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Thursday, May 26, 2016

ICFF16 - Roberto Minervini's 'The Other Side' Returns to Toronto

In March, Italian documentary filmmaker Roberto Minervini received a special mention Nastro d'Argento (Il Nastro Speciale) for his film, The Other Side. It's recently been shown at the Palm Springs FilmFestival and Lincoln Center. On June 10, it will return to Toronto where it originally premiered last year at the Toronto Film Festival. The title most likely references “the tracks,” offering a portrait of America’s poor, surviving on a diet of beer, tobacco, heroin and crack in trailer homes in Louisiana and Texas.  

Minervini is becoming known for his hybrid form of filmmaking, which shows people essentially play themselves, creating the look and feel of a documentary, while the director clearly intervenes to create situations rather than observe them. His work is among the most interesting to emerge from the US in recent years, which may be surprising considering he is an Italian who has decided to poke his camera into the margins of American society. On the heels of his superb trilogy of Texas-based films (The Passage, Low Tide, Stop the Pounding Heart), Minervini moves his focus to Louisiana, where we come face-to-face with a group of people who seem to have stepped out of Deliverance. Faces carry the lines and scars of hard living, clothes are tattered, living conditions are chaotic. Some of his subjects are drug addicts; others are libertarian fanatics who hate the federal government. Yet Minervini finds a compassion and tenderness behind their gruff exteriors. Much of the film focuses on a small-time drug dealer and the girlfriend he lives with (and shoots up with). But, as The Other Side gradually shifts its attention to a group of local militia who are convinced that the feds are on the verge of declaring martial law and taking away their freedom, we are shown a more disturbing image of contemporary America. Sometimes it takes the eye of an outsider to provide a new perspective. Minervini is one such outsider. We feel he is at home with his subjects, as he peers into corners that many Americans choose to ignore.

The film will be shown on June 10 at 6:30pm at TIFF to mark their partnership with the Italian Contemporary Film Festival. The theater is located at 350 King Street West in the city of Toronto, Canada. Click here to join TIFF's Facebook event page. Watch the trailer...

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

The Lineup for Giovanna Taviani's SalinaDocFest Announced

It's just been announced that Gianfranco Rosi's "Fuocoammare" will open the 10th edition of Giovanna Taviani's SalinaDocFest, an annual film festival held on the Aeolian Island of Salina that features documentaries and feature films with themes of human rights and relevant social issues.
Rosi's film will be shown as a special event, not in competition. Listed below are the ten films, in two categories of competition along with the screening times.

"Sponde. Nel sicuro sole del Nord"
Concorso Internazionale Madre Mediterraneo
International Competition- "Mother Mediterranean"

"Due Sicilie" by Alessandro Piva
Friday 10 June h-15.30 | Malfa – Centro congressi 

"Sponde. Nel sicuro sole del Nord." by Irene Dionisio
Friday 10 June h-17.00 | Malfa – Centro congressi

"Nella mia testa una rotatoria" (Dans ma tête un rond point) by Hassen Ferhani
Saturday 11 June h-15.30 | Malfa – Centro congress

"Les Sauters"
"They Will Have To Kill Us First" by Johanna Schwartz
Saturday 11 June h-17.30 | Malfa – Centro congressi 

"Shashamane" by Giulia Amati
Domenica 12 giugno h 10.00 | Malfa – Centro congressi 

"Les Sauters" by Moritz Siebert, Estephan Wagner e Abou Bakar Sidibé in collaboration with Biografilm Festival

Domenica 12 giugno h 11.30 | Malfa – Centro congress 

"Magic Island"
Concorso Nazionale Sicilia.Doc Sicilian Documentary Competition

"‘U Ferru" by Marco Leopardi
Giovedì 9 giugno h 15.00 | Malfa – Centro congressi 

"Sicily Jass. The worlds first man in jazz" by Michele Cinque
Giovedì 9 giugno h 16.30 | Malfa – Centro congressi 
"Magic Island" by Marco Amenta
Mercoledì 8 giugno h 17.00 | Malfa – Centro congressi 
Watch the beautiful trailer
"Triokala" by Leandro Picarella
Mercoledì 8 giugno h 15.30 | Malfa – Centro congress

