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Monday, April 25, 2016

Marking the anniversary of Italy's Liberation- April 25, 1945 with the film "Anzio"

Everywhere you turn in Italy, there is history. Every town you visit has its own story just waiting to be told. Every step you take has been taken for thousands of years. So when I visited the seaside town of Lavinio (near Anzio and Nettuno) and noticed a memorial stone written in English, I knew that I was about to learn something fascinating. The stone reads as follows:

22 JANUARY – 4 JUNE 1944

The Battle of Anzio began in January of 1944 when Allied Forces landed on the shores of neighboring seaside towns, Anzio and Nettuno. “Operation Shingle” was aimed at defeating German forces in the area. Initially, the attack was a surprise and the allied forces were able to move inland. But shortly thereafter, the German forces regrouped moving every available troop to higher ground, which provided a clear view of the allied positions. What followed was one of the deadliest battles of World War II, lasting a grueling four months.

The battle is memorialized in the 1968 movie titled “Anzio,” starring Robert Mitchum and Peter Falk. Although there isn't a direct focus on the battle as one might expect, the film is entertaining and suspenseful, covering the facts of the battle before taking you through the war-torn Italian countryside in pursuit of its two main characters, played by Mitchum and Falk. It was a pleasure to see these two iconic actors together in their younger days. Though hardened by war, the brotherhood between the two characters is strong, and it doesn’t take long to connect with them.

Adapted from the book “Anzio” by Wynford Vaughan-Thomas, the BBC war correspondent at the battle, the film was made in Italy with an Italian film crew and produced by the legendary Dino De Laurentiis. A joint Italian/American project, it was directed by Edward Dmytryk and Duilio Coletti.

Click below to stream "Anzio" on Amazon. Click here to stream "Anzio" on iTunes and here to stream on Vudu.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Interview: Director Cristian Piazza on his Documentary Film "Waiting"

The New York City Independent Film Festival has outdone itself this year in making its Italian selections. From full length to documentary to short, there is a wonderful diversity to the Italian films that will be presented this year. Click here for the festival’s complete list of Italian films.

I was thrilled to see a documentary in the lineup that I have been following for a while now on social media. Cristian Piazza’s “Waiting” is the story of three Italian Immigrants aiming for a second chance at life in New York City. 

Floriano Pagliara is a Professional Boxer looking for self-validation. After a crushing defeat back in Italy, he needs to regain his confidence. So, he finds a new trainer and gets a shot at a World Title against an American Champion. And a new adventure begins.

Paolo Buffagni is a former actor without any musical instruction. He reinvents himself as an Opera Singer at 30 after moving to New York. With little support for his new venture, he is constantly hesitant about his real potential and talent. His first major role is in Verdi’s “La Traviata.” With this new opportunity, he searches for the recognition he couldn’t find back home. 
Paolo Inferrera ultimately wants to open a restaurant in New York. His former family lifestyle and his entitled way of living fell apart with his parent’s divorce. He is an aspiring entrepreneur that falls short, hitting rock bottom. He acknowledges addiction and fights against it. He realized that the outside stimulation was a fence to his inner development. He tries to redeem himself in order to find his true Identity.

In an official statement about the film, Piazza calls “Waiting” a story about second chances. Being an Immigrant implies a resetting in habits: a new language, a new culture and dealing with circumstances differently.” He goes on to explain how “at first you are exhilarated and in awe because everything is new, until you realize that the past, and all things familiar, are pretty much a memory and nothing else.”
On immigration in New York, he says the city “has always been considered an Island of opportunity; it has been home for many generations of Italian immigrants since the late 1800’s. It’s a place to prove and confront yourself in every possible field.”  
Cristian Piazza, Photo by Patrik Andersson
I met Cristian Piazza many years ago in the early days of Lincoln Center’s annual film series, Open Roads: New Italian Cinema. We used to see each other every year at the screenings and chat about the films and contemporary Italian cinema in general. So, it’s great to see him following his dream of filmmaking and having so much success. I asked Piazza about the making of this film and his own experience with immigration.
Why did you want to tell this story?
Let me paraphrase one of my teachers: Stories are about discovery and worlds that are unknown to the audience. That’s first and second once you’re there and see the humanity of your subjects or characters, you established empathy and therefore you find yourself. 
I had to tell these stories. I wanted to build an imaginary bridge between the new generation of immigrants and the previous one, who have definitely paved the road for us. I’m an immigrant who moved here and tried to accomplish something. It’s close to home. 

Would you say the story is autobiographical then?
Nothing is entirely autobiographical and yet everything derives from experience and experience is the ultimate personal element of the self. 

Opera Singer Paolo Buffagni
What makes these particular cases unique?
They’re unique in this particular context; but they’re presenting a universal theme, which is having a second chance. I was very specific when I decided to cast my subjects. I was looking for middle class, Italian immigrants with no particular privileges, working in restaurants. What was also unique was to put them together in one movie. It’s a demographic that is hardly acknowledged. I know a few Italians that refuse to call themselves immigrants. They call themselves “expat”, “italiani all’estero”…etc. 

