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Monday, August 29, 2016

A Hungarian Filmmaker and his Italian Story about a German Philosopher

It's been a tough couple weeks watching the images of people- children in particular- suffering through war and natural disasters. First, we saw the heartbreaking image of a toddler being pulled from the wreckage of a bombing in Aleppo, Syria. Little did we know it was just the beginning of a week of similar images.. children being pulled from collapsed buildings after the earthquake in Amatrice, Italy. Some children made it out alive, while many others didn't. Among the images that struck me the hardest was a rescue worker reassuring an elderly woman buried in rubble, the rescue of 10-year-old Giulia and the countless shots of dogs- whether they were being rescued, helping with the rescue or sitting by the coffins of their masters. The dogs in particular that were rescued made me curious about their backstories and that reminded me of a clever, dark and mysterious film I saw a few years ago by Hungarian filmmaker Béla Tarr. So, I thought it would be an appropriate way to come back from such a devastating and dark week that we will certainly never forget.

It's been described as a "radical and terrifying journey towards the end of the world." Set in 19th century Italy, Hungarian filmmaker, Béla Tarr's 2011 film, "The Turin Horse" traces the events following German philosopher, Friedrich Nietzsche's tragic encounter with a horse-driven cab in the Italian city of Torino that eventually led him to be bed-ridden for the next 11 years of his life until his untimely death in 1900.

The story recounts the events of January 3, 1889 when Nietzsche was strolling through the streets of Torino and encountered a cab driver having trouble with his horse. The horse wouldn’t move and the driver started beating it. Nietzsche was mortified by the abuse of this innocent animal and tried to stop it. As the story goes, he hugged the horse, started crying and fell to the ground. The incident left a permanent psychological scar on the German philosopher. Shortly thereafter, he was diagnosed with chronic mental illness from which he would never recover. 

Screenwriter László Krasznahorkai approached the story from the angle of "whatever happened to the horse?".  The film addresses that question in a fictionalized tale of what may have occurred. In eerie scenes of dust and dry leaves circling and engulfing the vast landscapes of howling wind, "The Turin Horse" carries the signature of its director, Béla Tarr, who is known and revered for his incomparable style of long takes, black-and-white photography and little or no dialogue. This style can immediately be seen in the trailer for the film. If you are familiar with Tarr's style of filmmaking, the trailer will make sense.  If you are not, it may raise some questions. 

Personally, I have always seen a strong parallel between Béla Tarr's work and the films of Pier Paolo Pasolini. The two directors always seem to portray the world in its most grim and desperate moments. They present people living with the bare essentials and trying to make ends meet in the gravest of circumstances. In a simple yet strong statement about his film, the Hungarian auteur described "The Turin Horse" as "a film about the unbearable heaviness of life and the monotony of life."  If you were to keep that statement in mind while considering the work of Pasolini, "Mamma Roma" and "The Hawks and the Sparrows" in particular, you would undoubtedly see the similarities in their work. 

Three years in the making, "The Turin Horse" is reportedly the last film for Béla Tarr as a director. Since then, he has produced a number of projects. Fans of his work embraced this film as the curtain went down for one of Europe's most admired directors. 

Opening Scene-

Click here to watch "Turin Horse" on iTunes.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Basilicata: Terra di Cinema - Interview: Actor Walter Nicoletti of “Jesus VR - The Story of Christ”

Cinema history is about to be made at the 73rd edition of the Venice FilmFestival coming up in September. The festival just announced the world premiere screening, in a special 40-minute preview, of “Jesus VR - The Story of Christ”, the first Virtual Reality feature-length film ever made. The 90-minute film covers all of Jesus’s life and death, from his baptism to the Last Supper to his crucifixion. Shot in Basilicata’s ancient Sassi district of Matera, the film will be released to the public in December on all major mobile and premium VR platforms.

“I am beyond thrilled to be a part of this groundbreaking project. It’s as exciting a take on the story of Christ as I’ve ever seen and its production values will absolutely set a new benchmark for virtual reality,” said executive producer Enzo Sisti in a statement about the film. Sisti worked on Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ”, which was also filmed in Matera.

“The viewers truly feel they are there with Jesus and his disciples,” director David Hansen said in a statement. “This is the most powerful story of all time and virtual reality is the perfect way to tell it.”

Matera-born actor Walter Nicoletti plays the role of the disciple, James. Earlier today, we spoke about his experience working on the film and what he thinks about all the film production taking place in his region of Basilicata.

