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Friday, April 28, 2017

Italy's Golden Age stars will meet their contemporary counterparts in three solid weeks of Italian cinema at Lincoln Center in New York

The extravaganza kicks off on May 17 with a career retrospective dedicated to the incomparable Marcello Mastroianni. According to, a photo exhibit, Fellini, 8 ½ in Color, will be on view in the Walter Reade Theater’s Furman Gallery throughout the festival. The exhibit features newly discovered color photos from behind the scenes of the black-and-white masterpiece, shot by the late Paul Ronald and accompanied by recollections from the film’s co-star Anouk Aimée. Among the films to be shown in the retrospective, which runs through May 31 are Federico Fellini's 8 ½ and La Dolce Vita, the Taviani Brother's AllonsanfànMario Monicelli's I soliti ignoti (Big Deal on Madonna Street)Pietro Germi's Divorzio all’italiana Divorce Italian Style) and Ettore Scola's A Special Day (Una giornata particolare) just to name a few. Click here to see the complete lineup.

Then June 1 kicks off the 17th edition of Open Roads: New Italian Cinema. I've been attending since the very first edition in 2001, so this is my most anticipated annual event. Co-presented by the Film Society of Lincoln Center and Istituto Luce Cinecittà, the opening night selection is the New York premiere of Edoardo De Angelis’s Indivisible, the story of two teenage conjoined twins facing an emotional decision when a doctor claims that he can separate them.

This year’s edition showcases 13 additional titles, all North American or New York premieres, including Pierfrancesco Diliberto’s In guerra per amore (At War with Love), ; Federica Di Giacomo’s exorcism documentary Liberami (Deliver), which won the Orizzonti Prize at last year’s Venice Film Festival; Irene Dionisio's Le ultime cose (Pawn Street) Andrea De Sica's coming of age story I figli della notte (Children of the Night) Alessandro Aronadio's Orecchie (Ears), Marco Bellocchio's Fai bei sogni (Sweet Dreams) and Gianni Amelio's La Tenerezza (Tenderness).. again, just to name a few. 

Open Roads: New Italian cinema runs through June 7. Click here for the complete lineup.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Nicola Ragone's New Film to Premiere at the Bari International Film Festival

Lucano filmmaker Nicola Ragone will present his latest film Urli e risvegli at the Bari International Film Festival. 

Urli e risvegli is a portrait of Carmine Donnola, a bearded and silent man with wide eyes full of life lived. As a young man he wanted to be an actor, but no one ever believed in his talent. Today he is in his 60's and lives in his hometown of Grassano, a small town in Basilicata. Though travel notes between ancestral places among the infinite landscapes of Lucania, Ragone takes us on an intimate adventure full of paradoxical encounters and grotesque characters that make up the fresco of a mythical civilization in conflict with modernity.

Watch the trailer... 

Monday, April 24, 2017

Interview: Gomorrah Series Director Claudio Cupellini

Season two of the popular Italian television series Gomorrah is set to hit American airwaves on April 26.

Based on Roberto Saviano's best-selling book about the Neapolitan mafia, the series centers on Genny Sevastano and his family's world of organized crime. Set in Naples, the show has come under criticism for depicting the city as a dangerous, crime-infested town. Those criticisms have not hampered the show's popularity. The action-packed compelling episodes are watched and praised all over the world. Primo Magazine recently gave a detailed recap of Season one and what's ahead for Season two. Click here to read the article.

Last year, I sat down with one of the show's directors Claudio Cupellini who was in New York promoting his latest film Alaska at Lincoln Center's annual Italian film series- "Open Roads: New Italian Cinema." We talked about his films and also about the Gomorarah series: its popularity and its criticism.

You’re from Veneto, so why do you want to tell the stories of Neapolitans? For example, your 2010 film, Una vita tranquilla with Toni Servillo and the Gomorrah series..
Italy is a small country and I know that a lot is happening in the south also because I know a lot of people from there. But when I was writing the script, I immediately understood Una vita tranquilla was not a story about Camorra. It was a story about a father and son and it was most of all a story about a man who cannot erase his past, and he’s trying to escape from his past. It was not a mafia movie. The mafia thing was all around the story created for this noir atmosphere but it was not the point and so it was easy even if I was coming from Veneto.

How many episodes of Gomorrah are you directing for the second season?
I directed three episodes of the first season. I directed four episodes this year, the second season. And I will also do the third season because it’s a very powerful series. I really enjoy shooting Gomorrah even if it’s terrible sometimes shooting there because it’s a place that has been totally abandoned by the government. So it’s sad. It’s difficult to shoot but there are interesting stories to tell because it’s the only Italian series that is something like cinema.

