Monday, March 18, 2019

The Mesmerizing Cinema of Ferzan Ozpetek

"Cinema is about the gaze, about where someone is looking. I love to make movies where a character is thinking the line but not speaking the line.”

One of Italy’s most prolific and visionary filmmakers, Ferzan Ozpetek, draws inspiration from situations in everyday life and adds his unique point-of-view to turn the ordinary into the extraordinary. 

Born in Turkey in 1959, Ozpetek moved to Rome two decades later to work in theater and assist various film directors.  In 1997, he made his directorial debut with the critically acclaimed Hamam Turkish Bath, which went on to win two Golden Globes for Best New Director and Best Soundtrack. Since then, Ozpetek has directed some of the most beautiful and profound films of contemporary Italian cinema. He calls upon his own life experiences when deciding on a film project. He then builds upon that experience with his writing partner and close friend of more than 30 years, Gianni Romoli. Together, they transform an idea into a masterpiece with the perfect combination of drama and comedy relief.

In an Ozpetek film, there is so much that remains unsaid but is revealed through the characters' eyes. "During the shooting of La Finestra di Fronte (Facing Windows), I told Giovanna Mezzogiorno several times, ‘Don't speak the line. Just think the line and gaze,’" recalled Ozpetek. Fifteen years later, the pair teamed up again for Napoli Velata (Naples in Veils), the story of a woman overwhelmed by sudden love and loss. Ozpetek created a crypic world of light and shadows showcased by cinematography that will endear you to its spell-binding natural set. Clearly infatuated with the city of Naples, Ozpetek’s eye for its streets, architecture and shore renders it one of the protagonists. Combined with the explosive dramatic performances of the film’s stars, Mezzogiorno and Alessandro Borghi, the film is a feast for the eyes and soul. And speaking of feasts, food is always a part of his films, and Naples in Veils is no different. Eccentric family and friends sitting around impeccably-made tables eating decadent food is a welcomed reoccurrence in any number of his films. 

Known to provoke emotionally-charged performances, another recent example is the 2014 Allacciate le cinture (Fasten Your Seatbelts). Starring the stunningly gorgeous Kasia Smutniak and Francesco Arca as Elena and Antonio, your quintessential archetype of opposites that attract, the two could not be any different and never mind that Antonio is engaged to Elena's best friend. Once again, Ozpetek manages to evoke extreme emotions such as bliss, fear, anger and guilt while capturing the rich backdrops and continuous playbook of life happening in the background. He brings contemporary issues into classic scenarios. 

Rewind to 2007 and his ensemble hit Saturno Contro (Saturn in Opposition). The film follows a group of contemporary 30- and 40- somethings as they struggle to come to grips with youthful dreams that didn't come true. Ambra Angiolini plays the role of Roberta, a girl-next-door type whose unyielding support, light-heartedness and loyalty endears her character to the audience. It is a subtle but memorable performance that gives testament to Ozpetek’s delicate way of motivating his actors to give life to his screenplay.

I talked with him while he was in New York last year presenting Naples in Veils at Lincoln Center’s Open Roads: New Italian Cinema. I asked him to give insight into this affinity he has with his cast. “I choose my actors without auditioning them. I choose them from instinct. Instinctively, I say this person can be perfect for the part and that’s it. Then I fall in love with them, but not in the sense of real love or in a sexual way. But in a way that I want the best for them, I want them to do well.” He went on to say, “My rapport with the actors is the best part of my cinema.”

Watch a clip from our interview..

Having been born into one culture and living in another, Ferzan Ozpetek combines the best of both worlds in terms of culture, traditions and relationships. People are people wherever you go. We have the same problems, concerns, fears and desires. Ozpetek’s films mirror life and the struggles people go through. He appreciates physical beauty but also the beauty and purity of an honest, vulnerable soul. His films are visual art and his actors are lucky to be in his hands.

Naples in Veils is still being shown at film festivals throughout the world. Hamam Turkish BathFacing WindowsFasten Your Seatbelts and Saturn in Opposition are available through Amazon. 

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Director Michela Occhipinti's 'Flesh Out' Makes the Lineup of the 2019 Tribeca Film Festival

One Italian is in the official line up of the 2019 Tribeca Film Festival, which was announced today. Flesh Out directed by Michela Occhipinti follows Verida, a modern girl. She works in a beauty salon, is addicted to social media and hangs out with her friends. Still, she is engaged to be married to a man chosen by her family, and like many girls her age, she is forced to gain a substantial amount of weight in a tradition called gavage, because in Mauritania having a voluptuous body is considered a sign of great beauty, charm, wealth and social status. The wedding is fast approaching and meal after meal Verida will end up challenging everything she always thought was normal, her loved ones, her life and even her own body.