Tell me about your experience working on this film. Since Matera is your hometown, it must have been poignant to be a part of such an important production.
It was an amazing international experience that will make history, considering that "Jesus VR - Story of Christ" is the first feature film shot in 360-degree 4K video (virtual reality). I was offered the role after attending a casting call in Matera, the city where I was born and still live. I work here as an actor and I am also the founder of Voce Spettacolo (an online news journal). This was my first opportunity to play an English-speaking role. The film was shot using the biggest VR production crew ever. Hundreds of technicians and collaborators worked together to make this film. The cast is composed of extraordinary actors with great rapport and mutual respect for each other that has lasted long after the shoot.

How much of the cast and crew were locals?
The cast consists of professional actors from around the world and from Basilicata and Puglia. The crew was made of up of Italians and Americans from Cinecittà and Los Angeles who joined together to tell this story. Many extras were selected in Matera.

What were some of the locations?
The film was shot entirely in Matera, Sassi, and part of the Murgia Materana- fantastic natural locations. All the area is amazing for any type of film project. You can also use it for westerns or sci-fi movies, like I did with my last movie called TEK, the first Italian cyberpunk western. I produced it and I also play the main character. It's directed by my friend David Cinnella, an Italian-American director.

Walter Nicoletti (left)
Tell me about your character, the disciple James (Giacomo).
I played the role of the disciple James (James The Lesser), also called "the right", and founder of the Church of Jerusalem after the death of Jesus. I studied so much for this role and I felt strong emotions for the character. I grew artistically and spiritually because I shot some scenes near the Messiah. I always felt a great positive energy on the set that sent me back in time to relive the millennia of Christian history near my home. I felt a great responsibility because I had to play one of the twelve disciples, always regarded as great humans for all who seek the Way, the Truth and the Life. Thanks to this role, I realized that life is extraordinary.

What did you do to prepare for the role?
When I was informed that I got the part, I spent my days studying intensely. I did a lot of historical research on the character. I documented his life through books, videos and documentaries. I traced the history of the Bible to understand the essence, the spirit and humanity of this man who gave service to God. 

What are your thoughts on the increase in film production in Basilicata over the last couple years? What are the qualities of the region that draw film crews?
Basilicata is an extraordinary land to tell any story. When I travel by car, I am always enchanted by looking at the scenery and nature. Then I think about the films that could be made here. Hollywood has discovered our territory, but this is not enough because we need to work on giving opportunities also to young, talented Lucani around the world. There are young people who have extraordinary qualities, strong creativity and professionalism, but they had to move away from their families and this is very sad. In recent years, I founded Voce Spettacolo and I created a group of filmmakers to export their films all over the world. The movie industry is growing here, so it's time to write the story of our future. Our hearts will always continue to love Lucania and the seventh art (cinema).
From September 1st to the 4th, the Venice Film Festival will offer screenings of the technology applied to the making of “Jesus VR – The Story of Christ”. The screenings will be held in the new VR Theatre, on the second floor of the Casinò, which will be equipped with 50 VR Head Gears for individual viewing on seats that pivot 360°. Click here for more information about the screening.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Sunday Cibo & Cinema goes Old School: My Interview with Dom DeLuise

A few years before he passed away in 2009, I had the great pleasure of talking with actor and comedian extraordinaire Dom DeLuise. It was a phone interview for Fra Noi Magazine. My editor had asked me to choose an Italian American filmmaker that month. As I grew up in the '70s with my parents watching the films of DeLuise and Burt Reynolds, I've always had an affection for him, so I reached out to ask for an interview and was thrilled when his publicist granted my request. Our conversation will always remain a beautiful memory. He was so down-to-earth and enthusiastic. I discovered that his Italian origins hailed from the Basilicata region of Italy like mine, so it was a nice surprise to learn we had something in common.

DeLuise has a list of film, television and stage credits that few could match. He worked with icons of television and cinema, becoming one himself, and also did the voices for cartoons such as "An American Tail" and "All Dogs Go To Heaven." He appeared as a guest on the shows of Merv Griffin, Carol Burnett, Jackie Gleason, Flip Wilson, Mike Douglas, Dean Martin and Johnny Carson. He even roasted Frank Sinatra. However, when I spoke with him, he said his biggest passion was his books. He told me about those books, his Italian heritage and his special friendship with Burt Reynolds.

What was your childhood like growing up in Brooklyn in the 1930s and 40s?
The whole world was Italian. We lived across the street from a church and it was a part of our life, not just on Sundays. We weren't just Italian; all of our extra curricular activities were Italian, like celebrating the Feast of St. Anthony. There were a lot of stores. You could go to the store and see them making fresh mozzarella and there were rice balls on the counter. I lived in a neighborhood where the stores were specific. There was a store to get fresh pasta. A few doors down, there was a bread store that had this bread with an amazing crust and then another store where you could buy fresh ricotta that was mild and delicious. My mother used to make lasagna with it. Not only did you have the opportunity to go to these stores, but you also were around the language. Everyone spoke Italian. My parents came from Italy, so they spoke Italian when they were in these stores. 