With Claudio Cupellini in New York
When I was Rome last September, there was a big story with one of the Neapolitan officials condemning the series, saying it’s not reflective of Naples and casts a bad light on the city.
Well that’s bullshit coming from some smaller politicians that don’t normally have coverage in newspapers, only page 45 maybe. And then they say something about Gomorrah and they know that they’ll have publicity.

And you used Neapolitan actors, right?
Yes, there are only Neapolitan actors speaking Neapolitan dialect. Everything is set there spoken in Neapolitan with only Neapolitan actors. It’s a documentary way of telling the story mixed with the style of film.

Ok, so let's talk a bit about some of your other works, including Alaska, the film that you're presenting here in New York. I noticed that often in your films, there are several languages being spoken. This was especially so in Alaska. 
I try to shoot and tell European stories. Just thinking about Italy now is something that takes away some freedom. I think that now the world is more connected and even the countries are easily connected. The young people are able to move along now and to travel and in this case as in the case before in my movie Una vita tranquilla, which was set in Germany, I needed to make my characters travel all around because it’s the world I see now. Story-wise, it was important because we were talking about people who tried to achieve a richness- a girl who is accustomed to move from one country to another to work and also the fact that I wanted Fausto in the beginning and in the second part of the movie to feel alone and foreign in a country that could be hostile.

And what about the casting? Did you have these actors in mind when creating the characters?
Yes, I’ve been asked that a lot and I think it’s because they fit the story and the characters so well. When I was writing the story, I was already thinking about Elio Germano for Fausto. I was already thinking about Valerio for the role of Sandro and I knew for sure that I needed a wide and good actress like Austrid for the character of Nadine. It’s true that in France I didn’t know all the actresses, so I did a lot of casting there. I felt often that I was close to finding someone but only in the end did I find the real Nadine and that was Astrid Bergès-
Frisbey because when I saw her, I immediately had the feeling that she was the right actress for Nadine and when I saw her near Elio when they did the first rehearsal, I said ok. 

Astrid Bergès-Frisbey in Alaska

Just looking for a moment at the evolution of your career.. you’ve done three feature films and I find them all quite different. 
I'm not sure. The first one was definitely a comedy. It was very different to begin with. I had the script ready, which was actually the script for Una vita tranquilla but nobody gave me the chance to do it because nobody knew me. So I had to do this first movie that was not something I wanted or thought I was going to do but it was useful in that I could then make my own movies. I think that Una vita tranquilla, Alaska and all the episodes of Gomorrah have something in common. I always try to talk about extreme feelings and there is always a sort of a tragedy coming but then the story can go to a different end like with Alaska

Gomorrah will air on the Sundance Channel Wednesdays at 10:00 pm EST. Also check out my interview with Season-One cast member Ivan Boragine.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Tribeca Film Festival 2017: Viola, Franca by Marta Savina

Tribeca Film Festival goers will be treated to an important history lesson this weekend in the form of a beautiful, moving short film made by director Marta Savina.

Viola, Franca is the true story of a young Sicilian woman named Franca Viola who was raped and nearly forced to marry her attacker, which before the 1980s, was common place in Italy. Viola defied society and rebelled against this absurd practice by refusing to marry the young man. That defiance led to the law being abolished. In researching the details behind the making of this film, I thought it would be poignant to hand this story over to a young, ambitious Sicilian journalist Maria Ilenia Crifò Ceraolo who grew up near Viola's hometown. I interviewed Maria Ilenia back in 2015 when I reviewed Marco Turco's film about Oriana Fallaci. She gave a moving account of Fallaci and her legacy on women journalists, so I thought it would be fitting for her to review this story of female resistance so beautifully told by a female director. Maria Ilenia's original Italian version follows my translation.

A different Sicily, far from what I am used to today, is described in the 15-minute short film Viola, Franca, directed by Marta Savina. Also nominated for a 2017 David di Donatello, Savina will  present her film at the prestigious Tribeca Film Festival.

The film speaks of a true story, which happened not so long ago: 1965 in Alcamo, a village in Trapani. A young woman named Franca Viola was raped by a boy, Filippo Melodia, who wanted to marry her. At the time, it was lawful for a man to rape a woman he had wanted to marry. In those days, the woman would agree to the marriage. Franca Viola, however, would not hear of it. She refused to marry her rapist and in doing so, completely rebelled against everything and everyone. Thanks to Viola's defiance, the laws have been changed and this unjustness was abolished.

In Savina's film, the fundamental moments symbolizing women's emancipation are told through a narrative made up of many intense and significant glances with profound and loquacious silences that far outweigh what the characters would have been able to express in words. The story begins with a flashback that starts from the moment of violence that Franca Viola (Claudia Gusmano) is forced to endure, and concludes with her smile as she decides to face the people of her town. In that moment, she holds her head high, letting go of those who felt that she was guilty of the crime committed against her. A courageous choice made possible by the unconditional support of her father (Ninni Bruschetta), there's is a profound relationship of complicity and small gestures. A special empathy leads him to realize what happened when he does not find his daughter working in the fields. The father and daughter share a long and moving embrace shortly after Viola returns from the violence that consumed her behind the fixed image of a closed door in deafening silence.