With Giovanna Taviani in Rochester, NY 
Giovanna Taviani is the daughter of the iconic filmmaker, Vittorio Taviani.. one half of the filmmaking duo, the Taviani Brothers. Although she had a part in her father's 1984 film, "Kaos", she has chosen a path behind the camera as a director specializing in documentaries. The festival, which began in 2007 ,has become a huge success with critics, filmmakers and the public. With each passing year, the festival grows, showcasing new productions of the narrative documentary made by promising young filmmakers.
Taviani has made a number of thought-provoking films, which reflect on society and the assimilation of immigrants. My personal favorite is her 2010 film, "Fughe e approdi", which showcases the cinematic magic of the beautiful Aeolian Islands where she grew up. Read my review and watch the trailer. 
The SalinaDocFest runs June 7-12 and will take place on its namesake island of Salina. For more information, visit the festival's website.


Monday, May 23, 2016

#ICFF16 Interview: Actor Stefano Grillo on his role in Checco Zalone's "Quo Vado?"

Born in the historic seaside city of Crotone, Calabria, actor Stefano Grillo is about to reach North American shores.

"Quo Vado?" is Checco Zalone's box office record-breaking film and it's in the lineup of this year's edition of the Italian Contemporary Film Festival in Canada. Grillo plays the part of Don Michele Vannucci, the pastor in a fictitious village in Calabria, called Castrovizzo. Don Michele Vannucci is a priest who fights against organized crime and because of this, ends up being transferred elsewhere.

The focus of "Quo vado?" is on Checco Zalone (Luca Medici aka Checco Zalone). Born into a life of relative comfort and privilege among his peers in his small town in southern Italy, he is one of the lucky few to have a posto fisso, or guaranteed job as a public servant. When a new reformist government vows to cut down on bureaucracy, Checco is forced to accept ever-worsening public-sector postings in order to maintain his guaranteed pay, benefits, and lifetime employment. While on assignment at Italy’s Arctic research station, Checco meets Valeria and falls in love with her. Checco cannot help but be enchanted by her Norwegian progressive, merit-based society. Ultimately Checco must choose between his secure yet parasitic place in Italy or a new and uncertain life with Valeria. The film opened on January 1, 2016 in over 1200 theatres across Italy. In the first eight days alone, the film earned €47 million in box office takings, beating "Star Wars".

I asked Stefano Grillo about his experience working on one of the most popular films in Italy's history and why the subject will be understood beyond the borders of his country. Our interview was done in Italian, so both versions are included.
Tell me about your experience making this film and working with Checco Zalone ..
My experience was fabulous. On the set, I met great professionals and at the same time beautiful people. Working with Luca (Checco Zalone) was magnificent. He is a great artist, very attentive to every detail.
I am especially grateful for Massimiliano Moretti's casting. I owe my part in "Quo vado?" to him. He was the first to give me a chance and audition me. After working on the film together, we have become very good friends He is a great professional, and the Italian film scene is so much in need of people like him.
Raccontami la tua esperienza nel fare questo film e lavorare con Checco Zalone..
La mia esperienza è stata favolosa,sul set ho trovato grandi professionisti ed allo stesso tempo bellissime persone. Lavorare con Luca (Checco Zalone) è stato magnifico, è un grande artista molto attento ad ogni dettaglio.
Volevo ringraziare particolarmente il casting Massimiliano Moretti, se faccio parte del cast di "Quo vado"  lo devo anche a lui. È stato il primo a provinarmi. Dopo l'esperienza "Quo vado"  siamo diventati molto amici, è un grandissimo professionista  e in Italia, specie nel panorama cinematografico italiano c'è tanto bisogno di persone simili. 
In your opinion, why has "Quo Vado?" been so successful in Italy?
Because Zalone and Gennaro Nunziante (the director) manage through sharp humor to describe the positive and negative aspects of our country.
Secondo te.. Perché "Quo Vado?" ha avuto tanto successo in Italia?
Quo vado è molto amato dagli italiani perché zalone e Gennaro Nunziante (regista) riescono attraverso una comicità pungente a descrivere per filo e per segno gli aspetti positivi e negativi del nostro paese.