Where in Italy were your parents from?
Spinoza, a town near Potenza in the region of Basilicata.

Have you ever visited?
Yes, it's a wonderful, beautiful town with rolling hills. When I went there, I got to see where my parents were raised. We had lunch under an arch where grapes were hanging ready to be picked. We sat at a big table and ate a meal that started with a dish of potatoes, onions carrots and tomatoes, which was followed by a dish of pasta and then rabbit, a salad and then nuts. My mother still followed this tradition and I used to tell her, now that she's in America, she has to serve everything on one plate!

How did your parents inspire your work?
My mother was a great cook. I wrote a book called, "Eat This," which was inspired by her. My father had a big Italian accent and he always had a great time talking about his Italian heritage. It was a great foundation to start from. 

When did you realize that you wanted to work in show business?
I loved being in plays at school. When I was in high school, I played Scrooge in "A Christmas Carol." At the end of the play, there was a big applause. People screamed and yelled, and I thought this is a great way to make a living!

What was your big break?
I had a role in an Off-Broadway show called "Little Mary Sunshine."  I made $37.50 a week. I was Corporal Billy Jester, which was a comic relief role. Then I was in other shows, "Half Passed Wednesday" and "All in Love." In a review by the New York Times, I was called a comic genius. It was a big honor. Then Merv Griffin was the first person who requested an interview with me.

Tell me about your friendship with Burt Reynolds.
Well, I was a frequent guest on Johnny Carson. One time, I heard that Burt Reynolds was going to be a guest, so I did a pantomime of him with the theme of "2001" playing and ended up laying on Johnny Carson's desk. It was a lot of fun. The next day, I received a hand-written letter from Burt that read, "Please leave me alone" and we've been friends ever since!  He's like a brother, very easy to be a friend. 

Burt Reynolds and Dom DeLuise

And Mel Brooks? You've been in several of his movies.
I had an audition for "The Twelve Chairs."  It lasted 4 1/2 hours. Mel said, if you get this part, we'll be friends for 25 years and if you don't get it, we'll be friends for 25 years! I got the role and then also worked with him on "Blazing Saddles," "Silent Movie" and "History of the World."

Do you have a favorite film that you've worked on?
Yes, I have two; "The End" directed by Burt Reynolds and "The Best Little Whorehouse" in Texas with Dolly Parton and Burt.

Your sons are also actors.  Did you encourage them?
No, not really! They were just naturals. Peter is also a director. Michael is an actor and has been on many shows including "The Gilmore Girls" and "NYPD Blue." David had a role on the television show "Third Rock from the Sun" and just completed a series for the Disney channel called "Wizards of Waverly Place." My wife thought that was funny because she used to live at Waverly Place in New York years ago!

So you act, sing, draw and write.  Do you have a favorite?
 I really like writing children's books and cookbooks. In addition to my cookbooks, "Eat This" and "Eat This, Too," I wrote "Charlie the Caterpillar," "King Bob's New Clothes," "Nightingale," "Goldilocks," "Hansel and Gretel" (my version!), "The Pouch Potato," and "No Place Like Home." 

DeLuise shared one of his favorite recipes with our readers, which he named after a beloved old family friend and neighbor from Brooklyn, Lucy De Paolo. "She came from a different region (Campania) than my parents. She would make different pastas than Mamma," he explained

Lucy's Pasta

5       fresh garlic cloves, minced
1/3    cup olive oil
3       onions, sliced into thin crescents
1/2    cup fresh parsley, finely chopped
spaghetti or linguine
3 or 4  large eggs
4       tablespoons grated cheese
1/2    cup fresh basil torn into small pieces
Freshly ground pepper to taste
Additional fresh, coarsely chopped parsley, basil and grated cheese to taste 

Sauté the garlic in olive oil. Add the onions and continue to gently sautè until onions are crunchy and brown. When onions are almost done, add the 1/2 cup of parsley and sauté gently until limp. Cook the pasta in boiling water until al dente. While pasta is cooking, beat together the eggs, cheese and the 1/2 cup of basil. Drain and place the hot pasta in a serving bowl and fold in the egg mixture (the heat from the pasta will cook the eggs). Add contents of frying pan and mix well. Sprinkle with pepper and serve with more parsley, basil and grated cheese as desired.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Michel Petrucciani: His Artistic Legacy in our Shallow World

It seems lately that we are living in dark days. We turn on the computer or the news to hear political candidates saying the most cruel thing one can muster up. We are living in days of social media "friends" who in reality are not "friends" at all. People lie, cheat, steal, copy others and manipulate to get ahead. People bully on the internet, cowardly hiding behind a keyboard. Their little fingers clamoring away to compose a nasty tweet or message to make themselves feel more important. There is hate and rage and intolerance like we've never seen. There are people literally walking across continents because their homes were destroyed. I remember the Bosnian war in the 90's- the genocide, the mass graves, the heartbreaking images of elderly women walking ridiculous distances to find shelter and safety. It seems that history is repeating itself, but worse because the hatred and anger has spread via the internet, specifically social media, into our own houses. I find myself longing for simpler days.. days when we weren't so connected digitally and disconnected in reality.  

