rebel with a cause”. Her socially relevant-themed photo shoots have explored everything from the BP oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico to racism to plastic surgery. Her strong images put models right in the middle of controversial subjects, making Vogue Italy one of the most read publications in the world. According to Sozzani, "Italian is only spoken in Italy, so our images have to be very strong to attract attention."

Franca: Chaos and Creation shows a side of the fashion icon that we rarely see. The film begins with her walking through Central Park with her son, while he explains his reasoning behind making the documentary, primarily to get to know his mother. There are scenes with the two of them bickering and others when she teases him about his baby pictures, saying that she was worried for him as a child because he was an ugly baby and she had hoped his looks would improve as he got older. We see photos from her first marriage, while she explains that she saw it as her ticket out of her parent’s house. She had the marriage annulled a few months later. She says that she doesn’t feel nostalgia. She just looks forward to the future. She feels like a winner in life but a failure in love. At 60-years-old, she still hasn’t given up on finding that special person. 


I have followed Sozzani on social media for many years and I am always fascinated by her timeless beauty and point-of-view. As we see in the film, she is still stunning with her signature long blond locks and huge blue eyes. Her vision never gets old and her will to live and create is as alive as ever.

Il più grande sogno mai sognato (I was a Dreamer)
Directed by Michele Vannucci


If you plan on seeing this movie, don’t read this review. The best way to see it is as I did, knowing nothing and then having your mind blown at the end with the copy that comes up. 

With that said, my mind was blown several times over again after I first realized this neighborhood, La Rustica, actually exists in Rome. Then, I read that the film was inspired by the true story of the lead actor Mirko Frezza. I was surprised again when I learned that La Rustica is located just about 10 minutes away from Cinecittà, not out in the sticks somewhere.


Il più grande sogno mai sognato is the story of Mirko, an ex-con who wants to turn his life around. He grew up surrounded by drugs and crime with a father (Vittorio Viviani) who made his son an accomplice. There is a heart-wrenching scene in which Mirko pleads with his father to leave him alone and let him better himself. He says to his father, “Not one time have you ever said, good job.” His father insists that he will not be able to change- “A leopard never loses his spots.” However, in the end, it is his father who saves him from the brink of despair. The ending gave me the chills and then when I realized the film is based on a true story, it was that much more poignant.


Vannucci gave us some pretty intense moments, using long-held shots to build suspense. There were also some more light-hearted scenes, which gave us the feeling that trouble was just around the corner, and in most cases, it was. All in all, the film is a feel-good story of this ex-con with a big heart trying to feed his community and improve their standard of life. Although there is conflict and temptation from other criminals and drug dealers, Mirko has a strong support system in his loving partner (Milena Mancini), stubborn but caring daughter (Ginevra De Carolis) and faithful friend played by Alessandro Borghi, who reinvents himself again for another incredible, passionate performance. 


Upon researching the story behind this film, I read an interesting story by Cineuropa, which stated the director Michele Vannucci met the lead actor Mirko Frezza in 2012 while he was holding casting sessions for his short film, which was a graduation project at Rome’s Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia. According to the article, Vanucci never forgot “the striking 40-year-old man, with his awe-inspiring physique, long hair, hipster beard, tribal tattoos and piercing eyes. He learned that he had a story to tell – his own.”



Orecchie (Ears)
Alessandro Aronadio 

Orecchie is about acceptance, learning to accept that which is different. Orecchie is a day in the life of a 30-something unnamed character who wakes up one morning with an irritating ringing in his ear. He finds a note on the fridge left by his girlfriend stating that his friend Luigi is dead and that the funeral will be held at 7pm. The problem is that he doesn’t remember having a friend named Luigi. So he spends most of the day trying to resolve the ringing in his ears and finding out how he knows this Luigi.


Since the lead character doesn’t have a name in the film, I will italicize my references to him. This adventure is filled with a whole host of zany characters, including a gastroenterologist, played hilariously by Massimo Wertmuller, who makes him believe that he’s a pregnant hermaphrodite, a mother obsessed with selfies and her new performance artist boyfriend, an anal retentive fast food worker and a dignified newspaper editor who wants to turn her publication into a gossip magazine.  


You have to have patience with this film. It gets off to a slow start and you may not know where it’s leading to. But stay with it. My ah-ah moment of the film happened with the following conversation from which I pulled a few of my favorite lines.. 

“I had my opportunities but I didn’t want to compromise”

“People tend to confuse compromise with acceptance”

“Acceptance is surrender”

“I suppose you think the world is going crazy.”

“That’s obviously the case, isn’t it?”

“People seem as strange to us as we probably seem to them.”

With this conversation, I understood more about the character and that he would be undergoing some kind of transformation.

