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Saturday, January 31, 2015

Taviani Brothers Releasing New Film

On 26 February, Teodora Film will distribute "Wondrous Boccaccio" by Paolo and Vittorio Taviani. The new, eagerly awaited film by the two brothers, following the incredible success of "Caesar Must Die" (winner of the Golden Bear at Berlin 2012 and five David di Donatello Awards, among countless other prizes), is set in 14th-century plague-ridden Florence; the disease drives ten young people to seek refuge in the country, where they pass the time by telling each other short stories. Whether tragic or witty, erotic or grotesque, every single tale actually has one single, great protagonist: love, in all its countless guises. And for every single one of the youngsters, love will indeed prove to be the best antidote to the suffering and uncertainties of an entire era.

The cast is truly exceptional: Kim Rossi Stuart, Riccardo Scamarcio, Kasia Smutniak, Jasmine Trinca, Vittoria Puccini, Michele Riondino, Carolina Crescentini, Flavio Parenti, Lello Arena, Paola Cortellesi and Josafat Vagni; they are joined by the young novellatori (storytellers) Melissa Anna Bartolini, Eugenia Costantini, Miriam Dalmazio, Camilla Diana, Niccolò Diana, Fabrizio Falco, Beatrice Fedi, Ilaria Giachi, Barbara Giordano and Rosabell Laurenti Sellers.

The two Tuscan directors state: “We are telling this story – or, in fact, these stories – loosely based on The Decameron by Boccaccio, because we are taking up a challenge; the sombre colours of the plague – today, as in days gone by, the plague, in its various guises, is everywhere – are contrasted with the transparent, shining colours of love, commitment and imagination. And then, as always, there is fate, but that will make our tale all the more exciting. We have said thank you to this sensitive and enlightened master storyteller for his characters’ tales, both the romantic and the harsh ones: mostly women, young women, not-so-young women, so many females yearning to be able to love freely.” They conclude: “We have said, ‘Thank you Boccaccio, farewell Boccaccio.’ Now we are going our own way in order to tell a new truth, that of a film – our film.”

"Wondrous Boccaccio" is a Stemal Entertainment, Cinemaundici and Barbary Films production, with the collaboration of Rai Cinema.

- From

Friday, January 30, 2015

Nominees announced for 2015 Mario Verdone Award

The nominees for this year's Mario Verdone award are- Michele Alhaique for Senza nessuna pietà, Bonifacio Angius for Perfidia, Giuseppe Bonito for Pulce non c’è, Laura Halilovic for Io Rom Romantica, Sebastiano Riso for Darker than Midnight, Leonardo Guerra Seràgnoli for Last Summer and Sydney Sibilia for I can quit whenever I want - are the 7 filmmakers that will compete at the VI edition of the Mario Verdone Award that will be delivered by brothers Silvia, Carlo and Luca Verdone during the XVI edition of the European Film Festival, taking place in Lecce from 13 to 18 April 2015.

The award is given to filmmakers under the age of 35. "It's a way of further highlighting the discovery of young talent and giving visibility to film that looks set to grow", explained Festival director, Alberto La Monica, on behalf of the Selection Committee that includes Laura delli Colli, head of SNGCI, and Marcello Foti, director of the Experimental Film Centre.

“It's a study of new cinema and an idea that we support because it's more successful in offering an award that, on our father's behalf, strives to encourage and acts as genuine scouting”, recalled the Verdone brothers: it will be up to them to choose the winner. “The seven directors selected this year in competition are all screening very interesting movies and it's great to observe that every year (and this is the sixth) our cinema industry can produce high quality debuts”.
The prize dedicated to Mario Verdone was set up in 2010 by the European Film Festival, to award young directors making their first or second work. 

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Raoul Bova: Making his Passions his Life

Born in Rome on August 14, 1971 to southern Italian parents, Raoul Bova was naturally athletic, starting out with a love of sports. He encountered a freak accident when he was a child and almost drown while frolicking in the sea. That life-changing experience made him confront his fear of water and take up swimming. The sport ended up becoming a huge passion for him and at the age of sixteen, he earned a championship title for the S.S. Lazio team of Rome, one of the oldest and most renowned sport clubs in Europe. He went on to pursue a degree in Physical Education but that was cut short soon after he discovered a passion for acting. Although he never intended to give up sports as a hobby, he knew in his heart that acting was his true love and wanted to pursue it as a career. He enrolled in the drama school, Beatrice Bracco, and never looked back.