Can you give me an example of these negative and positive aspects?
One of the negatives is the attachment to the state jobs as if they were the only reason for living. This is just because today in Italy, young people do not have steady jobs and therefore having a stable job of any kind means to be privileged. The positive aspects are the ease with which people can adapt and the devotion to family. Love in the movie wins over everything and everyone.

Puoi raccontami questi aspetti positivi e negativi?
Gli aspetti negativi sono ad esempio l'attaccamento ai posti di lavoro statali come se fossero l'unica ragione di vita, questo proprio perché oggi in Italia i giovani non hanno un lavoro stabile e di conseguenza avere un lavoro stabile di qualsiasi tipo adesso in Italia significa essere privilegiati. Gli aspetti positivi sono l'adattamento, l'attaccamento alla famiglia, l'amore che nel film vince su tutto e tutti.

Do you think the message of the film will be understood by audiences outside of Italy?
The message of the film will be captured perfectly outside Italy because it has a universal message! Love fails to question everything, even the comforts to which we are accustomed from childhood.
Credi che il messaggio del film sarà capito dal pubblico fuori dall'Italia?
Il messaggio del film verrà captato perfettamente al di fuori dell'Italia perché è un messaggio universale! L'amore riesce a mettere in discussione tutto, anche le comodità alle quali siamo abituati sin da bambini.

You can see Stefano Grillo in "Quo Vado?" on the following dates:

Screening times and locations:
June 9 @ 7:00pm TIFF - Toronto
June 10 @ 9:00pm Colossus - Vaughan
June 10 @ 9:15pm Colossus - Vaughan
June 11 @ 4:00pm Film House - Niagara
June 12 @ 7:00pm Museum of fine Arts - Montreal
June 13 @ 7:00pm Cinematheque Quebecois - Montreal
June 14 @ 7:00pm Cinema Guzzo - Montreal
June 14 @ 7:00pm Cinema Cartier - Quebec City

Click here to watch the trailer and to buy tickets.

You can see Checco Zalone in person:

June 9th, 2016
7:00pm Screening "Quo Vado?"
Opening Party
June 10th, 2016
Colossus Theatre
9:00pm Screening "Quo Vado?"
Buy Tickets

Thursday, May 19, 2016

#ICFF16 Interview with Filmmaker Alberto Diamante of "The Bookstore"

With Alberto Diamante in Toronto, Canada
By teaching a teenage boy how to win over a girl, a crusty bookstore owner learns to resolve his own romantic troubles. This is the story of The Bookstore, the charming, thought-provoking comedy by Alberto Diamante, which is in the lineup of Canada's Italian Contemporary Film Festival.

Alberto Diamante is a jack-of-all-trades. He wrote the screenplay, directed the film and participated as a lead actor. We met last year in Toronto at the Italian Contemporary Film Festival. He photographed my interview with Edoardo Leo, and we had a very nice conversation while waiting for Leo to arrive for the interview. However, I had no idea the range of his talent. Now living in Toronto, Diamante is originally from Italy. He called on his Italian culture when writing the screenplay for The Bookstore. I spoke with Diamante about those roots, his many talents and the idea for this film.

So where did this idea come from? I like this storyline that explores someone in their 30's dealing with their own mess to give advice to a teenager!
The idea comes from my love of literature and theatre. The emphasis, of course, is on Italian culture, romanticism and Italian comedic traditions. The main character (George) thinks of himself as a very worldly, well-rounded guy, but in reality his world is very small. I decided to use a single location to show just how isolated he really is. As I was constrained by a very limited budget, a bookstore seemed like a suitable solution because characters can discuss all manner of dilemmas in a witty, humorous way. It’s also very challenging: to find a gripping story in a static setting. The characters, dialogue and situations have to be scintillating or people will get bored quickly.