My old betacam editing days
I recently published my interview with director Paolo Genovese. It was one of the most moving interviews I've ever done because a few things he said to me really resonated. His strong eye contact and honest, direct answers made me confront a dream that I lost when I was young but his personal story of perseverance gave me hope that it's never too late. When we talked about music, he said "If you think about it, every one of us has a special song that we associate with a happy or sad moment of life." Today, as I longed for one of those happy moments of a simpler time, I thought back to the mid-90's when I worked as a video editor at CNN in San Francisco and then for ABC and CBS News in New York. It was a time of incredible discovery and fearless adventure.

I love art. I find it in just about everything.. from the cloud formation in the sky to the way my pasta water ferociously bubbles like lava when I add sea salt. In those mid-90's days, I searched for art through music and I found it so beautifully in a jazz musician named Michel Petrucciani.

One of the of the most extraordinary jazz musicians of our time, Petrucciani was born in 1966 to an Italo-French family- his grandfather was from Naples. He spent nearly his entire life immersed in music. Petrucciani's father was a jazz guitarist in his own right, so Michel grew up surrounded by harmonies. He fell in love with the piano after seeing Duke Ellington on TV at the age of four. He immediately took up the instrument and before long, a prodigy was born, although he attributed his success to hard work rather than genius. He performed his first concert with trumpeter Clark Terry at the age of 13.

Petrucciani suffered from a condition called, osteogenesis imperfecta, also known as "brittle bone disease". He grew to only three feet tall, and his fragile frame often caused his bones to break, sometimes even as he performed. That coupled with his wildly passionate style of playing was a constant physical challenge throughout his life. Although he may have been small in stature, his charismatic personality and talent for playing overshadowed any of his physical disabilities. He was known for getting lost in his electric piano solos and fierce improvisations as he shared the stage with some of the biggest names in the business including Charles Lloyd, Lee Konitz, Stéphane Grappelli and legendary drummer, Steve Gadd.

Petrucciani was in demand all over the world and enjoyed a prolific transatlantic career. Success also had its downfalls for the pianist and led to excessive drinking and drug use. He was always open about his tendency to overdo things and many people close to him have suggested that those wild ways led to his untimely death in 1999 at just 36-years-old.

A few years ago, I saw a documentary film made by Il Postino director Michael Radford. Body and Soul was a "Special Screenings" selection of the 2011 Cannes Film Festival. Described as "a non-judgmental portrait of an artist as a permanent young man", the documentary presents a down-to-earth artist with an absolute undeterred passion and enthusiasm for life. It also sheds light on the loves of his life and the many women he knew. In fact, several of his ex-girlfriends and wives are in the film and talk about his reputation for loving them and leaving them.
I found the film on YouTube and although much of the dialogue is in French, the images and music make the story easy to follow. Among the French dialogue is an explanation of his condition as we see x-rays showing the bone irregularitites. Then a voiceover explaining that while kids his age were playing sports, he was developing his talent and passion for music and would play all day long. I enjoyed Petrucciani's interviews and was especially impressed by his fluency in English and strong American accent. 

"Body and Soul" by Michel Redford..

If you watch the film on YouTube, I recommend watching these clips beforehand so that you will have a better idea of what he was all about. Therefore, you won't feel like you're missing too much if you don't understand French. I also recommend picking up your favorite bottle of wine and just losing yourself in his music and story. These days, signing off for a few hours with a little wine and jazz can do us all some good.  

Pre-doc clips to watch:
Interviews –

Michel Petrucciani performs "Take the A Train" –

Piano Solo in Barcelona, 1989 (52 minutes)

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

PIF's "In guerra per amore" to Premiere at the 2016 Festa del Cinema di Roma

Pier Francesco Diliberto, better known in Italy as PIF, will present his much awaited sophomore effort in a pre-festival event at the 11th edition of the the Festa del Cinema a Roma.

"In guerra per amore" is a love story set in July of 1943 when Allied forces landed in Sicily. Arturo is in love with Flora, the daughter of a restaurant owner, but she has been promised in marriage to a Mafia boss. Arturo decides to join the Allied forces and return to Sicily, which he had left in search of fortune in America. In the background, a clever narrative of how relations between Allies and the Mafia during World War II shaped the fate of Sicily in years to come.