Bova started working right away, with his first role as Giuliano Amitrano in Stefano Reali’s 1992 made-for-television movie, "Una storia Italiana." His big screen debut came the following year in Carlo Vanzina’s romantic drama, "Piccolo grande amore" in which he played the role of Marco, a handsome swimming coach, not such a far stretch from his real life persona. Those two early roles made Bova an overnight success in Italy. He continues to work in both television and film, and has shared the screen with the likes of Sophia Loren, Anthony Quinn and Angelina Jolie. He's fared well in modelling, having been the face of Armani and appearing in a 1999 Max Factor commercial alongside Madonna.

Read my 2016 Interview with Raoul Bova

Bova's roles are diverse. He has taken on complex characters in movies like Rewind in which he plays a terrorist, “I cavalieri che fecero l’impresa” in which he plays a medieval man whose soul is possessed by the devil and my favorite role to date; Lorenzo in Ferzan Ozpetek’s “Facing Windows”.  Lorenzo is the handsome, introverted neighbor of Giovanna, played by Giovanna Mezzogiorno. In the film, she becomes obsessed with Lorenzo as she watches him from her window.  here are so many other intricate storylines that surround the two characters, and they each carry their scenes so eloquently that they manage to give some order to the chaos that is unfolding around them.

He has also worked on important film projects behind the camera. Nearly a decade ago, he started a production company called Sanmarco ( which focused on socially conscious documentary-style filmmaking by young directors. The company's mission was to open the lines of communication and educate Italians on social and political concerns. The films shed light on hot topics such as fatal accidents in the workplace, the influence of drugs on teenagers and the controversy surrounding the death penalty, a matter of contention that Bova has spoken publically against. 

He also does his share of charity work, and in 2010 was nominated “Goodwill Ambassador” of the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, whose headquarters are in Rome.  He joined forces with American actress, Susan Sarandon at FAO to fight the battle to eradicate world hunger. He’s also an avid supporter of the project, “Vento e sole” (wind and sun) with 1992 Noble Peace Prize winner, Rigoberta Menchú. The project’s purpose is to develop an ecological system of electric for third world countries, especially in Menchú’s homeland of Guatemala.

Bova currently has a number of projects slated for 2015 releases, including Paolo Genovese's new comedy, "Sei mai stata sulla luna?" which takes him back to his southern roots; this time in Puglia.

For more information on that film and all of Raoul Bova’s projects, check him out online at

Screening & Lecture: Nino Manfredi’s 'Nudo di donna'

Film Screening and Lecture at Casa Italiana- Nazareth College, Rochester, New York;

Nino Manfredi’s: Portrait of a Nude Woman: Fluid Identities Between Carnival and Venice
Lecture by Dr. Elisa Saturno

Nino Mandredi's 1981 comedy/mystery, "Nudo di donna" (Portrait of a Nude Woman) was the third and final film directed by this Italian cinema icon. The story is centered on Manfredi's character whose wife is leaving him and wanders the streets of Rome in despair until he sees a portrait of a woman that resembles his wife. What ensues is a passionate love affair and one roller coaster of a ride that keeps us guessing. 

The lecture and screening will take place at Nazareth College's Casa Italiana January 31st at 3:00.
For more information..

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Exhibition Opens Celebrating the History of Cinecittà

A fascinating exhibit just opened at Rome's famous movie studios, Cinecittà. Titled, "Girando Cinecittà 1937-1989", the exhibit highlights the making of many historic films during those years. 

"Girando Cinecittà 1937-1989" features rooms which chronicle the variety of genres shot at Cinecittà, including blockbusters, Italian comedies and Spaghetti Westerns just to name a few. It does so with a rich selection of images, film clips and a selection of costumes. In addition to the rooms devoted to genres, the exhibition features a rare collection of unique items, historical films and vignettes shot between 1937 and 1943 at Cinecittà. Here, you will find neorealism film clips plus the epic cinema of Sergio Leone as well as an unprecedented selection of original costumes starting with those worn by Liz Taylor and Richard Burton in "Cleopatra" and "The Taming of the Shrew".

