Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Four Italian Films in the Lineup of Canada's Hot Docs 2018

UPDATE 5 MAY 2018 - ITALY WINS TWO PRIZES AT HOT DOCS:

Special Jury Prize – International Feature Documentary to WIND OF SWABIA by Corrado Punzi

Best Mid-Length Documentary Award to THE CALL (LA CONVOCAZIONE) by Enrico Maisto




The four Italian titles to make the lineup are...

THE CALL (LA CONVOCAZIONE) by Enrico Maisto: World Showcase
Watch the trailer..


HAPPY WINTER by Giovanni Totaro: World Showcase
Watch the trailer..


THE STRANGE SOUND OF HAPPINESS by Diego Pascal Panarello: The Changing Face of Europe
Watch the trailer: 


WIND OF SWABIA by Corrado Punzi: International Spectrum
Click here to watch the trailer. 

The festival will be held in Toronto April 26 - May 6. Click here for more information.

Friday, March 9, 2018

Trailblazer Liliana Cavani and her Direction of Charlotte Rampling, Helena Bonham Carter and Mickey Rourke in Unforgettable Performances

Born in 1933 in Carpi near Modena, located in the northern region of Emilia-Romagna, Liliana Cavani forged a name for herself along with her male counterparts Bernardo Bertolucci, Pier Paolo Pasolini and Marco Bellocchio from the region that exploded onto the filmmaking scene in the 1970s.

Raised in a household that embraced the arts, Cavani grew up with her artitect father taking her to art museums and going to the movies with her mother, a film aficionado. She originally studied literature and philology at Bologna University in 1960, but a year later, decided to head south to Rome to study filmmaking at the renowned Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia. Success came right away. Before her studies were finished, Cavani was noticed by executives at RAI television and was hired there as the director of historical documentaries. Shortly thereafter, she began making documentaries for the network.

Cavani rose to international prominence with her 1974 feature Il portiere di notte (The Night Porter). Her style is fierce and she does not hold back from showing the hard, honest reality of life. Her movies are not for the faint of heart. She’s worked with actors like Charlotte Rampling, Helena Bonham Carter and Mickey Rourke when they were in the early years of their careers. The depth of emotion she provokes from her actors is exceptional and deeply moving. The classical music, lush, exquisite sets and rich cinematography create visual symphonies. In fact, the music in her films is influential in the story, almost like separate a protagonist.

Her 1974 breakout film, The Night Porter is a heavy, dramatic story about a concentration camp survivor who comes face to face with her former abuser and lover after many years. When Lucia, played by Charlotte Rampling checks in to a Vienna hotel with her classical musician husband, she and Max, the night porter, played by British actor Dirk Bogarde, recognize each other right away. Lucia spends a sleepless night haunted by her flashbacks of life in the camp. She tells her husband to finish his European tour without her and stays behind at the hotel. When Max confronts her, paranoid that she has searched him out to turn him into the police for war crimes, the two have a passionate confrontation and realize they love each other. What follows is the pain and pleasure of a tortured, doomed love. Cavani’s balance of tenderness, violence, death and darkness is expressed through the extraordinary performances of her actors. The scenes in the concentration camps in particular show the natural human desire for the beautiful things in life like culture, music, dance and closeness but on the grey, corrupt and tragic set of the holocaust. Cavani’s camera moves smoothly in time with the classical music soundtrack, contrasting the extravagance of the Vienna hotel with the cold reality outside its doors as if the hotel is a sanctuary but once the couple leaves, they must fend for themselves.

Based on the novel Ripley's game by Patricia Highsmith, Calvani’s 2002 film by the same name stars John Malkovich as a vengeful former hitman who attempts to retire to a mansion in northern Italy. When he hears a neighbor insulting him, while at the same time, an old colleague is trying to bring him back from retirement, he orchestrates some serious payback. His neighbor who was once a hardworking family man gets dragged into an underworld of organized crime. This is another dark story but less of a drama and more of a suspenseful thriller. Malkovich is genius in his portrayal of a calm, cool, intellectual murderer with no conscience whose last so-called job is the one that finally gets to him. The film premiered out of competition at the 2002 Venice Film Festival.

Cavani’s 1989 Francesco starring Mickey Rourke and Helena Bonham Carter is the story of St. Francis of Assisi told from the point-of-view of his followers, which gives the film a documentary feel, reflecting Cavani’s beginnings at RAI. The film succeeds in showing key facets of the saint’s personality including his love for animals, his humility, his generosity as well as his initial inner battles with staying in the protected world of his father’s wealth vs. helping the desperately poor, a world that sometimes scared him. My only criticism is the one I also have for Gian Maria Volenté in Christ Stopped at Eboli and perhaps it's a bit superficial but it's something I noticed in both films. The 30-something Mickey Rourke may be too handsome to portray St. Francis. It’s almost distracting. I enjoyed his performance nonetheless.

Francesco wasn't the first time Cavani worked on a project about Saint Frances. In 1966, she directed a made-for-tv movie about the saint that aired on RAI. Starring Lou Castell, known for his role in Marco Bellocchio’s Fists in the Pockets, Cavani’s television version is described on the Internet Movie Database (IMDB) as “The life of Saint Francis of Assisi retold from the sixties political radical point of view.” It's interesting to note that RAI was also listed in the credits as one of the producers of the 1989 film version.

At 85-years-old, Cavani has another film in production. Death is for the Living is the story of Angela, an academic who studies death and its rituals. A series of copycat murders leads her to seek the assistance of a world-renowned medium.  