The Festa del Cinema a Roma runs October 13 - 23, Click here for more information.

Italian Selection of the Toronto International Film Festival

Three Italian films are in the lineup of the 2016 Toronto International Film Festival, which will take place September 8 - 18.

"Semiliberi" by Matteo Gentiloni will be shown in the Short Cuts program. With a total running time of just 10 minutes, the story focuses on a loner named, Alessandra. Unable to relate to anyone, she discovers an ingenious plan designed by female cellmates to escape her loneliness.

"Water And Sugar: Carlo Di Palma, The Colours Of Life" by Fariborz Kamkari will be shown in TIFF Docs. The film provides a veritable journey into cinema seen through the eyes of legendary cinematographer Carlo Di Palma. Spanning several important periods of Italian cinema from Neorealism, to “commedia all’italiana”.. even to Woody Allen's "Manhattan", director Fariborz Kamkari showcases the masterpieces and techniques that greatly influenced generations of world cinema. Master filmmakers Ken Loach, Ettore Scola, Wim Wenders and Bernardo Bertolucci pay tribute to the great Italian cinematographer in this touching documentary that chronicles Di Palma’s extraordinary work
A new 4K restoration of Gillo Pontecorvo’s epic film, "The Battle of Algiers" will be shown in the Cinematheque section to celebrate its 50th anniversary. Legendary composer Ennio Morricone wrote the score, which sets the tone for the black-and-white cinematography and newsreel-effect footage.

Winner of the Golden Bear at the Berlin Film Festival, the new documentary "Fire at Sea" from Gianfranco Rosi is a startling document of the European migrant crisis seen through the eyes of 12-year-old Samuele, who lives on an island in the middle of the sea. He goes to school, loves shooting his slingshot and going hunting. He likes land games, even though everything around him speaks of the sea and the men, women and children who try to cross it to get to his island. But his is not an island like the others, its name is Lampedusa and it is the most symbolic border of Europe, crossed by thousands of migrants in the last 20 years in search of freedom.

"Indivisible" is the story of two teenage Siamese twins facing an emotional decision when a doctor claims that he can separate them, in this stylized, offbeat drama from Neapolitan director Edoardo de Angelis. Daisy and Viola are siamese twin sisters on the verge of turning 18 living in the suburbs of Naples. They are blessed with beautiful voices and thanks to their performances at weddings, communions and baptisms, they get the livelihood for the whole family. Kept isolated from the rest of the world by their own father who just exploits them in order to make money, their life turns upside-down when one of them falls in love for the first time.

Italian master Marco Bellocchio adapts the popular biographical novel by Massimo Gramellini, about a journalist who is haunted by the memory of the mother who died in his childhood. "Sweet Dreams" is the story of a secret hidden in an envelope for forty years; the story of a child, and then of an adult who learns to face the greatest pain, the loss of his mother, and the most insidious monster: the fear of living.

Directed by Tizza Covi and Rainer Frimmel, "Mister Universo" is the story of a superstitious lion tamer who loses his good-luck charm, and sets out on a magical odyssey across Italy to find "Mister Universo," the former circus strongman who gave it to him a long time ago.

Click here for more information about the Toronto International Film Festival and to purchase tickets or click on the provided links to the individual films.

Film Shot in Basilicata is Headed to the U.S.

Update 3 November 2016

I recently had the great pleasure of seeing La Slitta on the big screen at the Bella Basilicata Film Festival and also meeting the director and actress Emanuela Ponzano in person. It's no wonder this short film has received so many accolades. It's a beautiful coming-of-age story about discovery and tolerance. In today's climate of prejudice and intolerance, it's a great message for people of all ages. 

Original Post

Emanuela Ponzano's short film, "La Slitta" (The Sled)  will be shown this month at two American film festivals. The Rhode Island Film Festival, which will qualify the film for Oscar and BAFTA consideration, will show "La Slitta" on August 14. Then a week later, on August 20, the film will be shown at the New Filmmakers Los Angeles Film Festival. In addition, it was awarded Best Drama Foreign Short Film at Ohio's Indie International Gathering Film Festival.

Shot in the region of Basilicata, "La Slitta" is the story of Alfred, a child who lives with his family in the woods near an isolated village in the mountains of southern Italy. His parents have strong prejudices against immigrants. Bored and unhappy, they often quarrel, and they pay little attention to their son and usually disregard his need for attention and affection. One day, wishing to get away from this oppressive atmosphere, Alfred disobeys his father’s strict orders for him to stay at home and he leaves the house to go and see his classmates. On his journey through the woods he gets lost and he comes across a wooden sled and its owner, a young boy from another country who seems strange and different, and who Alfred has sometimes seen around the village. After an initial clash, in which they project the prejudices of their parents and society onto each other, they tell each other about their lives. They soon start to relate to each other and understand each other’s problems. Thanks to the sled, Alfred will have his first experience of a genuine relationship with another person.