Click here for the complete lineup. The Tribeca film festival runs April 24 - May 5.

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Emerging Filmmakers Nominated for the 10th Mario Verdone Award

If Life Gives You Lemons by Ciro D'Emilio
The nominees for the 10th Mario Verdone Prize in Lecce have been announced. The 12 films are:

Si muore tutti democristiani by Pietro Belfiore, Davide Bonacina, Andrea Fadenti, Andrea Mazzarella and Davide Rossi
In viaggio con Adele by Alessandro Capitani
If Life Gives You Lemons by Ciro D'Emilio
Boys Cry by Damiano and Fabio D'Innocenzo
Zen in the Ice Rift by Margherita Ferri
We’ll Be Young and Beautiful by Letizia Lamartire
Tonno spiaggiato by Matteo Martinez
That's Life by Francesca Mazzoleni
The End by Daniele Misischia
Look Up by Fulvio Risuleo
Nobili bugie by Antonio Pisu
The Armadillo's Prophecy by Emanuele Scaringi

The award will be presented at the 20th European Film Festival in Lecce, which will be held in the Pugliese city April 8 - 13, 2019. Click here to visit the website.

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

A New Documentary on the Life of Flavio Bucci

It premiered at the 2018 edition of the Rome Film Festival and will be shown next in Matera on February 28. The documentary film, Flavioh, is a labor of love by a group of filmmakers paying homage to one of their idols, Flavio Bucci.

Bucci rose to fame in the 1970s in cult classics like Dario Argento's Suspiria and the biographical film, Ligabue, in which he took on the title role as the eccentric painter Antonio Ligabue. Bucci acted steadily through the 80s and 90s in television and film, working on projects of all budgets, including contemporary blockbusters like Paolo Virzì's Caterina va in città and Paolo Sorrentino's Il Divo.

Flavioh was executive produced by Marco Caldoro and directed by the recently deceased Neapolitan filmmaker Riccardo Zinna. The film was Zinna's last project, and to watch him in scenes with Bucci is deeply moving. The film is essentially a road trip with stops in significant periods of Bucci's life and career. The adventure begins in Matera as shooting wraps up on The Gospel According to St. Matthews by Antonio Andrisani and Pascal Zullino. There are many tender moments throughout the journey and although the film is filled with nostalgia, Bucci and his cohorts contrast the sentimentality with humor and irony.

One poignant encounter is with veteran film producer Claudio Mancini, who worked on the films of Elio Petri and Sergio Leone's Once Upon a Time in America. The two old friends are so happy to see each other, the scene brought tears to my eyes.There is so much sincerity in this film and that is due to Bucci's genuine character, an acclaimed actor who never set out to enjoy the luxuries of fame. He only wanted to work and to immerse himself in the worlds of his characters.

I met the crew in Matera at the very beginning of filming back in 2015, so it was a joy to see the finished product. I spoke with Caldoro about the making of the film, his discoveries about Bucci and how their origins in the region of Molise led to the project.

Tell me about your adventure in making this documentary.
Flavio Bucci's paternal origins are in Casacalenda, a small town in the region of Molise. In 2014, the University of Molise approached me about organizing an event in which Bucci would receive a lifetime achievement award because he's always acknowledged his Molise roots and attributed much of his success as an actor to his origins there. The event served as an occasion for me to propose that he direct me in his play, "Diary of a Madman". Over the course of the production, he told me about his life that was dominated by alcohol and drugs, "the elephant at home" as he calls them. And he never stopped telling anecdotes of the great ones with whom he had worked: (Mario) Monicelli, (Elio) Petri, (Gian Maria) Volonté, (Ugo) Tognazzi, (Vittorio) Gassman, (Gigi) Proietti, (Nanni) Moretti, and others. 

Riccardo Zinna
How did you come to collaborate with Riccardo Zinna?
Riccardo came up with the idea of ​​telling the life story of this great actor while he's still alive, telling the story with him and with his voice, to himself and to the people he loved once or even now or with the writers who created the characters that he became- sewn onto his face, given his voice, made of his movements, seen through his eyes. And to do so, he decided that it was necessary to set up a camper that would take the entire entourage through Italy and Europe. Flavio Bucci, with those people, could tell the personal and artistic life of this genius. What an incredible idea.