What do you feel are the challenges facing immigrants today?
Themselves. Meaning that every person will carry his or her own fears and hopes. It’s up to each one of us to carry on or give up what we are. Adapting to a new culture is always a challenge. Letting go is a huge factor when adapting, otherwise you are constantly comparing both realities.  

Where in Italy are you from?
It’s a million dollar question. My parents and grandparents are Sicilian from a small town in the Province of Agrigento. My mom spent some years in Livorno and part of my family stayed there. Home is where your memories are and I’m lucky to have more than one.

Why did you decide to move to the United States?
I wanted to be in a place where things were happening. There’s an image I use of a kid watching airplanes passing over his head. That kid wanted to move to a place where those airplanes were landing and taking off. Make sense? 
I came here by myself. I’ve spent most of my life between Venezuela, Italy, Argentina and the United States. I’ve experienced different realities, all very enriching. Each society moves at its own pace, has its own mechanism even if most places in the world seem to be going in one direction. It’s hard to change customs. Every place is facing the consequences of their particular history.  

Cristian Piazza discussing "Waiting"
Do you ever have regrets?
Definitely Not! I try to live in the present as much as possible. I’ve learned so many things; I’ve met incredible human beings. I’ve grown up as an individual and professionally. It wouldn’t have been the same. Success is a very tricky word. I don’t need to use it. What do we mean by success?  I think there are many elements to stay afloat in filmmaking, for example. I’m going to name a few: Craft, persistence, vision, the willingness to learn and a second skin to deal with rejection and at least one espresso a day! “Waiting” is the story of many; it’s probably a mirror of our own ride. Second chances are hard to take and hard to recognize too… starting all over again is already a victory. 

How have audiences been reacting to the film?
Very good. I notice that people want to come and talk to us instead of leaving in a hurry after the screening. That’s a good sign. 

Click here to stream “Waiting” on Vimeo.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Checco Zalone Opening the 2016 Edition of the ICFF in Toronto

With Checco Zalone at the ICFF press conference in Toronto
Updated 6/2016- Checco Zalone and his director Gennaro Nunziante were the talk of the town in Toronto, Canada recently during the screenings and opening gala of the Italian Contemporary Film Festival. Theaters across Canada were packed with audiences taking in the duo's latest brilliant collaboration, "Quo vado?", which is being touted as the highest-grossing Italian film in history. With box office earnings of €52.1 million in the first 12 days, the film beat out "Star Wars: The Force Awakens". Now, it's touring the festival circuit throughout the world and people all over the globe are getting the chance to see just why Italian audiences came out in droves to see this film.
Checco Zalone
The infamous character known as Checco Zalone was born Luca Pasquale Medici in the southern Italian city of Bari in 1977. He attended a local high school and then studied Law at l'Università di Bari "Aldo Moro". He performed with local musicians and then made his comedy debut in 2004 along with Giacinto Lucariello e Pierluigi Morizio. They hosted a local beauty pageant called, Ragazza Cinema Ok.

A few years later, he landed a spot on the television variety show, Zelig and his career in comedy took off. In 2009, he made his first feature film, "Cado delle nubi" (Fall from the Clouds). Directed by Nunziante, Zalone plays a down-on-his-luck dreamer, just dumped by his girlfriend and dealing with the political incorrectness of accepting the fact that his cousin is gay.

Gennaro Nunziante at the ICFF press conference
His 2011 follow-up film, "Che bella giornata", also directed by Gennaro Nunziante broke box office records, taking in 2.5 million euro during in just two days. "Che bella giornata" is the story of a clumsy security guard who unknowingly falls in love with a terrorist. The film was wildly successful in Italy and paved the way for "Sole a catinelle" and his latest film, "Quo Vado?". If his last films broke records, his latest blew those numbers out of the water.

"Quo vado?" was the first of Checco Zalone's films I've seen and after seeing it, it became obvious why his films are so popular in Italy. For the first 10 minutes, I did nothing but laugh. The pace is fast moving with joke after joke, many of which poke fun at the stereotypes of the southern Italian culture. If you grew up Italian American or if you have spent time in Italy, you will get the humor right away. With that said, subtitles are needed. There is no way that his films could be understood outside Italy by someone who doesn't speak fluent Italian unless you are watching with subtitles. It's just not possible. The dialogue is quick, sharp and filled with irony and cultural references. Thanks to the ICFF for providing subtitles for the North American audience, the entire theater was roaring with laughter throughout the entire film.
Gennaro Nunziante and Checco Zalone on the Red Carpet in Toronto
"Quo vado?" follows the now infamous Checco as he does whatever it takes to keep his secure government job, which provides him sick leave, benefits, paid vacation and a Christmas bonus. When he refuses to accept a buyout from government officials in Rome, he is forced to do the jobs that no one wants. However, he seems to have a talent for making the best out of a bad situation, so everything hilariously works out in his favor. There are some pretty crazy storylines that would only work in a Checco Zalone film.