"Girando Cinecittà 1937-1989" was curated by Alida Cappellini and Giovanni Licheri, creators of numerous sets and costumes. "We grew up in Cinecittà, in happy times and in times of crisis, knowing many great painters, tailors, carpenters and machinists, who have become known throughout the world", recalls production designer Licheri. 

For more information about the exhibit, including ticket info and times, visit Cinecittà online at

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Cinecittà Revival Underway in Basilicata

The magical atmosphere of the historic Cinecittà is making its way south to the Sassi of Matera, where Monday, February 2nd will mark the first take of the remake of "Ben Hur". The event is drawing scores of tourists, students and locals alike who are flocking to the city of Lucania. Intrigued by the Hollywood crews, crowds are taking pictures of the "work in progress" for the construction of the sets that, for over a month will transform the Sassi into a great natural set.

This comes as Rome's Cinecittà Studios is reliving its glory days with a slew of Hollywood productions set to be filmed at the famed location, including the remake of Paramount and MGM's epic film, "Ben Hur." 

Three U.S. productions are currently underway at Cinecittà. "Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt," is based on Anne Rice's best-selling novel about young Jesus as he discovers his real identity. Directed by Cyrus Nowrasteh, the film is based at Cinecittà and is also being shot on location as "Ben Hur" in the southern region of Basilicata, where Mel Gibson's "Passion of the Christ" was made. The other is U.S. indie thriller "Voice From the Stone," starring Emilia Clarke of "Game of Thrones" fame. A portion of the upcoming James Bond film is also among high-profile films scheduled to shoot in Rome early next year. 

Perhaps the most high-profile of them all is the remake of "Ben Hur," which will begin shooting in February. The film will be directed by Timur Bekmambetov with "Boardwalk Empire" star Jack Huston in the title role, which was originally played by Charlton Heston. According to a statement released by Cinecittà, production designer Naomi Shohan will be reconstructing ancient Jerusalem on the Cinecittà back lot for the four-month shoot. Morgan Freeman is also associated to the project. The script was co-written by Oscar-winning "12 Years a Slave" screenwriter John Ridley along with Keith Clarke, who sold the original script to MGM. 

Plans for MGM's 24th James Bond include high-speed car chases through the streets of Rome, and Bond parachuting down onto the ancient Ponte Sisto Bridge on the Tiber River. 

Italian Series to Premiere at Berlin Film Festival

Berlinale Special

During the two days of the Berlinale Special Series on February 9 and 10, several new episodes from German, European and American series will premiere. They will augment the Berlinale Special programme at the Haus der Berliner Festspiele. These series from around the world explore societal and social realities, and in doing so discover the private in the political.
Kicking off events will be the Italian series 1992, a political thriller set against the backdrop of the “Mani Pulite” corruption investigations, triggering a political, civil and social earthquake in Italy. 
Stefano Accorsi heads the cast of "1992" which will make its World Premiere at the festival.
Creators: Alessandro Fabbri, Ludovica Rampoldi, Stefano Sardo
With Stefano Accorsi, Guido Caprino, Domenico Diele, Miriam Leone, Tea Falco, Alessandro Roja
Broadcaster: Sky Italia
World premiere
For more information about the series, check out this article.. (written in Italian)

Monday, January 19, 2015

Playwright Mario Fratti's Inspiration behind 'Nine'

Marion Cotillard's recent Oscar nomination made me think back to one of her roles I thoroughly enjoyed.. Luisa Continu in Rob Marshall's 2009 film, "Nine." So, we revisit my article and interview with Mario Fratti, the creator of the film's Broadway inspiration.

“Rob Marshall recreates "8 ½" beautifully.” Those words are from Author/Playwright Mario Fratti describing "Nine," and Mario Fratti certainly knows a thing or two about the original Fellini film, since he’s the one who initially adapted it for Broadway more than 30 years ago. The musical went on to win 13 Tony awards while in its first run and later in a revival.