Tell me about Flavio Bucci.
One of the most beautiful things about Flavio is his simplicity. Perhaps one thing that I've always liked about him, and certainly has also attracted Riccardo, was precisely his way of dealing with his work, without ever being snobby. He's always treated people with great respect. It's a common trait of the simple people of Molise and this trait also linked Riccardo to my land.

Was there something particularly interesting about him that you learned while making the film?
Each and every one of Flavio's stories is a lesson. To hear him talk about people like Petri, Volontè and Tognazzi as true friends gave us great pride, knowing that Riccardo was collecting all of his anecdotes and stories for this film.

Marco Caldoro presenting the film during the Rome Film Festival
Marco Caldoro will present Flavioh in Matera with Flavio Bucci and cast member Pascal Zullino. The screening will take place at the Piccolo Cinema on February 28 at 7:30 pm. Admission is free of charge. For more information about the film, visit the website at

Monday, February 18, 2019

On Exhibit in Rome - Belle speranze: il cinema italiano e i giovani (1948-2018)

Francesca Archibugi's Couch Potatoes
A new exhibition, Belle speranze: il cinema italiano e i giovani (1948-2018), traces the imagination and experience of young filmmakers in Italian cinema over a 70-year span. Through multimedia, visitors will travel through various periods of cinema from the post-war period though the 1960s to the cinema of today's millennials.

The exhibit is on view at the La Pelanda space at the Mattatoio Roma in Testaccio, and will run through March 15, 2019. Click here for more information.

Saturday, February 2, 2019

Marcello Mastroianni Photos On Exhibit in Rome

You have another two weeks to catch the exhibition dedicated to the icon of Italian cinema, Marcello Mastroianni. The exhibition traces the extraordinary career of Mastroianni from the beginning with Riccardo Freda in 1948 to his iconic collaborations with Federico Fellini.

Through portraits, mementoes and clips from his films and shows, Mastroianni's life and career are exhibited with alternating images and stories, immersing the viewer in the most recognized face of Italian cinema. The exhibit will be on display until February 17, 2019 at Rome's Ara Pacis Museum. Click here for more information.

Check out this interesting Italian report about the exhibit...

Artist and Filmmaker Nello Petrucci Makes History in NYC

Italian artist and filmmaker Nello Petrucci recently unveiled the largest collage installation by any artist in history. The Essence of Lightness occupies the 45th Floor at 3 World Trade Center in New York and was inspired by the art and culture of his city of Pompeii. Petrucci began his career in film, working with the likes of Martin Scorsese and the Manetti Brothers. He then moved to Naples where he attended the Academy of Fine Arts to study set design. His experience in cinema was ultimately the inspiration which led to his work in the visual arts field. Check out Petrucci’s art and story online at

Thursday, January 31, 2019

Sundance Film Features Italian Stars

Italian actors Antonio Catania and Kasia Smutniak take to the big screen at the Sundance Film Festival this week in Jacek Borcuch’s Dolce Fine Giornata.

The film follows Maria Linde, a free-spirited, Jewish Polish Nobel Prize winner, who lives in Tuscany surrounded by warmth and chaos in her family’s villa. A loving mother and grandmother, she also fosters a secret flirtation with the much younger Egyptian man who runs a nearby seaside inn. After a terrorist attack in Rome, Maria refuses to succumb to the hysterical fear and anti-immigrant sentiment that quickly emerge, deciding in her acceptance speech of a local honor to boldly decry Europe’s eroding democracy—but she is unprepared for the public and personal havoc her comments wreak.

Jacek Borcuch returns to the Sundance Film Festival’s world dramatic competition for the third time (after 2010’s All That I Love and 2013’s Lasting) with a visually sumptuous film. It thoughtfully considers the role of art, politics, and family in all our lives through one extraordinary woman’s tale, while also reflecting on Europe’s history and its present. Krystyna Janda gives a fearless, robust performance as the strong-willed Maria, allowing us to understand how both the character’s most impetuous and most righteous acts emerge from the same clear-eyed transgressive nature.

The remaining screenings are as follows:
Friday, February 1st 6:00 PM Park Avenue Theatre Park City
Saturday, February 2nd 2:30 PM Egyptian Theatre Park City

Click here to visit the Sundance Film Festival for availability.