I attended the press conference in Toronto where the actor appeared with his director and longtime friend Gennaro Nunziante. They were down-to-earth and very accommodating to the room full of press. The journalists were able to ask one question and mine pertained to the comedy genre. Since the duo has clearly mastered the this genre, I wondered if they'd ever venture into different territory.. perhaps drama. Checco Zalone's animated and lengthy answer generated hysteric laughter and in the end, the answer was no. I guess there's no reason to fix what's not broken.

It was just announced that his next film is slated for a 2017 release. We'll keep you posted. In the meantime, read my interview with Stefano Grillo, one of the actors in "Quo vado?" and watch the trailer..

Thursday, April 14, 2016

The Italian Selection of the 2016 Cannes Film Festival

"La santa che dorme"

Below is a list of the Italian films that were named this morning in the lineup of the 17th Edition of the Cannes Film Festival.

  • Il Silenzio di Farnoosh Samadi, Ali Asgari: Compétition des courts métrages

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Tribeca Film Festival to Feature the latest Italian Masterpiece - "Perfetti Sconosciuti"

I read a quote about Paolo Genovese’s “Perfetti sconosciuti” (Perfect Strangers) -  “Un film che rimane impresso, prima nella pancia e poi nella mente.” –A film that remains first in the stomach and then in the mind. That sums up how you will feel upon watching the film. If you’re a filmmaker, you will take it one step further by asking yourself, "Why didn’t I think of that?” This is a universal story, a testament to the times in which we live.

If I was limited to one word in reviewing this film, it would be, genius. That word covers just about every aspect of the film from the writing to the directing to the acting to the lighting to the set design to the wardrobe. Each person, every detail made “Perfetti Sconosciuti” a true masterpiece. I watched it several times before I attempted to write this. The first time, I just read the subtitles. The second time, I focused on the performances and then I watched it again to pay attention to the production details such as the warm, ambient lighting, the placement of the phones, the spectacular editing of the cut-a-ways and dialogue, the countless props in the carefully-styled homes and the timing of the glances from room to room. I also found the cinematography interesting. It seems to have echoes of documentary or news style filmmaking. You can see it in the screenshots I posted with that classic interview lead-room. I'm not sure of the intentions, but this crisp, clean style really helps in making the quick cuts during the conversations easy to follow.

“Perfetti sconosciuti” takes place over the course of one evening, primarily in one home at a dinner party that coincides with an eclipse of the moon. The group of 40-somethings consists of three couples and one friend that claims his girlfriend fell ill and could not make it. Upon discussing the breakup of a mutual friend’s marriage after the wife found a text from her husband’s young mistress, Eva dares everyone to put their cellphones on the table and answer all calls and messages publically in an attempt to uncover any secrets the friends may be hiding from one another. Apprehensive, the group accepts this sort of dare and what follows is one life-changing, unforgettable evening. Aside from the compelling story and plot twists, what impressed me the most is the ease with which these characters interact with each other. It was like watching old friends. And come to think about it, indeed they are. Marco Giallini and Valerio Mastandrea go back 20 years when they worked on the television movie, "Infiltrato".  They have since worked together on numerous projects. Giuseppe Battiston and Mastandrea go back about 10 years with projects like Gianni Zanasi's "Non pensarci".

"Perfetti sconosciuti" is a film that raises a lot of questions about our own lives since the emergence of social media, smart phones and applications that perhaps make it a little too easy for wandering, unfaithful or just curious significant others.

The performances are too powerful to lump into one paragraph, so let’s take a quick look at each one individually. I'll start first with Cosimo played by Edoardo Leo because I interviewed him last year and he told me that he was tired of being typecast as the "hero". Well then he must have really embraced the backstabbing, homophobic, judgmental, cheating, lying scumbag of a double-standard character he found in Cosimo, to put it lightly. Leo demonstrates a certain finesse and confidence in his portrayal of this character. Again, the word genius comes to mind. It is a genius and seemingly effortless performance. From the mustache and long, angled sideburns to the smirks and smarmy glances, Leo wholeheartedly transformed himself into this detestable Cosimo.

There’s a little bit of Alba Rohrwacher in every character she plays. Bianca, Cosimo's unsuspecting wife, is no different with that signature deer-in-the-headlights look, and as usual, it really seems to work. Rohrwacher gives her characters a certain vulnerability, even if they are strong-willed and intelligent like Bianca. She can play a real lunatic but she can also play the sweet girl next door. I wasn’t sure how’d she do with Anna Foglietta and Kasia Smutniak. She does bring a different sensitivity and perspective to the table, but again, it really works. As she mentioned in the beginning of the film, she was nervous the first time Cosimo introduced her to this group of old friends.. and that signature Rohrwacher gaze gives the impression that she still is not totally at ease with them.