Emanuela Ponzano was born in Brussels. She is an actress and director in both cinema and theatre. She divides her time working mainly between Rome, Paris and Brussels. In 1995, after having completed her degree in Political Science at the ULB in Brussels, Ponzano decided to dedicate herself completely to theatre and film. Over the years, she has directed a number of works. In 2008, she directed the short films "Bagnasciuga" and "Riflessi". They have since been shown at many national and international festivals and won three National prizes in 2010. "La Slitta" is her second short narrative fiction film. I spoke with Ponzano in January prior to a Rome screening. She shared her inspiration behind this film and its relevant social message.

Why did you want to tell the story of this boy and his isolation?  
Having been born abroad and personally having had a fair share of the many forms given to the word “immigrant”, I have chosen to direct my attention to the question of racism, which seems to have made a predominant come-back to our country and in the rest of Europe. According to the richly informative “Report on racism in Italy” relative to recent years, it appears that the current situation is not one to be taken lightly. The rhetoric of “foreigners stealing our jobs” is what fuels anger towards immigrants. Thus, in recent years, thanks to a spreading sense of foreboding caused by growing job insecurity combined with an incessant and alarmist media campaign, the migratory fluxes from North Africa and Eastern Europe have become targets of a new and disquieting form of hostility. My motivation for wanting to make this film is the desire to write and direct a short movie that is authentic, from the heart, and accessible to everyone; educational in the sense that it will deal with important issues such as racism and communication barriers between children and parents, as well as the indoctrination that children receive as part of their upbringing, which can indeed include racist inclinations that they are not yet able to discern. It’s about solitude, about dealing with and listening to other people, about dreams of a better life.

What can you tell me about the symbolism of the sled?
The surreal component in the form of the “Sled”, as well as being the symbol of a downhill journey and a way out, lifts the film from its realistic narrative plane and allows it to add the intimate dimension of a child’s world and imagination. The sled and its owner, an Albanian boy (with his good sides and bad, as with everyone) are Alfred’s new friends. Through sport and games you can unite two different cultures.

I saw that you play the part of the mother. What were the challenges in directing yourself?
Well it wasn't easy at all. A lot of work goes into directing, leaving little time to concentrate on  acting.  So I worked a lot beforehand, and on set, I chose a good technical team.
I noticed the internationally diverse cast. What is the Albanian connection?
Well Riccardo Specchio who plays the main character is half Italian and half Albanian and it is a wonderful coincidence. I chose to talk about Albania because they were the first immigrants to arrive in Italy 30 years ago. People are more apt to understand now because they've known each other for a longer time. It would be more difficult talking about Syrian people now. There's still too much confusion.

Why did you choose Basilicata as its location?
Well Basilicata came to me. I met  lot of people from Basilicata and the Film Commission was interested in my story. And when I first saw Monte Sirino I was shocked by the beauty and the immensity of the mountains.

We will keep you posted on distribution and future festival coverage for "La Slitta". In the meantime, follow the film on Facebook and check out the trailer.

Italian Selection of the 54th New York Film Festival Reflects Artistry of Yesterday and Today

The New York Film Festival announced its lineup this week and will offer a diverse Italian presence, which will include a contemporary documentary filmmaker, a female director and a restored classic.
Award-winning director Gianfranco Rosi will present his documentary, "Fire at Sea" (Fuocoammare). Winner of this year's Golden Bear at the Berlin Film Festival, this screening will mark Rosi's debut at the New York Film Festival, although he presented his 2014 "Sacro Gra" at the Film Society of Lincoln Center's annual series, Open Roads: New Italian Cinema. "Fire at Sea" is an observation of Europe’s migrant crisis from the vantage point of Lampedusa, a Mediterranean island where hundreds of thousands of refugees, fleeing war and poverty, have landed in recent decades. Rosi shows the harrowing work of rescue operations but devotes most of the film to the daily rhythms of Lampedusa, seen through the eyes of a doctor who treats casualties and performs autopsies, and a feisty but anxious pre-teen from a family of fishermen for whom it is simply a peripheral fact of life. The film shows an ongoing tragedy, which doesn't show any signs of ending. The films is scheduled to be released nationwide on October 21, 2016.