Since you wrote it, is there a character with whom you connect or relate to the most?
I play George, who is a highly fictionalized version of myself. He is the bookstore manager. I like him because, while he’s well-read and opinionated, he is often wrong in absurd, almost operatic ways. One of my favorite scenes has to do with his description to a detective of the men who robbed his store. George describes them as having “Dickensian eyes, Mephistophelian eyes, a vise-like grip and reptilian reflexes.” Of course, this description is absurd, as the detective quickly points out, but I love it because I thought that it might be the way a highly literary person might describe a robber. If James Joyce were alive today, that would probably be the way he would describe someone who just stole his wallet. 
Which part of the filmmaking process comes most naturally to you- writing, acting or directing?
I love every aspect of filmmaking, although in different ways. Writing is more intellectually challenging, because you’re dealing with an empty page and have to fill it with fascinating characters, stories, plot twists, etc. It’s also easier to edit: you just delete a paragraph and start over. With directing, the stakes are much higher: every mistake costs time and money. It’s a high-wire act with no net. However, it’s also more rewarding because you get to witness a scene come to life as you had envisioned it.

In terms of acting, I’ve been acting since I was in kindergarten. It comes totally natural to me and I enjoy it. However, the truth is, I did not want to act in this film. I already had too much on my plate. The problem is, George is such a highly complex character that I couldn’t find someone to encompass all his multitudes. The actors who auditioned all sounded like a stereotypical Italian character from The Sopranos trying to quote literature. It was like, ‘The Godfather goes to the library.’ No nuance, no wit, no humor. So I was forced to play George myself.

What is your personal story? Where exactly are you from and why did you move to Toronto?
I was born in Italy, and moved with my family to Kuwait for three years. We moved back to Italy for six years, then moved to Toronto. I decided to stay here because it’s a vibrant, multicultural city full of art, life, cinema, etc. I’ve been living here for about 30 years now.

Tell me about Toronto- or Canada in general- in terms of Italian culture. The country seems to have a huge population of Italians.
Well, there are three kinds of Italians here, essentially. There are the old-school Italians, who immigrated here forty-fifty years ago. They still speak the language and are very proud of their Italian heritage. They watch Italian television and listen to Italian radio programs. Then there are their children, who speak little or no Italian and have only a frail connection to Italy. They are essentially Canadians who talk with their hands and eat pasta. Then there’s the third kind of Italian: those who immigrated in the last 10 to 15 years. These are often well educated, speak Italian fluently, and are dissatisfied with the way Italy is being run today. They are part of the “brain drain.” They are often unappreciated in their homeland and emigrated in order to find a place that would appreciate their talent. In fact, if it weren’t for strict immigration laws, there would be an avalanche of new Italians in Canada today.

What is your dream for this film?
I was reading the box office receipts for Avatar yesterday. It made 2.8 billion dollars. I calculated that, if everyone reading this article sees the film and tells exactly 6,787 of their very best friends about The Bookstore, and their friends tell their friends, and so on, in exactly 14.7 years we can beat that record. Seriously, though, I am hoping to secure distribution for this film and the chance to make more films. Bigger, better, more ambitious films.

The Bookstore will be shown on June 14 during the Italian Contemporary Film Festival at the TIFF Bell Lightbox. Click here for more information and to watch promotional clips. 

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Rocco Talucci to present his Documentary on Screenwriter Enrico Medioli at Cineteca Nazionale

Enrico Medioli and Rocco Talucci
What do you get when you round up a bunch of Golden Age cinema legends to talk about one of their peers? An engaging documentary called, "Ritratto di sceneggiatore in un interno" (Portrait of a Writer). It is a beautiful film filled with nostalgia, wit and recollections of an era gone by.

Filmmaker Rocco Talucci explores the career of Enrico Medioli, one of the most renowned writers of Italian cinema. He worked with the likes of Luchino Visconti, Valerio Zurlini  and Sergio Leone and is credited for writing their masterpieces: "Il Gattopardo", "Once Upon a Time in America" and "Ludwig" just to name a few. He also worked extensively in television, creating recent hits like the acclaimed 2007 "War and Peace" and the 2008 miniseries "Coco Chanel".

With "Ritratto di sceneggiatore in un interno", Talucci analyzes the work of Medioli through his unpublished testimonies and those of the people who have worked with him throughout his distinguished career in cinema, such as Claudia Cardinale, Charlotte Rampling and Adriana Asti.

Talucci describes "Ritratto di sceneggiatore in un interno" as "a small independent film that tells a great story: the story of screenwriter Enrico Medioli." He goes on to call the film "a journey through the most beautiful pages of the last fifty years of cinema."