In one of the opening scenes of the film, Lele (Valerio Mastandrea) is hiding in the bathroom texting on the cellphone application, Whatsapp, with a woman he’s never met. I actually didn’t catch this the first time around because I was reading the subtitles. So if you are seeing this at Tribeca and you’ll be following the subtitles, make sure to glance up consistently because there is a lot going on that words don’t convey. That moment in the bathroom is key later on in the film. Mastandrea was nominated for the David di Donatello (Italian version of the Oscar) for his role. It's an honor that is well-deserved. Lele is always in movement. His dumbfounded expressions toward Peppe and his passion and desperation in defending himself are nothing short of intense. Of all the characters, I felt to care about Lele the most because he's just a good, humble person that lost his way in life. He also seemed the hungriest of his friends. There is rarely a moment that he is not chewing. This amused me throughout the film once I noticed.

Carlotta (Anna Foglietta) is another David di Donatello nominee. If there is a show-stealer in this film, it is her. Foglietta poured her heart and soul into Carlotta and came alive in this role. Not only is her character entertaining to watch with her attentiveness, gazes and expressions, she is also wise, and after acknowledging that she and her husband have been through hell during the last couple years, makes us ponder the question "Why don't people learn to split up?". It's a good point and makes you think. Speaking to social media and messaging apps, when is the line crossed into infidelity? At what point does a couple throw in the towel and walk away rather than look away?
Rocco (Marco Giallini) is the calm, cool, virtuous one of the bunch. Another David di Donatello nominee, his performance was simply stellar and above all, strikingly natural as he carries most of the responsibilities of hosting this dinner party and being the voice of reason for the hot-headed Cosimo. There is a very endearing scene in which he offers his teenage daughter advice about a huge step she's about to take in her life. A plastic surgeon, he delivers a couple of sassy wisecracks about his profession. I really enjoyed his character. Giallini is always such a pleasure to watch. Each role is so different from the last. His range seems endless.

I credit the talent of the actor when I don't like the character, and I really did not like Eva, played by Kasia Smutniak. Although she provided quite a shocking scene towards the end of the film, I found Eva to be annoying. She is judgmental and has a sneaky way about her. She complained through most of the film, showing her husband just a couple moments of affection. In Eva's defense, she is going through her own mid-life crisis, struggling through the difficult years of raising her teenage daughter, even though in reality, Smutniak is not even 40-years-old. My only criticism is that I found her character out of place at times. Eva just seems a bit young, emotionally and physically, for this crowd. Smutniak reminds me of a young Judy Davis. There is a ton of possibility there.
The first time I saw Giuseppe Battiston was in Silvio Soldini’s 2000 film, “Pane e tulipani” when he played the mammoni detective, Costantino Caponangeli. Since then, the diversity of his roles has been fascinating to watch. With Peppe in "Perfetti sconosciuti", he returns to the innocence of Caponangeli, a simple man with not so unfounded fears. Peppe is the only character representing the single person without children and he made thought-provoking arguments about why couples choose to have kids, saying that some pour all their attention into children, thinking of nothing else. He opens the flood gates to a conversation in which many motives for having children are brought up, such as selfishness, fear of growing old, and a chance at a second life by living again through them. Peppe makes us ponder the question: Is having children selfish or selfless?

That is the beauty of this film. It makes you think. Add the totally unexpected ending followed by the beautiful theme song by Fiorella Mannoia and we are reminded once again of the uniqueness, the artistry and the infinite dreams of Italian cinema. 

If you are in the New York City area, don't miss this film. Click here to buy tickets.

Watch the video for "Perfetti sconosciuti" by Fiorella Mannoia..

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Documentary Filmmaker Gianfranco Rosi to Chair Cannes Jury

According to a report by Cineuropa, documentary filmmaker Gianfranco Rosi will chair the Oeil d'or jury at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival.

The Oeil d’or Award was instigated in 2015 by Scam (the Civil Society of Multimedia Authors) and Julie Bertuccelli, with "the active involvement of the Cannes Film Festival" and in conjunction with the Ina. The accolade serves to single out the best documentary presented in all of the various selections at Cannes (the 69th edition of which will take place from 11-22 May 2016) and will this year be handed out by a jury chaired by Italian director Gianfranco Rosi (winner of the Golden Lion at Venice in 2013 for Sacro GRA  and the Golden Bear at Berlin in February for Fire at Sea.

Friday, April 8, 2016

A Look at the Career of Living Legend Lina Wertmüller

Whether you’re referring to her name, her look or her style of filmmaking, Lina Wertmüller stands out in a crowd. Born in Rome in 1926 to a family of Swiss aristocrats, Wertmüller was a rebel at heart. She ignored her father’s pleas to study law and instead enrolled in film school. That choice would eventually land her at the Academy Awards as the first woman director nominated for an Oscar. 

After graduating from school, Wertmüller played a variety of roles in the movie business. From acting to writing plays to directing, she worked with a number of influential artists during those years including Federico Fellini, Marcello Mastroianni and her future muse, Giancarlo Giannini. In 1962, she landed a career-changing job as an assistant director on Fellini’s and the following year, made her directorial debut with The Lizards (I basilischi). The film was shot along the border of the southern Italian regions of Basilicata and Puglia, and to this day, is very much revered by the people of the south. The film speaks to the profound poverty of post-war Italy. With her trademark “whistling” music and her simple, yet powerful scenes, I basilischi was Wertmüller’s first in many social statements about the perils of man, the overpopulation and the politics that wreak havoc on the world and contribute to the suffering of the poor. 