The Revivals section, which showcases masterpieces from renowned filmmakers whose works have been digitally remastered, restored,and preserved, will screen Gillo Pontecorvo’s epic film, "The Battle of Algiers". The film opened the NYFF in 1967 and will return this year to mark its 50th anniversary in a new 4K restoration. Legendary composer Ennio Morricone wrote the score, which sets the tone for the black-and-white cinematography and newsreel-effect footage. Pontecorvo’s account of the popular uprising that led to Algerian independence from the French took “documentary realism” to a new level, creating a structure in which the events themselves took center stage, cast the film almost entirely with non-actors, and filmed in grainy black-and-white to create a heightened “you are there” immediacy. Banned in France, embraced by the Black Panthers, and studied by the Pentagon following the 2003 invasion of Iraq, "The Battle of Algiers" is based on the book "Souvenirs de la bataille d’Alger" by Saadi Yacef (who also plays a character based on himself). The film was restored by Cineteca di Bologna and Istituto Luce – Cinecittà at L’Immagine Ritrovata laboratory, in collaboration with Surf Film, Casbah Entertainment Inc., and CultFilms.

Alice Rohrwacher
Earlier this year, the Film Society of Lincoln Center announced its 2016 artist in residence is the Tuscan native director Alice Rohrwacher. The "artist in residence" program was launched in 2013 by Jaeger-LeCoultre and the Film Society of Lincoln Center as an annual initiative designed to support filmmakers at an early stage in the creative process against the backdrop of New York City and the New York Film Festival. “I can’t imagine a better gift than to spend time in New York, take part in the events at the New York Film Festival, and to have the time to research in local archives and libraries for my next film,” said Rohrwacher upon being named. During her residency, Rohrwacher will continue to write her third feature, “My Bitter Land” about the adventures of a man living on the margins of his society who can seemingly travel through time.
Born in Florence in 1981 to an Italian mother and German Father, Alice Rohrwacher attended Torino University where she graduated with a degree in Classic Literature. Her first jobs after college included writing for theater and playing music. She entered the film industry as an editor of documentary films before directing her first feature, “Corpo Celeste” (Heavenly Body), the tale of a teenage girl painfully assimilating into the culture of southern Italy and the Roman Catholic Church. The film premiered in Cannes Film Festival’s Directors’ Fortnight in 2011, and was then selected for a number of international film festivals before being released in the United States.
Rohrwacher’s second feature, “Le meraviglie” (The Wonders) centers on a family of beekeepers living in isolation in the Tuscan countryside. She called on her own experience of growing up in two cultures with an Italian mother and German father. The film explores the challenges of a newly immigrated German family trying to succeed in Italy. The dynamic of their overcrowded household is disrupted by the arrival of a silently troubled teenage boy taken in as a farmhand while a reality TV show (featuring a host played by Monica Bellucci) is intent on profiling the family. Both intrusions capture the attention of the eldest daughter, Gelsomina, who is struggling to find her purpose in the world. Rohrwacher gracefully conveys her adolescent sense of curiosity and confusion. The film won the Grand Jury Prize at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival where it premiered and features her sister. Italian A-lister Alba Rohrwacher.
In 2015 she directed “De Djess,” a short film commissioned by Prada as part of its women’s-only label Miu Miu. The ninth installment of the “Miu Miu Women’s Tales,” the film was shown in the Venice Days section of the Venice Film Festival. Also starring her sister Alba, “De Djess” features a stunning designer dress with crystal beads, which practically comes alive with emotion. The dialogue is presented as a made-up language and pokes a bit of fun at the world of high fashion with its temperamental models and hysteric paparazzi. Watch "De Djess"..
The common trait that Alice Rohrwacher’s films have in common is their sense of fantasy. Perhaps it’s the atmospheric lighting or the long, complicated silences between her characters. Whatever the process, she consistently succeeds in achieving a surreal atmosphere and this is the trademark and signature style of her work. She also tends to tell stories from the point-of-view of innocence, whether it be a child or teenager. In accepting her awards and talking about her work, she comes across as humble and grateful for the success she has had. The Film Society of Lincoln Center Deputy Director Eugene Hernandez describes Rohrwacher as “a distinctive filmmaker with a warm, infectious spirit.” 

Alice Rohrwacher is currently working on directing her first opera, a new version of “La Traviata” for Teatri di Reggio Emilia that will open in November. The 2016 New York Film Festival will run September 30 – October 16 at Lincoln Center. Click here for the complete lineup.

Il Cinema di Basilicata al Lucania Film Festival

“Il Lucania Film festival di Pisticci (MT) che si apre tra pochi giorni è una manifestazione di altissima qualità cinematografica e cinefila, capace di esplorare i linguaggi più moderni dell’audiovisivo e attento alla sensibilità dei dannati della terra raccontati dalla macchina da presa. Una madrina d’eccezione come Laura Morante scelta nelle qualità di attrice straordinaria ma anche di regista talentuosa aggiunge appeal significativo al più longevo dei festival cinematografici di Basilicata giunto alla sua diciassettesima edizione”. Questa la dichiarazione di Paride Leporace, direttore della Lucana Film Commission che ha proseguito: “Ho molto ammirato il coraggio della direzione artistica di modificare la formula del festival trasmigrando al Tilt di Marconia andando a sperimentare un nuovo modello che mette al centro quasi esclusivamente la cultura cinematografica ricercando la consapevolezza degli spettatori che ci auguriamo siano come sempre numerosi.”