All the above films are available to stream online. The Night Porter is available through FilmStruck. Ripley's Game and Francesco are available through Amazon.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Strong Italian Presence in the 2018 Tribeca Lineup

The Man Who Stole Bansky
Some great contemporary Italian filmmakers are in this year's lineup of the Tribeca Film Festival including Laura Bispuri's Daughter of Mine, Susanna Nicchiarelli's Nico 1988 and Marco Proserpio's much anticipated The Man Who Stole Banksy. 

Marco Proserpio's documentary film begins with the Palestinian perspective on the internationally renowned street artist and soon turns into the discovery of an extensive secret market of works stolen from city streets around the world. The film explores the influence of cultures meeting and clashing in the face of unstable political situations and the ongoing debate of commercialization versus preservation in street art. The story is told through interviews with art dealers, restorers, copyright lawyers and street artists themselves. They all take a side, and this film gives unique access to all of them. Proserpio is not looking to express a specific opinion. The goal is simply to pose questions. If graffiti is by definition an ephemeral form of art, should it then be allowed to disappear as the artists intended?


Daughter of Mine
Daughter of Mine is the story of a 9-year-old girl torn between the loving mother who raised her and the biological mother who wants her back. Starring Alba Rohrwacher and Valeria Golino as the mothers, and newcomer Sara Casu, the film was shot in rural Sardinia, which has vast landscapes that contrast the film being set in the present. 

In an interview with Variety, Gregorio Paonessa of Vivo Film called the plot a “very contemporary theme.” He said the film is "totally in line with Laura’s journey as a director” explaining, "her films have always been meditations on the female condition. In the first one it was gender identity, now she is taking further a step and tackling the theme of maternity.” Bispuri has said that American writer A.M. Homes’s memoir The Mistress’s Daughter was her inspiration behind the film.

Nico 1988
Set between Paris, Prague, Nuremberg, Manchester, the Polish country side and the Roman seaside, the biopic movie starts in 1987 with Nico, 48, strung out on heroin but going on tour in Europe as a soloist with a new manager and getting off drugs as the tour progresses. She is with her son Ari, who she claimed was conceived with Alain Delon, though Delon denied paternity. Nico died in 1988 while on vacation with Ari on the Mediterranean island of Ibiza.

The 2018 Tribeca Film Festival runs April 18 — 29.  Click here for the complete lineup. For more information on the films and directors, visit FilmItalia.





Monday, March 5, 2018

Verona's Fondazione Aida Introducing Italian Maestros to a New Generation

Pasolini on the set of his 1961 film Accattone in the
Gordiani zone of Rome

To mark the 96th anniversary of Pier Paolo Pasolini's birth, we're revisiting our interview with members of Fondazione Aida, an organization bridging Italy with the world and educating new generations about the maestros of Italian cinema and beyond. 

Based in Verona, Italy, home of Romeo and Juliet, Fondazione at introduces the great Italian authors and illustrators to youngsters in a way that is both entertaining and informative. Aida`s hands-on approach directly involves children by bringing theatre productions right into schools. The members of Aida also reach beyond the borders of Italy and take their productions on the road.

Members of Aida participated in a New York City tribute to Pier Paolo Pasolini by bringing their production of Trash to the Big Apple. I sat down with Roberto Terribile, one of the foundation’s artistic directors and Cecilia Cinelli, the former head of international relations. They told me what Fondazione Aida is all about at how its homage to the great Pasolini keeps his spirit alive and his work relevant.

What is the mission of Fondazione Aida?
Our foundation is a professional theatre company for young audiences. It's been around for more than 20 years. Its mission is to promote, among the new generation, the classic writers and masters of Italy, to keep alive the importance of the masters' personalities and work. They weren't just filmmakers or poets, but intellectuals, complete artists.

Tell me about Trash.
Every year, we have at least five or six new productions. A performance of Trash was orginally performed in Italy a couple of years ago when we organized an exhibition dedicated to Pasolini. There was a theatre performance that was presented to university students but it was just with one actor. So this performance in New York is not only with English text, but there are two actors; Rhonda Moore, who is an American actress and Lorenzo Bassotto, an Italian actor and director. 

Where did the name, Trash, come from?
The performance is made up of several poems by Pasolini. The poems were written about the lives of young people living in the rough suburbs of the big cities. He had a very special eye for the most humble people. He compared those neighborhoods to trash because of the violence and poverty that was taking place. It wasn't just a chronicle that he made of society. His way was always poetic with his gentle eye towards these poor people. So this performance highlighted the way he expressed what he saw.

How do children find out about your foundation?
Our headquarters is in Verona. We are known for our weekly performances, which students attend and on Sunday afternoons. We have a special family day in which students come with their families. We organize workshops and we tour Italy, performing at schools, theatres and festivals. Our company has also toured Mexico and Guatemala, participating in the Festival International Cervantino. We travel all over the world and have done many productions in the United States with different authors and illustrators.

Is your foundation open to American children?
Yes, we are always looking for co-productions where we can work with American actors and dancers like we're doing with this Trash performance. So, we're very open to meeting people, meeting actors. 

Can you tell me about other interesting projects?
Well, we're working on many projects, but one of our most important is an exhibition on Gianni Rodari, a famous children's author in Italy. He's also very well known all over the world. He died in 1980. He just loved children and had a great relationship with them. He knew how to relate to them. The exhibition consists of videos of him interacting with children and a performance of one of his novels, Grammatica della Fantasia (The Fantasy of Grammar).  


For more information about Fondazione Aida, visit them online at www.fondazioneaida.it.

- Jeannine Guilyard

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