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Monday, September 30, 2013

Gabriele Salvatores launches "Italy in a Day"

Oscar-winning filmmaker, Gabriele Salvatores is set to begin production on his next film, Life In a Day. The project is a take-off on a similar film, Britain in a Day, made by British director, Ridley Scott in 2010. It will be the first collective film to be made by Italians.

The designated 'day' is October 26, 2013, “a normal autumn Saturday.” Participants are invited to document their own day on video, showing an ordinary day in their lives. “We always say that cinema should tell the story of our own lives. For once, we are asking people to stop being directed and to tell who they are themselves,” explained Salvatores.  “It is an interesting challenge and a great responsibility,” Salvatores went on, “because here, the author is putting himself at the service of citizens’ emotions and thoughts. A project that is beyond cinema and documentary.”

The film, produced by Indiana Production and Rai Cinema, will be released in theaters and shown on the Rai network. The call for videos is underway with A-list sponsors, including Christian De Sica, Luciana Littizzetto and Micaela Ramazzotti.

For more information, visit the project's website at

With Gabriele Salvatores in NYC, 2010
Gabriele Salvatores

Considered a maestro by peers and audience members alike, director Gabriele Salvatores continues to raise the bar for filmmakers around the world.

Born in Naples in 1950, Gabriele Salvatores spent nearly two decades working in theater, and continues to influence new generations in that medium. Perhaps Salvatores’ greatest theatrical legacy is Milan’s Teatro dell’Elfo, which he founded in 1973. To this day, the Milanese theater serves as a popular venue for cultural events and avant-garde productions in the northern city.

Salvatores made his feature-film debut in 1989 with Marrakech Express, which co-starred two of Italy’s most beloved actors, Diego Abatantuono and Fabrizio Bentivoglio. Two years later, he made Mediterraneo, the clever comedy that put him on the map and earned him an Academy Award.

Nirvana, Salvatores’ 1997 sci-fi thriller about a video game character who develops thoughts and feelings, took his career in another direction. The film goes back and forth between reality and the virtual world. Solo, the video game character, pleads with his creator, Jimi, to destroy all copies of the game before its release to save him from reliving the same virtual pain over and over again. Against the wishes of his bosses, Jimi embarks on a journey to find the people he needs to get the job done. Nirvana is an innovative film that shows the connection between an artist and his subject. The film's style was an aberration for Salvatores whose films often mirror real-life social issues, sometimes taking a comedy turn, and other times, delving into the surreal.

Watch the Barilla spots directed by Gabriele Salvatores, starring Pierfrancesco Favino

He began his film career solely as a director but over time has also taken on the role of screenwriter. As a writer, Salvatores is deft in his ability to balance all the facets of his characters’ personalities. Most of his characters have keen senses of humor, even when they are less than admirable. They are complex and usually a little cynical about life, no matter what their age. Although his characters share many personality traits, the circumstances that surround them are dramatically different in each of his films.

A scene from Io non ho paura
Salvatores delivered a highly suspenseful and entertaining film with his 2003 release, Io non ho paura. Based on kidnappings that took place in the 1980s, the story focuses on a group of poverty-stricken southerners who take the child of a wealthy family from the North hostage and hold him for ransom. The film radiates with the sweltering heat of the South, thanks to Salvatores’ directing and Italo Petriccione’s cinematography. The film was shot in Basilicata and used several regional actors.

With each new film, Salvatores reveals a greater depth of creativity. He is known for working with many of the same actors. In doing so, he adds a certain signature to his films while creating brand new works of art. And like an artist, he starts with a canvas of characters, gives them some drama, adds color where needed and laughter when necessary. In the end, we are presented with a one-of-a-kind masterpiece.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Gianfranco Rosi's Roman Tale, "Sacro GRA"

History was made at this year's Venice Film Festival. The jury, headed by Director Bernardo Bertolucci awarded the coveted Golden Lion Award to director, Gianfranco Rosi for his documentary, "Sacro GRA." It was the first time in the festival's history that a documentary took top honors.

Grande Raccordo Anulare
The film's subject, the GRA, an acronym for Grande Raccordo Anulare, is a 42-mile stretch of highway that surrounds Rome. It's an imperfect circle with dozens of tunnels and exits, which serve the communities, neighborhoods and countryside surrounding the Eternal City. It's somewhat of a meeting point that brings together the inner and outer parts of the city. Construction of the GRA began in 1948 with sections that opened every couple years until its completion in 1979. Since then, the road has been under construction a number of times to add more lanes and more accessibility. Regardless of the intentions for this highway to make commuting easier, it has instead been a constant headache for locals.

The documentary focuses on several people whose lives are affected by the roadway. Among the protagonists are a young paramedic who we often watch rushing to the scene of an accident, an elderly man who lives in a single room with his daughter, a family trying to deal with their son's DJ obsession, a botanist who studies palms inflicted with killer parasites, a disgruntled fisherman and an aristocrat who rents his mansion to film crews. Although none of the protagonists in the film know each other, their one common denominator is the GRA. 

