Friday, January 27, 2017

Roberto Andò to be the Guest of Honor at Indiana University's 2017 Italian Cinema Symposium


Indiana University's 8th annual Italian film conference.. New Trends in Modern and Contemporary Italian Cinema will be held this year April 19-22 and will feature director Roberto Andò. 


Andò is known for his politically-driven, socially relevant films. His last two international hits, Viva la libertà and Le confessioni starred Toni Servillo in cleverly-written stories that blend drama, suspense and subtle, ironic humor.

Click here for more information about the symposium. 

An Intimate Portrait of Stanley Kubrick's Right-Hand Man



S is for Stanley opens in New York today. If there ever was a must-see documentary film, this is it. 

S is for Stanley, the 2016 David di Donatello winner for Best Documentaryis an intimate story of friendship. It’s the story of the Italian behind the genius of Stanley Kubrick. Without giving the captivating twists and turns of the film away, director Alex Infascelli introduces Emilio D’Alessandro as a young Italian who moves to London to his life-changing introduction to Stanely Kubrick and then the lifetime of working as Kubrick’s right hand man from giving his opinions about actors (was not of fan of Jack Nicholson) to returning a jacket with a broken zipper to feeding the zoo of stray animals on Kubrick’s property to making a cameo role in the last film that Kubrick would make. If you are familiar with Kubrick’s work, this is a fascinating account of how his films came together. If you are not familiar with his work, this is a moving story of friendship and love. 

Watch the trailer..



In a director’s note, Infascelli had this to say about the project: “I first heard of Emilio D’Alessandro during an interview with Kubrick’s wife in their house near London. When I read his life story, I was so blown away that I decided I was going to be the one to put it to film. It’s been a beautiful journey that has gotten me very close to the incredible personalities of two men: one of which I thought I knew everything, only to discover I did not know a single thing, the other of which I didn’t know a thing but has left me speechless with his amazing anedoctes. Confronting a giant like Kubrick has been very frightening at the beginning; as I got deeper and deeper, I was scared I would spot Stanley in his underwear! But it did not happen: the grace and dignity with which Emilio recounts those years next to Stanley is moving and gives us the idea of the degree of closeness the two of them had reached. As a director, I decided to limit myself and be sort of a ‘wine decanter’, enhancing the true and full taste of this amazing story. There is one thing I am sure of: after seeing this documentary, watching a Kubrick film will never be the same.”

If you live in New York, do not miss the opportunity to see S is for Stanley, opening tonight at the IFC Center in Manhattan. Click here for the complete schedule.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Luca Guadagnino’s Call Me By Your Name is Headed to Berlin

Luca Guadagnino’s Call Me By Your Name will be the only Italian film in this year's Berlin Film Festival, and will be screened out of competition. 
According to the film's distributor, Sony Pictures Classics, Call Me By Your Name is based on André Aciman’s acclaimed novel of the same name. Directed by Guadagnino and co-written by James Ivory, Walter Fasano and Guadagnino, it will have its world premiere at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival in the Premieres section. 
Starring Armie Hammer, Timothée Chalamet and Michael Stuhlbarg, Call Me By Your Name explores the vital and cultivated Elio (Chalamet), the only child of the American-Italian-French Perlman family, who is facing another lazy summer at his parents’ villa in the beautiful Italian countryside when Oliver (Hammer), an academic who has come to help with Elio’s father’s research, arrives.
Sony Pictures Classics describes the film as "Visually rich, stunning, deeply emotional and sensual, Call Me By Your Name confirms Luca Guadagnino as one the world's master filmmakers." 

10 Films Shot in Basilicata are in the Running for a David di Donatello Nomination

The big news coming out of Basilicata this week is that a whopping 10 films shot in the region are among the possibile nominees for the prestigious David di Donatello award, Italy's equivalent to the Oscar. The list will be finalized in April, but these films are under consideration to make the ballot. 


In the category Best Italian Film...



Set in the 1950's to the present day, A diecimilalire is a story of immigration, specifically of an 11-year-old boy who flees his small town in Basilicata to join his brother in Rome. He begins this new life by working at a local coffee shop while attending school. Fast forward 15 years, he is married and enjoying Italy's post-war economic boom. However, that economic growth did not trickle down the Italian peninsula to his parents in the south. Through a series of unfortunate events, he returns to Basilicata at the bedside of his dying father. Now back in his hometown, he is faced with all the childhood memories he left behind as well as feelings of guilt and regret. A diecimilalire is a poignant film about survival, nostalgia and the hard realities of life. The director Luciano Luminelli shot the film in Rome and in the town of Irsina in Basilicata. 