Her great successes came the following decade when she teamed up with actor Giancarlo Giannini to churn out four consecutive spectacular and complex masterpieces, all of which received international acclaim: The Seduction of Mimi in 1972, Love and Anarchy in 1973, Swept Away in 1974” and Seven Beauties in 1975. In each of these films, Giancarlo Giannini plays a despicable character but bitter for good reason. There are numerous opposing forces in her films. For example, the North vs the South, socialism vs fascism and humility opposed to indifference. The opposition in her films is harsh. Her characters and their situations are black and white. There is no indecision. 

The most successful of these films is the dark comedy, Seven Beauties. The film earned four Academy Award nominations for Best Foreign Language Film, Best Director, Best Actor in a Leading Role and a writing category that no longer exists- Writing-(Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen--based on factual material or on story material not previously published or produced). Although the film was made in 1975, it received the Oscar nomination in 1976, also the year of Rocky and A Star is Born. Giancarlo Giannini gave a passionate, harrowing performance and deserved his Best Actor nomination. Set in Naples during World War II, Seven Beauties is the story of Pasqualino, a brother always defending the honor of his family. When a pimp forces his sister to work as a prostitute, refusing to marry her and then verbally insulting the family, Pasqualino commits murder and then admits to the murder, saying he did it to protect the honor and name of his family. His lawyer convinces him to plead insanity for a lesser sentence. Desperate to get out of the insane asylum, he volunteers to join the military. What follows is a heart-wrenching account from the trenches of war. As bleak as the story is, Wertmüller and Giannini manage to fit in some serious comedy relief. The film is an artistic testament to the cruelty of mankind and the moral struggle between good and evil. Click here to stream Seven Beauties on Amazon.

A scene from Love and Anarchy
The quality most refreshing in the films of Lina Wertmüller is the political incorrectness within her screenplays. Her writing was light years ahead of its time, yet her style and freedoms were very much of the 60’s and 70’s. Some scenes are almost uncomfortable to watch but they transport the audience back to a time when society wasn’t so easily offended, when we were all grown-ups enjoying a fictional film and appreciating the artistry and craft of writing dialogue. Wertmüller’s freedom with words like communism, socialism, fascism, idealism, Marxism, capitalism and the ease with which her characters engage in heated political exchanges demonstrates the brilliant collaboration and rooted understanding she had with her actors and their complete freedom of expression. The depth of the dialogue and the articulately developed characters with their complexities and idiosyncrasies speak volumes to Wertmüller’s talent as a screenwriter. Her characters have painful pasts, which become apparent right away. 

At 89-years-old, Lina Wertmüller is still very much relevant today. Last year at the 72nd Venice Film Festival, a young director named Valerio Ruiz presented his documentary film, Behind the White Glasses, which honors the life and work of Wertmüller. Artists like Martin Scorsese, Sophia Loren and Giancarlo Giannini talk about their experiences working with her and the qualities that make her so unique.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Interview: Cinematographer Michele D'Attanasio on "Veloce come il vento"

“I’m a hopeless case, and there aren’t many actual hopeless cases around these days”. Strong words from Stefano Accorsi's latest character, Loris De Martino, a drug addict struggling to overcome his demons. Directed by Matteo Rovere, Veloce come il vento hits Italian theaters today, and critics are already praising Accorsi's performance, proclaiming “Stefano Accorsi as you’ve never seen him before.”

Based on a true story, Veloce come il vento is set in Imola, located in the region of Bologna, home of the epic race car track where infamous competitions were held, including the Formula One and Italian Grand Prix. The film portrays the conflicts of one family whose history in the business of racing is long standing and complex. Giulia De Martino, played by Matilda De Angelis, is a 17-year-old responsible for taking care of her family since her mother up and left. A novice racecar driver, she is struggling with carrying on the family name of racing champions while trying to make ends meet at home. In order to raise the money to save the family’s house, she must win a very important race. So she enlists her brother’s help. Once a champion himself, he has succumbed to a life of drug addiction. However, his vast knowledge of cars and what it takes to win are just what his little sister needs to be victorious. Without having seen the movie yet, the previews reveal a strikingly transformed Accorsi, both physically and emotionally, into this desperate, but sincere lost soul.

Many scenes were shot around the city of Matera, located in the region of Basilicata. I spoke with the cinematographer, Michele D'Attanasio about his work on the film and the challenges he faces in staging the high-speed races in the winding ancient roads of Lucania. D’Attanasio has worked on a number of recent Italian blockbusters, including Gabriele Mainetti’s Lo chiamavano Jeeg Robot and Edoardo Winspeare’s In grazia di Dio

Our interview was done in Italian, so both versions are included.  