The whole film comes together with the ending when he attends the funeral mass of this supposed friend Luigi. There, he meets Father Giancarlo, a wise priest and ambiguous alcoholic, who reveals that he mis-dialed the phone number. So, Luigi really wasn’t his friend. This is when his transformation is completed, and this is also where we see some simple but powerful screenwriting. Father Giancarlo tells him about his conversation with Luigi that took place on his deathbed.  

 “His biggest sin was that he hadn’t been able to get used to it.”

“To what?”

“To the world, to people. We look for a thousand excuses to avoid admitting that we’re afraid of others. Life is too short to be afraid."


The first 45 minutes of this film was slow. However, in the end, although I appreciate the message, it really is a fine line. It is true that we need to be tolerant of other cultures and ways of thinking but we cannot accept everything, including much of the inappropriate behavior we saw by characters throughout the film or his mother taking selfies in a church in front of a casket. The challenge is finding the balance on your own moral compass, and not judging others for their behavior.. but instead being more tolerant of it.
 

Liberami (Free me)
Directed by Federica Di Giacomo 

Liberami is a story about the practice of exorcism. The contrasts between ancient traditions and modern habits, between sacred and profane, meet in this documentary. It has been described as "disturbing and hilarious at the same time". Although, I find it more disturbing. It's a film that makes you think and assess your own beliefs and spirituality.

Every year, in Italy, in Europe and in the world, more and more people affirm to feel possessed by Satan. The Catholic Church responds to this emergency by training more exorcist priests. The veteran Father Cataldo is one of them. The film's focus is on four characters- Gloria, Enrico, Anna and Giulia, who follow Father Cataldo’s mass and look for answers and a cure to their disease.

Director Federica Di Giacamo doesn't waste any time presenting the terror of an exorcism. The film opens with a woman sitting on a chair in a chapel as Father Cataldo anoints her with holy water. He then puts his hand on her head and prays. The woman immediately begins to scream obscenities in the voice of Satan. "Leave me alone. She's mine now. Leave me alone."

Father Cataldo visits a church in Palermo. There is a long line of people waiting to see him. Many are turned away. When the faithful get their chance to speak with him, they talk to him like he's a psychologist rather than a priest. They blame their misfortunes and bad luck on Satan. In some cases, Father agrees. In one case of a depressed housewife, he tells her that her problem is more likely psychological than spiritual. He asks one man who is convinced his bad luck is spiritual, "Did you try to live in the grace of God at least when you could?". The man replies, "I try, Father, but it's hard.

Then, the priest sees a woman with a nagging cough. Father Cataldo sits with her and her family. The woman is clearly uneasy and fidgeting. As he starts to pray with them, she visibly becomes more uneasy. As he puts his hand on her head, she begins to lose control. The family members gather around her and try to help keep her still. She falls to the floor and he anoints her with holy water. She weeps, they all say a Hail Mary and she seems to be healed.

Father Cataldo then holds a public mass for all of these people and during his message to Satan to leave them alone, a boy begins to have outbursts and then it's as if the priest is speaking directly to him. "Go away Satan." And the boy screams uncontrollably. Father Cataldo responds, "Be quiet. It's God ordering you to leave." The yelling continues. "Get the cross," says Father. A cross is then held over him while Father Cataldo continues to drive the devil away. Then it happens to others and some are forced to retreat to a designating room where they are all trying to recover and regain control. At times, it's tough to watch. Whatever the cause of these people losing control, they are undoubtedly suffering very much.

The director Federica Di Giacomo said of her film: "The film is the result of a lengthy research. A strange, postmodern puzzle had begun to form in my mind, one in which the exorcist is a new healer, often considered the last resort after a Via Crucis of magicians, psychiatrists, and alternative medicine, metaphor for a society in which it is important to find a rapid and conclusive cure. Even at the cost of giving yourself over to someone who calls you “Satan.” I decided to tell this story from the viewpoint of someone who experiences it every day. Because exorcists are nominated by bishops and their life is completely transformed. The so-called “possessed” are just ordinary people drawn to the Church in a critical moment of their life. Their experience vastly differs from imagined horror and takes on a complexity in which there is a place even for irony."

Monday, September 5, 2016

Paolo Sorrentino to Explore the Life of Former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi in Next Film

Update April 2017

According to an article by Variety, the project, which had been postponed was just given the go-ahead with Toni Servillo to play the part of Former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi..

Oscar-winning director Paolo Sorrentino just launched the first two episodes of the 10-part series, The Young Pope at the 73rd Venice Film Festival. Now, he's announced that he's already writing his next project, which will be a feature film on Italy’s controversial former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, Sorrentino confirmed to The Hollywood Reporter.

Sorrentino enjoys the exploration of politics onscreen, as he did in The Young Pope and in earlier works including 2008's Il Divo, about the life of Giulio Andreotti, Italy’s leader of the Christian Democracy party and seven-time prime minister. In addition to sweeping Italy's David di Donatello awards, Il Divo won the jury prize in Cannes and was nominated for an Oscar for best achievement in makeup.