Medioli completely opens up to Talucci sharing his experiences as a screenwriter, working with true legends of cinema.  In addition to information regarding the drafting of the screenplays he wrote, there is a small private portrait on the years of his youth and high school education as a student of the poet Attilio Bertolucci.

Claudia Cardinale in "Rocco e i suoi Fratelli"
Talucci interviewed Claudia Cardinale about her experience working with Medioli. Cardinale played important roles in a number of films written by Medioli, including Visconti's 1961 "Rocco e i suoi fratelli" and Valerio Zurlini's "La ragazza con la valigia".

I've been connected with Rocco Talucci on social media for a while now and what I appreciate most about his perspective is that he truly appreciates the cinema of yesterday.. the Golden Age as we know it but at the same time, he also appreciates the contemporary filmmakers. of today. In a recent interview with Giacomo Aricò for Camera Look, he commented on Cardinale's statement in the film, that the cinema of those years made you dream. He was asked if the cinema of today can still make us dream. He replied by saying, "The cinema of today is different. It is difficult to compare two very different worlds.. but  today's cinema can still make us dream.

Cineteca Nazionale will dedicate May 12 to Enrico Medioli. Two of his works will be shown- "La ragazza con la valigia" and "Gruppo di famiglia in un interno" followed by "Ritratto di sceneggiatore in un interno" with a special Q&A with Rocco Talucci. Click here for more information.

Monday, May 9, 2016

#ICFF16 Canada's Italian Contemporary Film Festival Unveils its Lineup

The team from the Italian Contemporary Film Festival outdid themselves this year with a spectacular lineup of Italian Films. Checco Zalone will headline the festival, which opens on June 9.

This year, the ICFF is joining forces with the Niagara Integrated Film Festival of Niagara Falls, Canada where Italian cinema icon Claudia Cardinale will present her latest film, "All Roads Lead to Rome". The ICFF will also be presenting Cardinale with a lifetime achievement award.

Among my personal highlights of the festival are the following films that I have already written about either in anticipation of their Italian releases or in review after having seen them.
-Not in any particular order

"Loro chi" by Fabio Bonifacci and Francesco Miccichè starring Edoardo Leo and Marco Giallini

"L'Abbiamo fatta grossa" by Carlo Verdone starring Carlo Verdone and Antonio Albanese

"La stoffa dei sogni" (The Stuff of Dreams) by Gianfranco Cabiddu starring Sergio Rubini and Ennio Fantastichini

"Non essere cattivo" (Don't be Bad) by Claudio Caligari starring Luca Marinelli, Alessandro Borghi, Valentino Campinelli and Silvia D’Amico
-Interview with actor Valentino Campitelli 
-Interview with screenwriter Francesca Serafini

"Alaska" by Claudio Cupellini starring Elio Germano and Astrid Berges-Frisbey

"Cloro" by Lamberto Sanfelice starring Sara Serraiocco

"All Roads Lead to Rome" by
-Profile on Claudia Cardinale
-Interview with actress Paola Lavini
-Profile on actor Raoul Bova
-Profile on AMBI Pictures and Distribution

"La Felicità è Un Sistema Complesso" (The Complexity of Happiness) by Gianni Zanasi starring Valerio Mastandrea and Giuseppe Battiston

"Io e lei" (Me and Her) by Maria Sole Tognazzi starring Sabrina Ferilli and Margherita Buy

"Mia madre" (My Mother) by Nanni Moretti starring Margherita Buy, Nanni Moretti and John Turturro

"Un paese quasi perfetto" (An almost perfect country) by Massimo Gaudioso starring Fabio Volo, Silvio Orlando, Miriam Leone, Nando Paone, Carlo Buccirosso, Gea Martire, Maria Paiato and Francesco De Vito

"Lo chiamavano Jeeg Robot" (They Call Me Jeeg Robot) by Gabriele Mainetti starring Claudio Santamaria, Illenia Pastorelli and Luca Marinelli

Visit the Italian Contemporary Film Festival for the complete lineup. For more information on Claudia Cardinale's presentation, visit the Niagara Integrated Film Festival.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Interview: David Cinnella, Producer of Indie Western to be shot in Basilicata

From the makers of While Web Series comes another ambitious project. This time, the young filmmakers are following in the footsteps of their iconic predecessor Sergio Leone.