Monday, January 28, 2019

Milan-born Journalist Tommaso Cartia Making his Mark on New York City

Today's social media platforms bring us into contact with so many interesting people. Some compel you to want to know more about them beyond the photos and interesting content they post. For me, one of those people is Tommaso Cartia. We have been connected on social media for a while and what has struck me, beyond his interesting posts, is his support for others. Although he is always working and posting his own intriguing projects, he always takes the time to acknowledge others and their projects, showing a genuine interest in their work. In this day and age of self-promotion and selfies, this is a unique and endearing quality. 

So I contacted him because I wanted to learn more about his projects so that I could share them with you. What I found is a conscientious, prolific journalist and author. He got his start in New York City working for the magazine and website, i-Italy about all things Italy in New York. That experience served as a strong foundation upon which he has built a promising career interviewing and also representing some of the greatest Italian talent to arrive on American shores. 

He was so generous in answering my questions and sharing his background and projects with us. Since he has interviewed so many Italian filmmakers promoting their projects in New York, I asked him about contemporary Italian cinema and how it's evolving to mirror Italy's ever-changing society and social issues.

Where in Italy are you from?
I'm originally from Sicily, from a small but enchanting town of fishermen called Scoglitti in the area of the so-called Baroque towns - UNESCO World Heritage sites. I moved with my family to Milan then because of my father's job, he is an engineer. Later on, I also moved to Rome where I worked as a freelance journalist and in public relations and marketing, for film productions and distributions and for the International Rome Film Festival. During that period I also published my first novel Reincarnazione Sentimentale, a lyrical memoir chronicling ten years of my life.

When and why did you move to New York?
I first moved to New York in 2008, when I applied for my MA in Creative Writing and Film Studies at the New York Film Academy. Prior to that, I was in San Francisco attending a language school to improve my English. Like many other things that happened in my life, the idea to come study in the U.S. came as an inner impulse, almost irrational. Something inside of me told me that there was a purpose, a predestination waiting for me on the other side of the ocean. I've always been in love with the American culture and the English language that I started practicing more intensely when I would travel for my father's job. We traveled to China, Dubai, Thailand...

How did all that travel shape you as a writer?
Traveling has always been embedded in my DNA, probably because I come from a sailor's family. My grandfather would sail often to the U.S. for his fishing business. I remember being fascinated by the stories of 'The Great America', that he would tell. I have a vivid recollection also of him bringing back home some products that can only be found in the U.S. like Advil for example. I liked them because they are colorful. I thought they were some exotic candies when I was a kid! Ultimately I think that coming to the U.S. was part of a sort of scripted destiny for me. I like to imagine myself as I'm continuing, ideally, my grandfather's job. He was fishing for beautiful fish, I'm fishing for beautiful stories.

Tell me about your work as a journalist in NYC.
I started working as a journalist here in NY for the i-Italy Network, directed by Letizia Airos, who first believed in my potential and gave me my first concrete opportunity here. I will be always thankful to her. It's been almost three years now and I then moved on working more as a freelancer. I recently started a collaboration with La Voce di NY, brilliantly directed by Stefano Vaccara. These years have been incredible. I had the chance to interview personalities that I would have never even dreamt to encounter in my life like, Actresses Gina Lollobrigida and Valeria Golino, Margherita Buy, Pulitzer Winner Author Michael Cunningham, Writer Erica Jong, Academy Award Nominee Director Gianfranco Rosi, Consul General of Italy in New York Francesco Genuardi, Eataly US CEO Nicola Farinetti, New York Restaurant Owner of Il Gattopardo Group Gianfranco Sorrentino, to name a few. I also worked as a co-writer and as a production coordinator for #TheItalianMentor - a TV Show hosted by Gabriella Carlucci - a familiar face on Italian TV. But that's the magic of this city where all of the big artists and personalities of the world pass by at least once in their lives to leave here a little bit of the beauty of their art, and New York knows how to exalt beauty.

Do you have a most enjoyable/memorable interview?
I would go with Michael Cunningham. I've always been a huge fan of his work and when I read The Hours, it was a big turning point in my life and it also renewed my love and interest for Virginia Woolf. Also, the movie with Nicole Kidman, Meryl Streep and, Julienne Moore is a favorite of mine. I got the chance to interview him and we discussed a lot about the LGBTQ issues between the U.S. and Italy, a country that is very dear to his heart. I felt it was surreal, and I still have the sensation that I have probably just dreamt of that conversation.