The story goes back to 1974 when Fratti had the idea to transform Fellini’s 1963 iconic film, "8 ½" into a stage production. He did so in Italian under the title, "Six Passionate Women," and then collaborated with fellow writer/composer, Maury Yeston to make an English version suited for Broadway. Eight years later, "Nine" opened to rave reviews in New York City. Three decades later, the Fellini classic was revived for a whole new audience, and those who were around in the days of Fellini and his Golden Age of Italian Cinema, could not have been more thrilled to be a part of it. I talked talked with Mario Fratti about his collaboration with Yeston, and he offered this insight. “I wrote a beautiful scene in which Guido explains sex and love to children. Maury loved the scene. So he comes in the next day and changes the scene into a song! That’s how musicals work. It’s a collaboration between the writer and composer, and our collaboration was intense. It took seven long, painful years!”

With Mario Fratti at the 2012 edition of 
Open Roads: New Italian Cinema, NYC
"Nine" is a lively, colorful musical that follows the life of a  successful Italian director who is experiencing a profound creative and personal crisis right before he is about to start production on his new film. He is surrounded by a cornucopia of women who each represent a different facet of his personality. The plot is similar to "8 ½" in which Marcello Mastroianni played the lead part of Guido Anselmi. In "Nine," Daniel Day Lewis takes the lead, accompanied by an all-star cast. When I spoke with Fratti about the film, he was gleaming with enthusiasm and pride. “What a cast! It will never happen again in the history of film, absolutely stunning.” The cast includes Sofia Loren as Guido’s mother, French actress Marion Cotillard as his wife, Penelope Cruz as his mistress, Nicole Kidman as his muse, Judi Dench as his confidant, Kate Hudson as an American journalist and pop singer Fergie as a prostitute from his youth. It’s been said that Fergie’s audition was so extraordinary, she could have been handed the role right on the spot. “Fergie auditioned in London. I have never seen an audition like that in my life. I have never seen anyone want something more, to prove themselves and say this is mine and claim it.” Rob Marshall, who directed the Oscar-winning film adaption of "Chicago," breathes new life into Fellini’s classic and transforms the big screen into a dazzling Italian-Broadway production.

Fergie in a scene from Nine
Whenever a movie is remade or adapted from another medium whether it is a book or a Broadway musical, there are differences, and the same rings true with this film. However, the striking similarity is with the main character, Guido.  Although his last name was changed in the transfer from Broadway to film, Guido has the same dilemmas and personal problems.  Like Marcello Mastroianni did back in the '60s, Daniel Day Lewis articulately communicates the emotions of someone facing such tough challenges and pressure while still holding onto his sense of humor and humility. In an interview with ABC’s Nightline, director Rob Marshall and actress Penelope Cruz weighed in on the personality of the film's beloved Guido. “What he's created, the lies and all of the women that he's been with and so forth, looking for some kind of satisfaction to help him heal. It's not working. It's not working, so you see a man who is actually falling and you know, so timely you see these incredibly powerful figures who are fallen because they can't keep that up. It's doesn't last long. And so what is beautiful about this story is that it's about a man learning to begin again in a different way. In a purer way,” said Rob Marshall. Penelope Cruz added, “I think he is, even if every man would dream about being Guido he is a very special human being. He is one of those people that you know when you are around him you are going to be at a high risk, because if they are happy you are going to be happy. If they are sad, they enter a room and they have an effect on everybody else because they are these big personalities.”
With Mario Fratti at his book presentation in Rochester, New York, 2010
Mario Fratti continues to travel all over the globe giving lectures on Fellini. He is also a prolific author. He recently published a book called "Unpredictable Plays," a collection of 28 plays with unpredictable endings. And for me being the eternal student of Italian cinema, it is such a pleasure and gift to know a writer with such a passion for his work, someone who has truly made a difference in his art and continues to spread his knowledge and experience to others. 
For more information about Mario Fratti, you can visit him online at

Friday, January 16, 2015

Strong Italian Presence at Berlin Film Festival

The Italian films to be shown this year at the Berlin Film Festival are: "Vergine giurata" by Laura Bispuri, "Torneranno i prati" by Ermanno Olmi, "Cloro" by Lamberto Sanfelice and "Il gesto delle mani" by Francesco Clerici, as well as the Italian television series, "1992" staring Stefano Accorsi.