What is the photography process from the beginning to the end of a movie?
It always starts from a script. I read it and discuss it with the production team. We talk about creating certain atmospheres and how feasible it figuring out the best ways to shoot the film. Meanwhile, I begin to contact my staff and we put together a list of technical material. After we start the actual shooting, there is little time to think. Once we completed the editing of the film, the next step was color correction where we gauged the light and colors of each shot. 

Qual è il processo della fotografia dall'inizio alla fine di un film?
Si parte sempre da una sceneggiatura. Io la leggo e ne parlo con il regista e la produzione. Si parla di atmosfere, riferimenti cinematografici e non, fattibilità realizzative. Poi inizio i sopralluoghi e nel frattempo capisco quali sono i mezzi più adatti per girare il film. Nel frattempo inizio a contattare i miei collaboratori e stilo una lista di materiale tecnico. Dopo iniziano le riprese vere e proprie e lì c’è sempre poco tempo per pensare. Una volta che è il film è stato finito di montare passo alla color correction, dove calibro la luce e i colori di ogni inquadratura. 

Tell me about your work on Veloce come il vento.
It was a challenge. It’s a classic movie with a good story that raises some big questions. 

Raccontami il tuo lavoro su Veloce come il vento.
Il film “Veloce come il Vento” è stata una bella sfida. Un film con una bella storia, se vuoi per certi aspetti classica, ma con un grande interrogativo.

How did you film the sequences with the race cars?
Consider that the film takes place on four racetracks (Monza, Mugello, Imola, Vallelunga) as well as on a clandestine track, located on a back road between Matera and the surrounding countryside. Then, add a chase in the historic center, another in Imola and a final chase between a scooter and a moped that ends in an accident. 

There was an unnecessary concern that the film could be too much like an American blockbuster film such as The Fast and the Furious but we did not have the means, the budget or the interest to make that type of film. We therefore decided to approach everything in a more analogical way. The countless cameras that we used during the races were really there, attached to the cars at whizzing speed.

Shooting the film was not easy. Above all, racetracks themselves are not great, especially because they do not have a large contour. Let me explain: if the Autodrome Monza can be spectacular when there is the Formula One or Gran Turismo race taking place but filming it for a movie is not the same thing. Formula one races are spectacular when being shown on television but there are disadvantages when trying to imitate them. 
Watch the trailer: 

Come realizzare le sequenze con le macchine da corsa?
Considera pure che il film si svolge in 4 circuiti automobilistici (Monza, Mugello, Imola, Vallelunga) oltre che una gara clandestina girata off road tra Matera e campagne limitrofe. Al tutto aggiungi un inseguimento tra una macchina e degli harleisti per il centro storico di Imola e un inseguimento tra uno scooter ed un motorino con incidente finale. 

La paura era di scimmiottare in modo patetico i kolossal americani (tipo fast and furious): non avevamo ne i mezzi ne il budget e nemmeno ci interessava più tanto.  

Abbiamo deciso quindi di approcciare tutto in modo più analogico. Le innumerevoli macchine da prese che abbiamo usato durante le gare erano veramente lì, ancorate alle automobili che sfrecciavano a velocità pazzesche. L’uso del green back è stato ridotto al minimo, anzi forse ad un po’ meno del minimo! 

Realizzare la fotografia del film non era per niente facile. Soprattutto gli autodromi di per se non sono bellissimi, specie perché non hanno un grande contorno. Mi spiego meglio: se l’autodromo di Monza può essere spettacolare quando c’è la formula uno vederlo durante le gare di gran turismo ( quelle raccontate da noi nel film) non è la stessa cosa. Anche le riprese della televisione durante le gare di formula uno sono spettacolari ed anche in quel caso partivamo svantaggiati se volevamo provare ad imitarle.

I saw that many scenes were shot in the region of Basilicata. Where exactly did you shoot? 
After spending so much time on the racetrack circuits, it was very beautiful to be shooting in Basilicata. The director and I lost ourselves in the inspirational places that we found. We discovered these places in which we shot scenes and we gave them nicknames such as lunar and western. Specifically, we shot in a private airport in Pisticci, on a backroad leading to Pisticci Scalo a Pomarico, an overpass behind Craco and in the suburbs of Matera rather than the city's historic center.  

Ho una serie, Basilicata: Terra di Cinema. Ho visto il film è stato girato in Basilicata.  Esattamente in quali luoghi (città) hai lavorato? Raccontami la tua esperienza di ripresa in Basilicata.
Dopo essere stato nei circuiti automobilistici, il poter girare delle sequenze di corsa in Basilicata è stato bellissimo. Ci siamo persi io e il regista nel trovare luoghi che ci ispirassero. Abbiamo scoperto degli scenari a cui abbiamo assegnato dei nomi: lunare, western e tanti altri… Nello specifico abbiamo girato nell’aereoporto privato di Pisticci, nella strada secondaria che porta da Pisticci Scalo a Pomarico, sul viadotto alle spalle di Craco, e a Matera, sia nella periferia che nel centro storico della città

In your experience, what are the qualities that make the region an ideal place for shooting a film?
The fact that it’s wild and free of contamination. 