Gianfranco Rosi receives Golden Lion
There's a lot of curiosity as to why this film took top prize at the festival.The documentary has received its share of criticism, many saying there is no real plot, nor a definitive point of view. However, Italians seem to be in love with this film. It premiered in Venice to wild applause and standing ovations. Metaforically speaking, the film can be compared to that of an inside joke, in which only a certain group of people "get it" and in this case, that group is Italians, Romans in particular because they are the ones who have to deal with the headaches of this stretch of road day in and day out. Since Bernardo Bertolucci headed the jury, perhaps he understood the message in this film more comprehensively than outside critics. Another fascinating aspect of this film is its mystery,  the aloofness with which the characters are presented. At the end, t's are left uncrossed, i's undotted and conflicts are left unresolved. Perhaps that lack of closure, which contributed to the film's sense of mystery, is another quality that led to its victory in Venice. 

Regardless of the scores of people who really don't "get it," the film is receiving a great deal of press, so chances are good that it will make its way to film festivals in North America. We will keep you posted. In the meantime, you can visit the film's website at

Official Trailer

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Enrico Lo Verso

A scene from
L'amore Imperfetto (2002)
Born in Palermo in 1964, Enrico Lo Verso knew as a child that he'd one day pursue acting. Determined to make his dream come true, he headed to Rome when he was a teenager and attended the iconic film school, Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia. In 1989, he made his feature film debut in Anselmo Sebastiani's, Ragazzi nervosi. For the next several years, he went back and forth working in both television and cinema. His breakthrough project came in 1994 with the internationally acclaimed, L'America. Gianni Amelio directed the film, and Lo Verso starred alongside veteran actor, Michele Placido. L'America is a richly symbolic film set against the backdrop of poverty stricken Albania after the fall of its communist government. Lo Verso plays the part of Gianni, an Italian swindler who along with his partner, tries to set up a manufacturing plant to make easy money off unscrupulously rebuilding the infrastructure of the devastated country. Endless encounters with the harsh realities of life in Albania lead Gianni on a spiritual transformation and in the course of the film, we watch as the sadness and desperation around him humbles his cold heart. The symbolism of the title, L'America is revealed at the end of the film as we watch a ship full of immigrants leave the shores of Albania and head across the Adriatic Sea to the "Promised Land" which for them is Italy. The performances by Enrico Lo Verso and Michele Placido are profoundly moving, perfectly embodying the vision of the film's director, Gianni Amelio.

In Rome with Enrico Lo Verso
Lo Verso has consistantly worked in both television and film throughout his career, both in Italy and abroad. He had a small role in Ridley Scott's 2001 thriller, Hannibal, which was shot mostly in Italy. One of his most rewarding projects, though, was Giuseppe Tornatore's 2009 autobiographical epic, Baaria. The film recounts three generations in the Sicilian village where he was born. Lo Verso took on the role of Minicu, a character tracked across half a century age span. In a recent interview, Lo Verso told me that Minicu has been one of the most coveted roles of his career. He loves researching his roles, and to prepare for this part, he lived alone in a hut in the mountains of Sicily. It was an opportunity for Lo Verso to connect with the land of his origins, to hear nothing but the sounds of nature and to contemplate one of the most important roles of his career. Those connections helped him fully invest in the role and grow tremendously as an actor.

Lo Verso's most recent role was in Edoardo Ponti's award-winning short film, The Nightshift Belongs to the Stars. The story follows a man and woman who strike up a friendship the night before they are both scheduled for open heart surgeries. They discover their mutual passion for mountain climbing and vow to meet in the Italian Dolomites if they both survive their respective surgeries. Lo Verso plays the role of Matteo, a man who receives the heart of a woman. The role was both physically and emotionally demanding for the actor as the subject matter deals with the important issue of organ donation and the storyline literally had him hiking through the mountains. The film made its North American premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival, winning the top prize in its category.

Due to the international success of Lo Verso's projects, many are available stateside. Follow the links below to stream his films or to purchase a DVD.


Sunday, September 8, 2013

Rome's Island of Cinema

Updated 27 June 2015
It's just been announced that June 2nd will kick off the Isola Mondo Festival, the section of Isola del Cinema dedicated to international cinema. Through September 3rd, a selection of films will be shown from France, Scandinavia, Spain, Bulgaria and Poland, South Africa, Colombia, Venezuela, Japan and Israel, many of which have not yet been released in Italy. Click here for up-to-date programming information.

Created in 1995, L'Isola del Cinema (The Island of Film) sounds like a dream, but is actually an enchanting annual film festival held along the banks of the Tiber River in Rome.

There, you can watch a film, have a cocktail and bask in a place surrounded by everything cinema. Located on Isola Tiberina (Tiber Island), a tiny island near the Trastevere neighborhood in central Rome, L'Isola del Cinema operates during the summer months and features a broad range of international films. 

The island itself has a fascinating history dating back to 510 B.C., when it housed the Temple of Esculapio, god of medicine. Today, the island is home to one of Rome's hospitals, Ospedale Fatebenefratelli San Giovanni Calibita. The hospital was founded in 1584 and is still operating, run by the Hospitaller Order of St. John of God or "Fatebenefratelli." 

The island and its bridges offer spectacular views of the Tiber River with the unique Roman architecture and colors of the riverfront homes and structures.
The theater in which the film festival is held is located right along the river and projects films from all over the world, often with a filmmaker in attendance to take questions from the audience. Since its start in 1995, the festival has grown in popularity with some 70 nights of films and more than 300,000 spectators every season. 

The 2013 season just wrapped up, but it's not too early to begin planning for next year. If you are considering a trip to the Eternal City during the summer, make sure L'Isola del Cinema is on your list of sights to see. For more information, visit the festival's website at 

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