Laura Bispuri's film is the story of a young woman who escapes from her destiny of being wife and servant which is imposed on the women in the inhospitable mountains in Albania. She appeals to the old law of the Kanun and swears her eternal virginity thus becoming a “Vergine Giurata" (sworn virgin). The film is Laura Bispuri's first feature film and stars one of Italy's top leading ladies, Alba Rohrwacher. It will be in the main competition at the festival.

Olmi's film will be presented in the Berlinale Gala. Dedicated to World War I, the cast features Claudio Santamaria, A. Sperduti, Francesco Formichetti and Andrea Di Maria. 

"Cloro" by Lamberto Sanfelice, which is also being featured at the Sundance Film Festival, is his first feature-length work, and will be shown in the Generation 14plus section.

The documentary by Francesco Clerici "Il gesto delle mani" will be shown in the 45th Forum, the Berlinale sidebar dedicated to visual experimentation and content that this year offers 43 films.

And finally, screening in the Berlinale Special is the Italian series "1992," a political thriller set against the backdrop of the “Mani Pulite” corruption investigations, triggering a political, civil and social earthquake in Italy. Accorsi heads the cast of "1992" which will make its World Premiere at the festival.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

New Music from Singer/Songwriter LILIN

She comes from a family deeply rooted in the entertainment business, and she is now proving it’s her time to shine. At just 20-years-old, performer Lilin has built a solid career on her vocal chords as a leading voiceover artist. She’s given the Italian language to characters in American blockbusters like "The Grinch," "Lilo & Stitch," "Narnia and The Gold Compass."

Born in Rome in 1994, she began her career as a voiceover artist at the age of five, perhaps inheriting that vocal talent from her mother, Fiamma Izzo, a former opera singer best known for her role of Mimi in the 1986 production of "La Boheme" in which she shared the stage with Luciano Pavarotti.

Early in her career, Lilin worked with her uncle, acclaimed actor and director, Ricky Tognazzi, on his films "Il papabuono" and "Provaci ancora prof 3." Lilin and Tognazzi are related through marriage. He is married to her aunt, Simona Izzo. Lilin describes Tognazzi as a great mentor and says that he has always been supportive of her projects. This is apparent particularly on social media. I discovered Lilin's music through Tognazzi on Twitter after he posted the work of his niece, he affectionately refers to as,“Lilly.”

A family snapshot
Recently, Lilin shifted her focus from cinema to music, embarking on the adventure of a lifetime that brought her to this side of the Atlantic where she attends the Berklee College of Music in Boston, and she has set her sights high on this adventure. Lilin told me that her dream is to make a permanent impact on the American music industry. She is certainly wasting no time making that dream come true. She’s already released two singles stateside. The songs are thriving in online communities such as ReverbNation, SoundCloud and iTunes.

Lilin draws on her background in cinema and her natural storytelling abilities in sharing a part of her life with the audience. Her voice is filled with emotion and feeling, similar to that of a character in a film. At the same time, the sweet tone of her voice gives the story a touch of innocence while the lyrics give testimony to the wisdom she’s acquired at such a young age.

Lilin's first release, "Euphoria" has been a popular track especially on SoundCloud. What first struck me was the beautiful, slightly eerie piano arrangement at the start of the song, then her voice joins in and we find her giving us a pep talk on following our dreams. It’s a simple but important message we all need to hear from time to time regardless of our age. This, I am certain she is singing from the heart. She is telling us her story and it’s difficult not to find inspiration in her simple yet poignant words. The song is an outstanding first effort.

Her second release, "All the Mistakes" is also doing well on SoundCloud. In this sophomore effort, Lilin takes the beat down a notch and sings about overcoming the pain of a broken heart. The song challenges her vocally but she rises to that challenge and presents us with another positive tale about life and its struggles, proving again there’s an old, wise soul behind that young, pretty face. Her voice resonates heartbreak and experience, and again, I believe the ability to articulate those emotions in the short vignette of a song comes from her beginnings in cinema.

So what we have here is the perfect marriage of two art forms; music and film, expressed by a young talent full of enthusiasm and hope, well on her way to fulfilling her dreams.

Lilin's music is available online through ReverbNation, SoundCloud and iTunes.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Paolo Virzi's latest film hits American theaters

The cast of "Human Capital"
Starting today, Americans are in for a rare cinematic treat.. Paolo Virzì’s latest film, "Human Capital," begins showing at theaters across the country.