Berlusconi, who is turning 80 and recently recovered from a heart attack, has been quietly retreating from the public spotlight after selling off parts of his media empire as well as his beloved AC Milan team. After decades of scandals from tax evasion to the infamous Bunga Bunga parties, his party Forza Italia is now struggling to remain relevant in a changing Italy.

The new film will explore Berlusconi's world through the eyes of Sorrentino, without being a direct critique. It's interesting to note that Berlusconi’s company Medusa co-financed most of the director’s recent films, including the Oscar-winning The Great Beauty (2013).

Photo: Paolo Sorrentino at Lincoln Center, NYC 2005

Basilicata and Calabria join forces to form Lu.Ca

Calabria and Basilicata have entered into a partnership, which will change the landscape of filmmaking in southern Italy. Lu.Ca is a brand new “micro film commission” that was just launched at the 73rd Venice Film Festival. Named after Lucania (Basilicata) and Calabria, the new film commission will occupy the territory of the Pollino National Park, which is shared by the two regions.

The initiative, signed by the President of the Region of Calabria, Mario Oliverio and Francesco Pietrantuono, who will be replacing Basilicata’s current president Marcello Pittella, aims at supporting the economy of the territories and the growth of local businesses by attracting the world of cinema. Pino Citrigno, the president of the Calabria Film Commission along with Paride Leporace, director of the Lucania Film Commission will be working together to make sure that Lu.Ca. will engage both Italian and international film crews, thus having a positive impact on the regional economy. 


The region of Basilicata has seen a increase in film productions during the last few years, and European funding has recently brought in 56 companies, providing work for 600 people. The 2015 production of the high budget Hollywood film, "Ben Hur", required a €4 million investment, but produced an indirect impact equal to more than €7 million with 50% generated by accommodations and restaurants in Matera.


Claudio Santamaria discussing Lu.Ca. at the Venice Film Festival
The landscape along the neighboring regions is an incomparable natural setting, and has already been a set to so many masterpieces of cinema. Iconic filmmakers like Pier Paolo Pasolini and Francesco Rosi along with their contemporary counterparts, Gabriele Salvatores and Rocco Papaleo, have made unforgettable films in Basilicata. The first production of Lu.Ca. will take place right in the Pollino National Park, the largest protected area in Europe, and will be directed by the award-winning actor Claudio Santamaria, who is of Basilicata origin. A short film,“The Millionairs” will be produced by his longtime friend and colleague, Gabriele Mainetti, director of the award-winning, "They call me Jeeg Robot".

If you follow Italian Cinema Today, you know how much admiration we have for the filmmakers of Basilicata. Last year, we started a series, Basilicata: Terra di Cinema in which we profile young filmmakers of the region. Their knowledge, originality and creativity has catapulted their region to the forefront of film production in Italy. We only hope this new initiative will be in the best interest of those already contributing greatly to cinema being made there.

Below is a compilation of the filmmakers and movies we have profiled..

The Documentary Film "Matera 15/19"
Interview: Actor Walter Nicoletti of “Jesus VR - The Story of Christ”
Film Shot in Basilicata is Headed to the U.S.
Il Cinema di Basilicata al Lucania Film Festival
Short Films by Lucani Filmmakers take Center Stage at Cinemaratea
Interview: Executive Producer Nausicaa La Torre on joining "Flipo con la Basilicata"
The Documentary "Emilio Colombo. Memorie di un Presidente" to be presented in Potenza
A Big Week Ahead for Short Films Made in Lucania
"The Prince of Venusia" by Silvio Giordano to Premiere in Potenza
Basilicata protagonista della XIV edizione dell'Ischia Film festival: la kermesse cinematografica dedicata al cineturismo
Basilicata-protagonista-dellischia-film
Verdone, Sorrentino and Tognazzi in the lineup of Basilicata's Maratea Film Festival
Interview: David Cinnella, Producer of Indie Western to be shot in Basilicata
Interview: Cinematographer Michele D'Attanasio on "Veloce come il vento"
Documentary on the Family of Frances Ford Coppola getting International Attention
Basilicata: Terra di Cinema - Cinque Domande per Nicola Ragone
"The Young Messiah" in American Theaters March 11
Interview with Filmmaker Andrea Filardi
Interview: Director Massimo Gaudioso on his new film "Un paese quasi perfetto" - made in Basilicata
Filmmaker Vania Cauzillo presents her Documentary “La ricerca della forma, Il genio di Sergio Musmeci” in her hometown of Potenza
#Luogoideale is not your average Hashtag- It Represents a Culture steeped in History and Pride
To mark the Carnevale of Satriano in Lucania.. We revisit my interview with Filmmaker Michelangelo Frammartino   
The prodigious, natural talent of Basilicata-born visual artist Walter Molfese
Basilicata: Terra di Cinema - 2015 Year In Review

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