Watch the trailer.. 


Un paese quasi perfetto was adapted from Jean-François Pouliot’s 2003 Quebec-made comedy, "La grande séduction" which was set in a small Canadian harbor. Un paese quasi perfetto takes place in the visually-stunning town of Castelmezzano nestled in the Dolomite mountains of Basilicata. 


The plot in Gaudioso’s film is the same as the original, only the setting has changed. Un paese quasi perfetto is the story of nearly desperate, but enthusiastic people in dire need of jobs. Most depend on measly government checks to get by. Provoked by the determination of one fed-up inhabitant named Domenico, the town works together to convince the CEO of a factory to build a plant in the town. The biggest requirement is the town must have a residing doctor. And so begins the great adventure to find and convince their chosen big-city Milanese plastic surgeon to pack his bags and set up shop in Castelmezzano. Through briberies, the town beauty and phone tapping, everyone pitches in to help realize their dream of getting back to work. Boasting an all-star cast, which includes the likes of Silvio Orlando, Fabio Volo, Carlo Buccirosso and Miriam Leone, it's no surprise to find this on the David short list. For an insider's perspective.. check out my interview with director Massimo Gaudioso


Ustica by Renzo Martinelli is the story of the events that led up to a plane crash that took place in the Mediterranean Sea on June 27, 1980. That evening at 8.59 pm, a DC9 belonging to the private Italian airline ITAVIA disappeared from radar without launching any emergency signal. The airplane was flying at cruise speed at an altitude of 7,600 meters, along the airway “AMBRA 13” when it suddenly crashed around the “CONDOR” point between the islands of Ponza and Ustica, sinking in the  “Tyrrhenian trench”, which is 3,500 meters deep. All 81 people onboard died, including 14 children. The wreckage and bodies that were recovered indicate something happened to the aircraft while in the air, whether that be an explosion or collision. Evidence shows the plane broke into two main sections. Many hypothesis have been raised to explain the possible cause of the crash such as structural failure of the airplane, a bomb in the rear bathroom, a missile or a mid-air collision with an American fighter jet, which is explored in depth in the film. As we see in the film, the few workers who actually saw what happened with their own eyes mysteriously died in the months following the crash. Several scenes were shot in the Basilicata towns of Maratea and Trecchina with local actors appearing in the film, including Nando Irene. Read my review for the Toronto premiere at the 2016 Italian Contemporary Film Festival.


Veloce come il vento by Matteo Rovere is based on a true story. Set in Imola, home of the epic race car track and also on the outskirts of Matera in Basilicata, 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 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, played passionately by Stefano Accorsi. 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. Read my interview with the director of photography, Michele D'attanasio.



Montedoro is one of the most talked-about films to come out of Basilicata in recent years. I've been fortunate to have attended three screenings in New York, Rome and Basilicata. The film's team have worked tirelessly to promote this film about an American woman tracing her roots back to a deserted village in the region. I've done a number of stories on this film beginning in March of 2015 when it first came to the United States, making its premiere at the Atlanta Film Festival. Check out these stories for more information on Montedoro..

In the category Best Foreign Film..

The 2016 remake of the Hollywood epic  Ben Hur by director Timur Bekmambetov was shot in the Sassi of Matera and at Cinecittà studios in Rome. The remake stars Jack Huston in the lead role of Judah Ben-Hur, who survives years of slavery to avenge a hurtful betrayal, and Morgan Freeman, who described Matera as an “extraordinary city and magical." The film received less than rave reviews in the United States, but that doesn't take away from the intense, action-filled scenes that were carefully orchestrated using numerous locals in Basilicata. Read here about the filming in Matera.

In the category Best Documentary Film..

The Family Whistle by Michele Russo Salfi is the story of Frances Ford Coppola's Basilicata origins told by his actual cousin still living in the region. It just so happens that Coppola's distant cousins in Bernalda, the town of his origins, are also talented filmmakers. The director, Michele Russo Salfi is a seasoned filmmaker and his brother Gaetano Russo is a master artist and set designer. So it's apparent that creativity runs in this family. Read about the film's U.S. premiere at the 2016 Boston International Film Festival and Cannes 2016 screening.


In the category Best Short film..


L'Aurora che non vedrò by Mimmo Mongelli, which consists of mesmerizing black and white film shot on 8 millimeter. Watch a clip from the film here on Vimeo.