“Non posso poi non considerare- ha proseguito Leporace- l’enorme spazio che il Festival ha ritenuto giusto e opportuno concedere a diverse opere che fanno parte del significativo catalogo della film commission di Basilicata e che per il nostro lavoro rappresentano come un bollino di qualità assegnato al nostro recente lavoro”:

Numerose saranno le finestre aperte dedicate alle nostre produzione a partire della rassegna “Short but Good” che dall’11 al 13 agosto nel tardo pomeriggio in uno spazio del festival proporrà 8 cortometraggi e l’anteprima lucana del trailer del documentario di Nicola Ragone “Urli e Risvegli”. Sarà il direttore Leporace a introdurre le diverse opere per poi dialogare con autori, produttori e maestranze che con la Lucana Film Commission hanno permesso questa nuova ondata produttiva sostenuta economicamente dalla regione Basilicata. Vania Cauzillo, La Effenove di Sara Lorusso e Michele Scioscia, Adelaide De Fino e la sua Boogie di famiglia, Roberto Moliterni, l’esperienza documentaristica di Prospero Bentivenga, lo sperimentalismo dotto di Mimmo Mongelli, la prima lucana del premiato “Mio cugino è il sindaco di New York”, la tecnica postmoderna di Nicola Bisceglia che a Marconi annuncia incursioni in presa diretta nel festival per le riprese della nuova serie di Flipo. 
La film commission di Basilicata è stata anche valorizzata simbolicamente con l’apertura del Lucania Film Festival dedicata a due corti del Bando alla crisi come “La Slitta” di Emanuela Ponzano e “Cenere” di Gianni Saponara, in concorso spicca anche la selezione di “Legno” del duo Martoria-La Cava di Ferrandina. Spazio significativo anche per “Prince the Venusia” di Silvio Giordano, che oltre alla proe il festival ha voluto dedicare al lavoro su Gesualdo da Venosa una mostra dedicata alla particolare sceneggiatura, che risulta essere una  “Graphic Novel”. Si tratta dello  storyboard disegnato a mano e consegnato a tutte le maestranze del set che invece di seguire testi hanno avuto a disposizione delle immagini artistiche.  In esposizione per tutta la durata del Festival si potranno ammirare concept art e lo storyboard con frame del video di “The Prince of Venusia”.
Un cenno e non qualsiasi, anche alla proiezione fuori concorso di “Without” della lucanamericana Paola Sinisgalli che impreziosisce ulteriormente la nostra produzione. La Lucana Film Commission vi aspetta al Tilt di Marconia per celebrare una delle più autentiche feste del cinema della Basilicata
La produzione Lucana Film Commission al Lucania Film Festival
In concorso per i corti “Legno" Martoccia-La Cava
10 agosto
Sala Cimino 
Proiezioni/Screening – Spazio Italia: “La Slitta“ di/by Emanuela Ponzano – “Cenere“ di/by Gianni Saponara
20:00/22:00 – Mostra/Photo Exibition: dal film/from movie “ The Prince of Venusia” di/by Silvio Giordano
Sala Scola
22:30/23:30  – Proiezioni/Screening – Extra: “The Prince of Venusia” di/by Silvio Giordano + Cine-performance
11 agosto
Spazio Close-Up
18:30/20:00 – Proiezioni /Screening:  LucanaFilmCommission: “Short but Good – part 1”
+ Urli e Risvegli | di/by Nicola Ragone (only trailer)
+ La ricerca della forma. Il Genio di Sergio Musmeci | di/by Vania Cauzillo
+ Flipo con la Basilicata | di/by Nicola Bisceglia

12 agosto 
Sala Cimino 
16:15/16:30  – Proiezioni/Screening  – Extra: “Without“  | di/by Paola Sinisgalli 
Spazio Close-Up
Proiezioni  / Screening  LucanaFilmCommission 
“Short but Good – part 2”
– Mio cugino è sindaco di New York | di/by Vincenzo Lerose
– L’Aurora che non vedrò | di/by Mimmo Mongelli
13 Agosto
Spazio Close-Up
19:00/20:30 –  Proiezioni  / Screening – LucanaFilmCommission
– “Short but Good – part 3”
– L’utile meraviglia, orti saraceni di Tricarico | di/by Prospero Bentivenga
– Papaveri e Papere| di/by Adelaide De Fino
– Centosanti | di/by Roberto Moliterni 

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...