What are your thoughts on contemporary Italian cinema?
I think that contemporary Italian cinema has finally found more confidence in being really contemporary. Or at least there's more confidence in showing that to an international audience and to show them that our cinema is not just the cinema of neorealism even though of course it is an aesthetic that will always be a part of our filmmaking. A perfect example is Alice Rohrwacher who is finally getting the recognition that she deserves here in the U.S. Her cinema is contemporary and at the same time, timeless. Movies such as Happy as Lazzaro, The Wonders, or my favorite, Heavenly Body, represent stories that are part of our mythology and folklore but accented with modern themes, characters and new urban landscapes.

Do you feel that contemporary cinema is representative of what is happening in Italy?
As I was saying about Rohrwacher's work, we are sons and daughters of the Romans, of the Greeks, our beauty and our symbology will be always rooted in that Mediterranean aesthetic. And that's the magic of our land that subliminally speaks of those myths, by just looking at it. How that past still converses with the advent of the digital and cosmopolitan world I guess is part of the secret of the beauty of new Italian movies, part neorealism, part melodrama, part modern times. It is evident in the architectural construction of Paolo Sorrentino's movies, for example. Even though his camera work is definitely modern and contemporary, he still plays with archetypal symbols. You can find that dichotomy also in Luca Guadagnino's movies, they are still neorealistic, melodramatic but you can tell there is a modern, fearless sentiment to his storytelling. One of the most contemporary Italian movies that I've seen recently is Sicilian Ghost Story by Fabio Grassadonia and Antonio Piazza. I would say it is contemporary, though the story is filled again with archetypes, myths and magical realism. But it recounts the true story of the brutal killing of an innocent kid kept prisoner by the mafia in Sicily. The aesthetic is definitely modern and the filmmaking is reminiscent of a Guillermo del Toro movie. Still, we are romantic in the way we Italians tell stories, and the land is always a protagonist with its lyrical power. I like to think that our cinema is still very recognizable. Even though our stories have changed and our filmmaking has changed in terms of techniques, our way of telling stories is still universal.

Have you noticed that Americans are more interested in Italian cinema now than perhaps five or ten years ago? If so, why do you think there is more interest?
I think it is because of what I was saying before. Italian directors are feeling the times we are living and that's reflecting in our movies, but also the distributors are more willing to invest in our cinema and bring it to the international audience. Even though we are far away from other cinema powerhouses such as France, America and Asia, the international audience is falling back in love with Italian cinema. We are still neorealistic, melodramatic and imaginary, but we are wearing a more modern vest and we are telling new stories of our Italy in a very critical period for our country. I feel we want to go back to our roots, and I think we are speaking an international language. The world needs to go back to basics and rediscover its past in order to write a brighter, more solid future. There's too much turmoil, too much confusion. Arts can serve the purpose to open our minds, to rest our fears, to empower ourselves, to learn from our land and ancestors. That's what I think Italian cinema is telling us today.

What is your dream?
To continue to be a vehicle in between art, beauty and an audience. I'm a communicator, the term media, really applies to me, I love to serve the artists missions. That's also the purpose of my new editorial project The Digital Poet,, and my work as a publicist in New York. Professionally I would like to open my own communication agency and I'm working on a new novel in Italian.

- Photos by Shushu Chen

Monday, January 21, 2019

Basilicata in the Spotlight at the 2019 Los Angeles Italia - Film Fashion and Art Fest

Actresses Marianna and Angela Fontana will be presenting their new films at next month's Los Angeles Italia - Film Fashion and Art Fest. Capri-Revolution by Mario Martone and Lucania by Gigi Roccati will make their North American premieres. Roccati will be presenting his work as part of a homage to Basilicata's city of Matera, the 2019 European Capital of Culture. There will also be a special tribute to Francis Ford Coppola, whose family originates from that region, on the occasion of his 80th birthday.

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Watch "Return to Lucania"

CLICK HERE to watch my documentary Return to Lucania on Vimeo. It's the story of the early 19th century southern Italian immigrants. Through cinema, interviews and historical footage, we examine the conditions which led them to flee, the challenges they faced when arriving in America, and the modern travel destination their land has become today.

The film was funded by the Russo Brothers Italian American Film Forum, the National Italian American Foundation (NIAF) and the Italian Sons and Daughters of America. (ISDA).

Interviewing filmmaker Gaetano Russo in Rome

The Mesmerizing Cinema of Ferzan Ozpetek

"Cinema is about the gaze, about where someone is looking. I love to make movies where a character is thinking the line but not spea...