Secondo la tua esperienza, quali qualità fanno della regione un luogo ideale per girare un film?
L’essere selvaggia ed incontaminata.

Veloce come il vento premiered earlier in the week at the Bari International Film Festival. It will be distributed in Italian theaters today by 01 Distribution. Check back here for information on international distribution.

Documentary on the Family of Francis Ford Coppola getting International Attention

Update May 12, 2016

The Family whistle will be shown at the 69th Cannes Film Festival on May 19 in the "Classic" section. The Lucana Film Commission will be on hand to present the film along with the director Michele Russo. According to Paride Leporace, the director of the Lucana Film Commission, the film is "an 'epic that from Augustine to Carmine - reaches the last generation of the Coppola family to Sofia through the genius of Francis Ford Coppola, the most famous and influential living testimonial of Basilicata. The film features photography by Basilicata-born Ugo Lo Pinto, who for this work has just won the Indie Spec Best Cinematography Award at the Boston International Film Festival. Furthermore, historical documentaries made in Lucania by Cinematheque. - American Zoetrope and Cultural Ulysses have proved once again, that Basilicata is a land of Cinema internationally recognized."

Directed by Basilicata-born filmmaker Michele Russo, The Family Whistle is the story of the famed Coppola family of filmmakers and musicians that descends from Agostino Coppola, a poor immigrant from Bernalda, an impoverished village in Southern Italy. Interviews and archival footage portray how the family history has inspired these artists, and how they continue to renew their ties to the land of their origin.

The film made its U.S. premiere in April at the Boston International Film Festival and earned an award for its cinematography. It will be available for viewing at Cannes on May 19 at the Majestic Hotel between the hours of 10:30am and 17:30pm in the Italian Pavilion. in addition to the Lucana Film Commission, representatives from the numerous Italian film commissions will be present.

12 Maggio 2016

La Lucana Film Commission, con il patrocinio e il contributo di Sensi Cinema e della Regione Basilicata, sostiene il film “The Family whistle-Il fischio di famiglia”, selezionato al sessantesimo Festival di Cannes nella sezione Classic, organizzando il 19 maggio, giorno della proiezione del documentario, all’Italian Pavillon un incontro di promozione di questo significativo progetto cinematografico.
"Sosteniamo il regista Michele Salfi Russo, lucano di Bernalda, che con cuore e talento ha ricostruito la storia della sua famiglia oltreoceano incrociando l’epica artistica dei parenti Coppola". Così dichiara il direttore della Lucana Film Commission, Paride Leporace, che aggiunge: "un’ epopea che da Agostino a Carmine - continua Leporace- giunge all’ultima generazione di Sofia, attraversando il genio di Francis Ford Coppola, il più celebre e autorevole testimonial vivente della Basilicata. Con la fotografia del lucano Ugo Lo Pinto, che proprio per questo lavoro ha appena vinto l'Indie Spec Best Cinematography Award al Boston International Film festival, e i documentari storici della Cineteca lucana- conclude Leporace-  American Zoetrope e Ulisse Cultural hanno realizzato un documentario che anche sulla Croisette, ribadisce, ancora una volta, che la “Basilicata è terra di Cinema riconosciuta a livello internazionale."
L'agenda della Lucana Film Commission a Cannes, si arricchisce di altri importanti appuntamenti. La fondazione cinematografica lucana parteciperà alle iniziative dell’Italian Film Commission, cui aderisce. Tra le principali  si segnalano il meeting  “Cosa offre l’Italia all'audiovisivo internazionale?”, che si terrà il giorno 19 maggio all’Hotel Majestic, dalle 10,30 alle 17,30, nell'area business del Padiglione Italiano, dove saranno presenti tutte le film Commission italiane.
Stretta collaborazione anche con il Centro del Corto italiano, che a Cannes presenta la nuova Italian Short Films Video Library, il primo catalogo digitale volto a promuovere sul mercato internazionale i cortometraggi realizzati nel nostro Paese. In questa ottica, la Lucana Film Commission, ed in virtù dell'importante produzione di cortometraggi che contraddistingue la cinematografia made in Basilicata, ha comprato degli spazi che ha offerto ai produttori e autori lucani per favorire occasioni di diffusione delle loro opera.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

The Italian Films of the NYC Independent Film Festival

"Fucking World"
The NYC Independent Film Festival is coming up at the end of April. There are about a half dozen Italian films. Check out the diverse selection.

“The Friend” (L'amico)
-Director’s name not announced yet
April 28

“Fucking World” by: William Mussini
2-minute Experimental Film
April 29
Modern man lives his life (day) in just under a minute and thirty seconds. Lives frustration, joy and sense of incompleteness jumping from one emotion to another, from a knowledge gap to a lack filled by media messages. As a final gesture kills the world carrying the ransom that frees him from the daily derailment.
"Not Without Me" (Non senza di me) by Brando De Sica
April 27
A very possessive father imposes to his son a life devoid of independence.