According to producer David Cinnella, “Tek” is a Cyberpunk Western with sci-fi influences. Like “While”, the series will be shot entirely in Basilicata. The creators of “Tek” are prolific writers and filmmakers currently producing a wealth of material from news reports to magazine articles to a web series. Among their projects, which showcase the creativity and talent of artists and filmmakers not only from Basilicata but from all over the world, are the online magazine “Voce Spettacolo” and the production company, 149 pictures.

Born in the town of Policoro to an American mother and Italian father, David Cinnella was raised in Matera. His diverse cultural background led him to the Academy of Art University in San Francisco where he studied filmmaking. He currently resides in Los Angeles. I asked him about this project and where his team plans to distribute the series once it’s finished.

What made you decide to make a Western?
I was once reading a script that happened to be a Western, and I was trying to visualize it in a way that I knew would be interesting and appealing to me. I, however, am not a particularly big Western fan, per se, but there were instances in which I did find the genre appealing. So, I thought to myself what were the ones that particularly held my interest, and that’s when it hit me. Exceptions aside, Westerns interest me the most when there’s an added sci-fi element to it. Even if just a small one. So, I pictured what I was reading as a more Cyberpunk Western -- which is what “TEK” actually is --, and the more I read, the more I couldn’t focus, because suddenly the images were becoming too beautiful in my head. I had also worked the summer of that same year on the web-series “While”, where we had great fun, and then I started to pick certain props, actors, locations, etc. that I knew could be filmable and available to us. Suddenly, the pieces started falling together. I can respectfully and honestly say that the story I had come up with was entirely different from what I was reading, so it wasn’t a copycat of it, but the way I was picturing it in my head was so visually interesting, for me, that I couldn’t read anything anymore, and that night, without possibly considering sleep, I decided to write it all down in one go. And so, after many revisions, the script is now complete, and after a meeting with the people of the “While” webseries, we decided that it was a worth-while project to pursue this year. 

Will it be a film or series- and shown on the web, television or movie theater?
At the moment, it’s only a short 30-minute film. However, during the many revisions of the script, I dabbled with the idea of expanding it to something longer, and with the help of a few friends, we actually did come up with an interesting way to expand it for more. So, should “TEK” ever become a success, we have enough material to make it a feature length film. As far as where it’ll be released, it will be online on YouTube, and then sent to various film festivals. And should anyone be interested in picking this up for a feature, we’d be only more than happy if it gets either a theatrical release, or a streaming release like on Netflix or other platforms.

What can you tell me about the plot?
I won’t say too much because it could reveal key elements of the story, so I’ll keep it short: In a dystopian, post-apocalyptic future where society has regressed to a pseudo-Western time, and technology has become a rarity, a single and lone gunslinger by the name of TEK roams the lands, searching for the people responsible for the death of his wife and daughter.

Where are you in the production process?
We are currently in pre-production. In June we will start the casting session in Southern Italy, and are aiming to shoot the film itself around the beginning of the second half of July, and if all goes well, it should take the rest of the month – possibly a few days into August – to complete filming. Then, we will enter in post-production. 

Have you shot anything yet?
So far, we have shot both a teaser and featurette, which we have posted on our Indiegogo campaign and through cold weather and sickness, we were able to do it all in a single day.

Explain to me what makes Basilicata this land of cinema.. with so many film productions happening in the region lately.
There’s a number of reasons as to why the region of Basilicata is so filmable. It has a history as ancient as human society itself; the beaches are wide and clean; the hills are soft and peaceful; there are great cinematographic mountains and rich, green forests; and best of all, the buildings reflect that history by being several thousand years old, hence why they make so many historical films there, especially in Matera – awarded the European Capital of Culture for 2019 – where they shot a number of great films, among which are “King David” (1985) starring Richard Gere, and Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of Christ” (2004), and where they just finished shooting “Wonder Woman” (2017), starring Gal Gadot.

We'll keep you posted on the progress of "Tek". In the meantime, watch the teaser trailer on vimeo.

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...