With her example, Franca Viola undoubtedly gave many other women after her the power to oppose the custom that for too long had been accepted in silence. Perhaps she became this sort of spokeswoman for all those who had not succeeded to find their own courage. And yet, unfortunately, we still talk about cases in which women are denied the freedom to choose. With ViolaFranca,  Martina Savina reminds us of the hope we find in the heart of a woman who does not give up.

Una Sicilia diversa, a tratti lontana da quella che io sono abituata a vivere oggi, è descritta nei 15 minuti del cortometraggio “Viola, Franca”, diretto da Marta Savina, già candidato ai David di Donatello 2017 e nei prossimi giorni in gara al prestigioso “Tribeca Film Festival”.
Eppure il film parla di una storia vera, accaduta in fondo nemmeno troppi decenni fa: intorno al 1965 ad Alcamo, un paesino nel Trapanese, una giovane di quasi 18 anni di nome Franca Viola, venne violentata da un ragazzo, Filippo Melodia, che avrebbe voluto sposarla; una legge del tempo prevedeva infatti le nozze riparatrici e lo stupro aveva l’obiettivo di costringerla a prendere come marito quello stesso uomo che le aveva usato violenza. Franca però si rifiutò di scendere a compromessi e, ribellandosi a tutto e a tutti, continuò ad opporsi fermamente alle pretese di quel ragazzo che lei non amava, senza mai sposarlo. Probabilmente, anche grazie al suo esempio la Sicilia oggi mi appare un po’ differente da allora: infatti, negli anni 80 del secolo scorso, quella stessa legge così poco legale sul matrimonio riparatore è stata abolita, proprio a seguito del coraggioso gesto di Franca Viola.

Nella pellicola della Savina sono ripercorsi in pochi ma densi passaggi, i momenti fondamentali di questa vicenda simbolo dell’emancipazione femminile, attraverso una narrazione fatta di molti sguardi intensi e significativi e di silenzi profondi e loquaci, che superano di gran lunga ciò che al loro posto avrebbero potuto esprimere le parole. Interpreti principali del film, interamente girato a Galati Mamertino, in provincia di Messina, sono Claudia Gusmano, peraltro assai somigliante a Franca Viola da giovane, Ninni Bruschetta, nel ruolo padre di Franca, Bernardo, Carlo Calderone, nel ruolo di Filippo Melodia, e Maurizio Puglisi, nel ruolo del parroco del paese don Valerio.
Questo racconto così vero, inizia con un flashback che parte dal momento successivo alla violenza subita da Franca, e si conclude con il suo sorriso, appena accennato, quando decide di affrontare, nel corso di una festa religiosa, la gente del suo paese a testa alta, rinunciando a fuggire da chi la voleva quasi colpevole di ciò che era accaduto. Una scelta coraggiosa e resa possibile anche dal sostegno incondizionato del padre della giovane: dal cortometraggio emerge difatti un rapporto profondo, fatto di complicità e di piccoli gesti, un’empatia speciale che conduce Bernardo ad intuire, quando non ritrova sua figlia a lavorare nei campi, quello che purtroppo stava succedendo; e poi il lungo e commovente abbraccio, nel momento in cui i due si ritrovano per strada, mentre Franca fa ritorno dal luogo in cui si era consumata la violenza. Poco prima, l’immagine quasi fissa di una porta chiusa e, ancora una volta, un silenzio assordante, avevano narrato quel sopruso terribile con la delicatezza di chi non vuole rinnovare una ferita.

Con il suo esempio, Franca Viola ha indubbiamente dato a tante altre donne dopo di lei, la forza di opporsi a quella consuetudine che per troppo tempo era stata accettata in silenzio, facendosi pure portavoce, forse suo malgrado, di tutte coloro che non erano riuscite a trovare il suo stesso coraggio. Ed anche se, ancora adesso, purtroppo si continua a parlare di casi in cui alle donne viene negata la libertà di scegliere, in “Viola, Franca” e soprattutto in quel primo piano finale di Franca di cui parlavo prima, ritroviamo tutta la franchezza e la speranza di un cuore di donna che non si arrende.

Viola, Franca will be shown in the Postcards section of the Tribeca Film Festival, which highlights the work of women in film. The screenings are sold out and rush only at this time. Click here for more information about the film and its director.

With this article, journalist Maria Ilenia Crifò Ceraolo has officially joined Italian Cinema Today as our Italy correspondent. Check back here for more of her interesting perspective on Italian cinema and the stories which inspire its prolific filmmakers.

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...