"Rocco Has Your Name" (Rocco Tiene Tu Nombre) by Angelo Orlando
-Spanish film by Italian-born director
May 1
It's a typical day like many others in the life of Bobo Benso. But this time, something breaks the routine: a stranger is installed in home... says his name is Rocco. Bobo slowly discovers has been overrun, excluded, evicted from his own life and is now in no man's land.
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"Time Zone Inn" (Senza distanza) by Andrea Di Iorio
April 28
There is a B&B where every room is a city of the world. You can choose the room-city you want to go to and you'll live in its time zone. It's a training course for long distance relationships.

"Time Zone Inn"
"Waiting” by Cristian Piazza
April 27
Three Italian Immigrants aim for a second chance in life in New York City. Floriano Pagliara is a Professional Boxer looking for self-validation. After a humiliating defeat back in Italy, he needs to regain confidence. His career is his Identity. He finds a new trainer and a shot at a World Title against an American Champion. What will do it for him? Going the distance or winning the title? Paolo Buffagni is a former Actor without any musical instruction; He reinvents himself as an Opera Singer at 30 after moving to New York. With little support for its new venture, he is constantly hesitant about his real potential and talent. His first major role is in Verdi’s Traviata. He’s looking for the recognition he couldn’t get back home. Paolo Inferrera ultimately wants to open a restaurant in New York. That’s one thing he happened to do well since moving. His former family lifestyle and his entitled way of living fell apart with his parent’s divorce. He is an aspiring entrepreneur that falls short and becomes a slacker hitting rock bottom. He tries to redeem himself in order to find his true Identity. In the meantime, they work their way up at restaurants, like thousands of others newcomers. WAITING is a Documentary about a longing for validation as a modern settler.
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“Loneliness” by Vincenzo Stigliano
-Short Script Finalist Reading Session (not a screening, only a reading)
May 1
It's been a few months since Antonio (42) has lived alone and not left the house.
In the city, everyone thinks he's crazy after the sudden death of his wife. Her, during one night, made him lose his tracks. In the town it is said that his wife was woman of easy virtue.
Now,  Antonio’s thought is to feed the stray dogs in the vicinity of his home. He wants to get rid of the meat in his fridge.
One morning he decides to go out for a walk in the town.
People who observe seem surprised to see him back on the streets.
Antonio meets an old friend with his small son, and after giving the latter his little cake, he had bought for breakfast, he returns home.
He cooks and eats lunch alone.
In the afternoon, Antonio usually sits on the balcony of the house that overlooks the sea. He drinks a glass of whiskey and smokes a cigarette waiting for his friends, the dogs in the area who come back to him asking for food.
This happens regularly.
Antonio hears scratching at the door.
He goes through the kitchen, opens the refrigerator, takes out the meat and cuts a large piece. Then, he carries the meat to his animals waiting outside.
From the paper bag that wraps the meat, rolls out a severed finger of a woman.
His wife has not disappeared, she is only in the freezer.
Buy Tickets 

The festival will be held from April 27 - May 1. Check out the website for details and consider supporting the festival by becoming a sponsor.

The New Generation of De Sica

Recently through social media, I've discovered there's a whole new generation of De Sica filmmakers on the rise. Both grandsons of the great Vittorio De Sica, Andrea and Brandon are making films on both sides of the Atlantic.

Andrea De Sica's father was the composer Manuel De Sica, who worked on a number of films, including Michele Soave's 1994 dark comedy "Cemetary Man". He passed away in 2014. Andrea De Sica made his first short film in 2007 and has been quite prolific in his work ever since. He has spent the last few years directing television series. Just recently, it was announces that he was awarded funding by to make his first feature film. Cineuropa announced a few weeks ago that De Sica's new project "I figli della note" (The Children of the Night) was the only Italian movie selected during the latest Eurimages conference granting support for film production. Shooting began in early March in South Tyrol, located in the northern Italian region of Alto Adige. Although young, he has already worked alongside Bernardo Bertolucci, Ferzan Ozpetek and Vincenzo Marra since graduating from the Experimental Film Centre in Rome.

Brando De Sica is the son of Christian De Sica. He studied cinema at the University of Southern California and then returned to Italy where he began his career as an assistant to Pupi Avati. He made his directorial debut with the docu-film " Parlami di me", which was selected for the Rome Film Festival. Four years later, he directed and produced the short film, "La donna giusta", a personal tribute to the work of Roger Corman on Edgar Allan Poe, which was presented at the Taormina Film Festival. The following year, he collaborated with Massimo Gaudioso, Ugo Chiti and Edoardo Albinati on the screenplay of "Racconto dei racconti" by Matteo Garrone. In 2014, he made a fashion video for the handbag label Chaterinelle, later acquired by Rai Cinema and presented at last year's Cannes Film Festival. The film received many accolades, including a Nastro d'Argento for best director, a nomination for the Davide di Donatello award, and a Best Advertising award at the Diane Pernet ASVOFF, a Shaded View on Fashion Film. His latest film, "Not Without Me" will be shown at the New York City Independent Film Festival on April 27. Check here for more information.

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...