The Wikipedia definition of human capital is- the stock of knowledge, habits, social and personality attributes, including creativity, embodied in the ability to perform labor so as to produce economic value. Well, the film, which was adapted from American writer, Stephen Amidon’s book pretty much covers all these attributes. The story begins after a cyclist is run off the road. That incident sets the stage for a rollercoaster ride of drama, egos, greed, opulence and destruction. The director’s visual expression of the novel has drawn incredible performances from his actors. Virzì has a history of empathizing with his characters to really get into their heads, which in turn leads to complete transformation, and it helps to have some of the most talented contemporary Italian actors, such as FabrizioBentivoglio, Valeria Golino, Valeria Bruni Tedeschi and Fabrizio Gifuni interpreting those roles.

Q&A at Open Roads: New Italian Cinema film series
Paolo Virzì
Born in the northern seaside town of Livorno in 1964, Paolo Virzì has become one of the most respected and innovative directors of his generation. He is known for utilizing the classic film genre, Commedia all’italiana, which was created by iconic filmmakers like Mario Monicelli and Pietro Germi, and is reflective of Italian pop-culture. It’s a way in which Italians could laugh and make fun of themselves a bit even in the darkest of days. It was especially popular in the years following World War II when Italians really did need some comedy relief. 

"Caterina va in città" is a great example of Virzì’s interpretation of this style of filmmaking with the namesake character, new to a school, just trying to fit in, faces growing pains and peer pressure while her parents are total train wrecks just trying to get by themselves. This recipe makes us laugh hysterically while feeling sorry for poor Caterina, hoping she could meet a least one sincere friend. It certainly helped Virzì to have veteran actors like Sergio Castellitto, Sergio Rubini, Margherita Buy and a guest appearance by TV Host, Maurizio Costanzo to pull off this Commedia all’italiana more than half a century after it was born. What’s so unique about Virzì’s work is the thin line of comedy and tragedy upon which he balances, and again this was very apparent in this 2003 film.

With Virzì in NYC
I’ve had the pleasure of meeting Virzì several times at various film festivals. He is a real people person, asking just as many questions as the person interviewing him. He strikes me as someone with the curiosity of a child always looking to explore and discover something new. This quality undoubtedly makes him the successful, resourceful director that he has become. 

If "Human Capital" is playing at a theater near you, I highly recommend seeing it. You will also be treated to an enchanting soundtrack written by his brother, Carlo. The siblings are a filmmaking team upon which dreams are made.

Click here to watch the film’s trailer and to find a theater in your area. 

Monday, January 12, 2015

Italy's Lamberto Sanfelice Heads to Sundance

Lamberto Sanfelice's, "Cloro" (Chlorine) is set to screen at the Sundance Film Festival, which begins next week.

The story follows Jenny (Sara Serraiocco) as she dreams of being a synchronized swimmer. After a parent passes away, she is forced to put her dream on hold to take care of business. That business seems never-ending as one problem leads to another. Time passes and she tries to hold on. But that time slowly distances her from the dream, and the inevitable day arrives when she realizes the life she once knew is a thing of the past. The love story in “Cloro”  could have taken more time in film. Jenny and Ivan had a strange relationship but underneath the tension, really cared about each other. I would have liked to see their story develop more. Nevertheless, “Cloro” is a moving, heart-wrenching tale of one girl’s plight and how she struggles with being a teenager one day and caregiver the next.

After having completed his first two short films “Getting Fired” and “Holy Sunday” in the Summer of 2009 at NYU, Lamberto Sanfelice returned to Italy to start collaborating with Ang Film to produce contents for the web tv Mugma. In 2012 he directed “Il fischietto” (The Whistle), a short movie financed by the MiBac.

“Cloro” is his first feature film. The script was selected for the MFI Script Film Workshops (MEDIA programme).

The film will be shown at the following locations and times:

6:00 PM
MON 1/26

3:00 PM
WED 1/28

3:00 PM
THU 1/29

10:00 AM
FRI 1/30

4:00 PM
SAT 1/31

For more information, visit

In Conversation with Director Cecilia Pignocchi

Filmmakers Arthur Couvat and  Cecilia Pignocchi It’s unusual for a first-time filmmaker to be recognized by a high-profile, international fi...