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Tuesday, December 11, 2012

New faces of Italian cinema

Angelo Iannelli
With the 2012 film festivals just about wrapped up, we saw a big emphasis this year on newly emerging and independent filmmakers. This was most notable in the Venice Film Festival's Horizon's program, which gave these filmmakers an unprecedented amount of visibility as the program reached out to people all over the world via the internet. 

To mark this current trend, I recently caught up with two independent filmmakers in Rome: Angelo Iannelli and Vito Napolitano. Each filmmaker has experience on both sides of the camera. Their origins are based in the south of Italy but they are now living in Rome. Angelo Iannelli was born in Benevento in the region of Campania, while Vito Napolitano is from Lecce in Puglia. What I enjoyed the most about our conversation is the passion with which the two young filmmakers speak about cinema. They are so enthusiastic and about their craft, they reel you right into their dreams. The three of us recently met up at the Libreria del Cinema, a bookstore and cafe dedicated to everything cinema, located in Trastevere. I asked the two about the recent trends in Italy regarding independent cinema and how its filmmakers are faring in the current climate.

Vito Napolitano
How do you feel about the film industry in Italy right now? Do you like the movies that are being made? 
Angelo: I believe that Italy's cinema is undergoing a period of profound change. After several years in which it was difficult to shine the light on good independent directors, some brave distributors were able to support the work of directors like Calibrodi, Garrone and Sorrentino. Garrone represents a certain Italian style. His style could be called neo-realism especially with his 2002 film, The Embalmer. His recent success at Cannes for his latest film, Reality will, in my opinion, open the doors for more non-commercial filmmakers, but I think the best contemporary Italian cinema is still reserved for the more high profile directors like Bellocchio, who continue to make great films. We recently lost a great director, Giuseppe Bertolucci. He was a true visionary and an experimenter, being among the first in Italy to use digital technology in the film Probably Love. 
Vito: The Italian film industry is unfortunately the mirror of hard times in general throughout the country. Luckily, the quality always exists but films have a hard time in the distribution sector. Recently I spoke with the director Alessandro Piva after attending the screening of his latest great movie, Henry, which unfortunately did not find its way to distribution and will be sold only on DVD. This is an increasing problem that is affecting our industry. Fewer and fewer economic resources are concentrated on independent projects and producers often prefer to make safer choices when investing in projects for fear of box office failure. All of this for us insiders is very frustrating. 

What obstacles do independent filmmakers face these days?
Angelo: The biggest problem is that Italy is a country where there are millions of artists. It is one of the greatest cradles of art. The directors are very talented even in independent cinema, but unfortunately there is not room for everyone. The greatest difficulty is this: they make many films that are self-produced and self-financed but it is difficult to find distribution for them. So we work mainly on the national festival circuit. I think nowadays a director must find their own style, their own poetry. If he does not immediately, then it will be too late and there is a risk of being lost. You have to have a trademark that distinguishes your work from that of other directors. Be unique, not necessarily large in scope, but always unique. 
Vito: These problems really affect the world of independent film in Italy, which is in no way comparable to the organized and powerful industry of the independent American filmmaker. A few months ago I shot a role in an independent film called Hope, directed by Daniele Ciferri. We are all hoping that the film, after the post-production, will be able to find some outlet on the market. In this case it was the director who invested his own money for the project. Self-financing is often the only way for independent films to be made.

At the Rome Film Festival with Vito Napolitano
Has the new technology made it easier to make a film, from shooting to editing? 
Angelo: Undoubtedly. We are seeing a technological miracle. With a few hundred dollars you can make a movie, edit it and distribute it in the film festival circuit. The major innovation is the digital editing, which has been around for years but has recently contributed to a significant reduction in costs. The editing programs allow you to create a professional movie along with color correction and audio editing. The digital recording then gives the opportunity to have greater maneuverability and versatility while drastically reducing the total cost of making the film. Independent filmmakers owe a great deal to this new digital technology. 
Vito: I'm not very knowledgeable about the new technology since I've only been concentrating on acting, but I am sure that it has really helped the independent film industry because it makes filmmaking more accessible. The new technology reduces costs making it easier to invest in a project. 

Do the national networks like RAI and Mediaset support independent films? Do they buy them and show them on their networks? 
Angelo: I must say that this is a sore point. Unfortunately, there is little television distribution, dare I say almost nothing. Some digital channels transmit independent short films but it's really hard. The problem is to be found in the TV listings, which are more and more saturated with pure entertainment programs and averse to art. Perhaps the fault is less and less geared towards the entertainment industry and more the fault of the excessive passivity of the television viewer. 
Vito: The situation of the television choices in Italy on both RAI and Mediaset is a disaster. Often the power of these networks is in the hands of boards of directors or owners directly linked to political interests. There is little interest of giving visibility to independent cinema and its filmmakers. Needless to say, it's due in part to the lack of economic return that would result in the support of independent cinema. Think of advertising, for example. This makes it very complicated for the independent film world. 

What do you think can be done to improve the opportunities for independent filmmakers in Italy? 
Angelo: Well cinema is entertainment, but first of all it's art. Often the independent filmmaker is at an advantage because you do not have the pressure of the big studios and distributors, and perhaps even the public. An improvement that could be made is to increase the number of films shown the theaters. It's very simple: instead of giving 700 showings to a movie, just give 400 and the other 300 can be distributed to us young directors. Experimentation often leads to a general improvement. Then there is television. Each channel, for example, could devote two hours a day to an independent film, maybe not in prime time slots but it could still be done. We also need to get the older generations on board in supporting the new filmmakers. To change things, we must all unite in common goals. 
Vito: The sector of independent filmmaking as a whole needs to be better supported. As an artist, all you can do is remember that quality comes first in terms of writing a good script and making a professional, high quality film. Continue to always focus on the quality and dignity of your work, and in the long run, that is your strongest weapon. The film industry is very complicated, and this is even true in the older more respected establishments. Take Cinecitta' for example and the difficult financial times it's facing. If such a respected institution of cinema can go through such hardship, image what it's like for unknown filmmakers. I believe that we should institute sort of a "Marshall Plan" to help us revive the interest of the whole world in Italian cinema.. but then maybe this is just utopia. 

- Jeannine Guilyard

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