Le ali velate (Veiled Wings) by actress/director Nadia Kibout focuses on issues of multiple culture and identity in the tumultuous times we live in today.

Ballata per un ergastolano by Basilicata-born director Cosimo Fusco.


Sincere congratulations go out to each and every talented person who worked on these films.. and best of luck on making the final cut!







Saturday, January 14, 2017

Sara Serraiocco: Shooting Star Shining Bright

She’s just in her mid-20’s but actress Sara Serraiocco has quickly become one of Italy’s leading ladies.

Born in the region of Abruzzo in 1990, Serraiocco got her start performing as a dancer. At the age of 20, she set her sights on acting, and moved to Rome to study her craft at the legendary Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia. Just three years later, she made her feature film debut in Salvo, Fabio Grassadonia’s and Antonio Piazza’s dark tale of a hit man who falls for his rival’s blind sister. The film is complex with little dialogue, but strong, powerful silences. The role of Rita proved that Serraiocco was born to be a performer. Her subtle but powerful expressions and mannerisms heightened the suspense of the film when the scenes were carried solely and silently by the young actress. Salvo is a story of hope for the hopeless, a last shot at love, if only in the final breath of life. Salvo Mancuso, played by Saleh Bakri, is a hit man, a hired assassin. After killing his rival mafioso, Salvo kidnaps the mafioso’s blind sister. 

Unable to bring himself to kill her, he develops an affection towards her and becomes her protector. In the process, although he never says it, his expressions and actions reveal regrets he may have for the life he has chosen. Rita regains her sight and senses what he is feeling. In return, she decides to stand by him in his most difficult moment. There is no happy ending in this film. It’s a realistic portrait of the life of a hit man working with the Sicilian Mafia. Serraiocco’s award-winning performance in Salvo was all she needed to get her career rolling, earning her the titles “Best Newcomer” and “Best Actress.”

The following year, she took on another award-winning lead role. This time, in Lamberto Sanfelice's debut feature film Cloro, which made its North American premiere at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival. Shortly thereafter, it was shown at the Berlin Film Festival before coming to New York City's annual showcase of contemporary Italian cinema, Open Roads: New Italian Cinema. 

Cloro was wildly successful on the film festival circuit in the United States, and there’s no doubt that Serraiocco contributed to the success of the film. The story follows Jenny, played by Serraiocco, as she dreams of being a synchronized swimmer. After her mother passes away, she is forced to put her dream on hold to take care of her family. One problem leads to another. Time passes and she tries to hold on. But that time slowly distances her from the dream, and the inevitable day arrives when she realizes the life she once knew is a thing of the past. Again, Serraiocco communicates the inner, silent pain of her character through gazes and expressions, although she also acts out her suffering and frustration in intense, dramatic scenes. The love story in “Cloro” could have played out more time in film. Jenny and Ivan’s relationship is complicated but underneath the tension, they really care about each other. Nevertheless, Cloro is a moving, heart-wrenching tale of one girl’s plight and how she struggles with being a teenager one day and a caregiver the next.

Last year, Serraiocco was named one of the 2016 European Shooting Stars. She received the honor at the 66th Berlin International Film Festival. Her much-anticipated 2017 release is in the first production of a cinematic partnership between Italy and Cuba. Directed by Giovanni Veronesi, Non è un paese per giovani (No Country for the Young) features a diverse cast that includes Filippo Scicchitano, Giovanni Anzaldo, Sara Serraiocco, Sergio Rubini and Nino Brassica and will be in Italian theaters beginning March 23. The subject matter deals with Italy’s ongoing issue of its young people fleeing to find work abroad. In this case, the story follows two young men in their mid-20’s who move to Cuba to start a business. There, they meet Nora, played by Serraiocco. She is an Italian girl who runs the home where they will live. Her look is unique and puzzling. She has a shaved head with an obvious exposed scar. What ensues is a dramatic story of three young Italians painfully searching for their places in the world and doing it as foreigners outside their own country.

Watch Negramaro's music video for the title song for Non è un pause per giovani..




Sara Serraiocco’s films are available in the United States. Salvo is available through Netflix and  Cloro is available through Hulu.

Filmmaker Gio Crisafulli to Present New Film at the Harlem International Film Festival

New York-based Filmmaker Gio Crisafulli of Zio Ciccio Cinema will present his short film Chevere con Salsa at the Harlem International Fi...