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Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Four Italian Films in the Lineup of Canada's Hot Docs 2018


Special Jury Prize – International Feature Documentary to WIND OF SWABIA by Corrado Punzi

Best Mid-Length Documentary Award to THE CALL (LA CONVOCAZIONE) by Enrico Maisto

The four Italian titles to make the lineup are...

THE CALL (LA CONVOCAZIONE) by Enrico Maisto: World Showcase
Watch the trailer..

HAPPY WINTER by Giovanni Totaro: World Showcase
Watch the trailer..

THE STRANGE SOUND OF HAPPINESS by Diego Pascal Panarello: The Changing Face of Europe
Watch the trailer: 

WIND OF SWABIA by Corrado Punzi: International Spectrum
Click here to watch the trailer. 

The festival will be held in Toronto April 26 - May 6. Click here for more information.

Friday, March 9, 2018

Cinematic Maestra Liliana Cavani

Born in 1933 in Carpi near Modena, Liliana Cavani burst onto the filmmaking scene in the 1970s along with fellow Emilia Romagna natives Bernardo Bertolucci, Pier Paolo Pasolini and Marco Bellocchio.

Raised in a household that embraced the arts, Cavani went to art museums with her father, an architect, and to the movies with her mother, a film aficionado. She studied literature and philosophy at Bologna University in 1960, but decided a year later to head south to Rome to study filmmaking at the renowned Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia. Success rapidly followed. Before her studies were finished, Cavani was was hired there as the director of historical documentaries at RAI television. From there, she transitioned into feature films.

Cavani's filmmaking style is fierce, unflinching and no-holds barred. Working with future stars Charlotte Rampling, Helena Bonham Carter and Mickey Rourke early in their careers, she was able to evoke a depth of emotion from her actors that was truly exceptional. Her films are like symphonies that feature exquisite sets, rich cinematography and classical music that almost feels like and additional character.

She rose to international prominence with the 1974 release of "Il portiere di notte" 
(The Night Porter). A dark erotic thriller, the film stars Charlotte Rampling as Lucia, a concentration camp survivor who checks in to a Vienna hotel with her husband, an American conductor. There, she comes fact to face with her former captor and lover, Max, who now works as the hotel's night porter.

After spending a sleepless night haunted by her flashbacks of life in the camp and her relationship with the former Nazi SS officer, played by British actor Dirk Bogarde, she tells her husband to continue on his and she stays behind at the hotel. When Max confronts her, paranoid that she has searched him out to turn him into the police for war crimes, the two have an explosive encounter that ends with the realization that they still love each other. What follows is the pain and pleasure of a tortured, doomed love. 

Cavani’s balance of tenderness and violence, death and despair,  is expressed through the extraordinary performances of her actors. The scenes in the concentration camp brilliantly highlight the human desire for the beautiful things in life like culture and closeness against the grey, corrupt and brutal backdrop of the Holocaust. Cavani’s camera moves smoothly in time with the classical music soundtrack, contrasting the extravagance of the Vienna hotel with the cold reality outside its doors, as if the hotel is a sanctuary, and once the couple leaves, they must fend for themselves.

Cavani’s 2002 film, "Ripley's Game" is based on the novel by Patricia Highsmith, of the same name. It stars John Malkovich as a vengeful former hitman who tries to retire to a mansion in northern Italy. When a neighbor insults him around the same time that an old colleague tries to drag him out of retirement, he orchestrates some serious payback. Malkovich is brilliant as a cerebral murderer with no conscience whose last job finally gets the better of him. The film premiered out of competition at the 2002 Venice Film Festival.

Starring Mickey Rourke and Helena Bonham Carter, Cavani’s 1989 "Francesco" tells the story of St. Francis of Assisi told from the point-of-view of his followers. Tapping into her early years at RAI, the film takes a documentary approach as it reveals key aspects of the saint’s personality, including his humility, generosity, love of  animals and his early inner conflict about abandoning his father's wealth to immerse himself in the world of the desperately poor.

This wasn't the first time Cavani worked on a project about Saint Frances. In 1966, she directed a made-for-tv movie about the saint that aired on RAI. Starring Lou Castell, known for his role in Marco Bellocchio’s "Fists in the Pockets," Cavani’s television version is described on the Internet Movie Database (IMDB) as “The life of Saint Francis of Assisi retold from the sixties political radical point of view.” It's interesting to note that RAI was also listed in the credits as one of the producers of the 1989 film version.

At 88-years-old, Cavani has another film in production that is still untitled but slated for a 2021 release. We'll keep you posted. 

In the meantime, all the above films are available to stream on Amazon. Click on the images below to stream them.


Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Strong Italian Presence in the 2018 Tribeca Lineup

"The Man Who Stole Bansky"
Some great contemporary Italian filmmakers are in this year's lineup of the Tribeca Film Festival including Laura Bispuri's "Daughter of Mine," Susanna Nicchiarelli's "Nico 1988" and Marco Proserpio's much anticipated "The Man Who Stole Banksy." 

Marco Proserpio's documentary film begins with the Palestinian perspective on the internationally renowned street artist and soon turns into the discovery of an extensive secret market of works stolen from city streets around the world. The film explores the influence of cultures meeting and clashing in the face of unstable political situations and the ongoing debate of commercialization versus preservation in street art. The story is told through interviews with art dealers, restorers, copyright lawyers and street artists themselves. They all take a side, and this film gives unique access to all of them. Proserpio is not looking to express a specific opinion. The goal is simply to pose questions. If graffiti is by definition an ephemeral form of art, should it then be allowed to disappear as the artists intended?

Daughter of Mine
"Daughter of Mine" is the story of a 9-year-old girl torn between the loving mother who raised her and the biological mother who wants her back. Starring Alba Rohrwacher and Valeria Golino as the mothers, and newcomer Sara Casu, the film was shot in rural Sardinia, which has vast landscapes that contrast the film being set in the present. 

In an interview with Variety, Gregorio Paonessa of Vivo Film called the plot a “very contemporary theme.” He said the film is "totally in line with Laura’s journey as a director” explaining, "her films have always been meditations on the female condition. In the first one it was gender identity, now she is taking further a step and tackling the theme of maternity.” Bispuri has said that American writer A.M. Homes’s memoir "The Mistress’s Daughter" was her inspiration behind the film.

"Nico 1988"
Set between Paris, Prague, Nuremberg, Manchester, the Polish country side and the Roman seaside, the biopic movie starts in 1987 with Nico, 48, strung out on heroin but going on tour in Europe as a soloist with a new manager and getting off drugs as the tour progresses. She is with her son Ari, who she claimed was conceived with Alain Delon, though Delon denied paternity. Nico died in 1988 while on vacation with Ari on the Mediterranean island of Ibiza.

The 2018 Tribeca Film Festival runs April 18 — 29.  Click here for the complete lineup. For more information on the films and directors, visit FilmItalia.

Monday, March 5, 2018

Verona's Fondazione Aida Introducing Italian Maestros to a New Generation

Pasolini on the set of his 1961 film Accattone in the
Gordiani zone of Rome

To mark the 96th anniversary of Pier Paolo Pasolini's birth, we're revisiting our interview with members of Fondazione Aida, an organization bridging Italy with the world and educating new generations about the maestros of Italian cinema and beyond. 

Based in Verona, Italy, home of Romeo and Juliet, Fondazione at introduces the great Italian authors and illustrators to youngsters in a way that is both entertaining and informative. Aida`s hands-on approach directly involves children by bringing theatre productions right into schools. The members of Aida also reach beyond the borders of Italy and take their productions on the road.

Members of Aida participated in a New York City tribute to Pier Paolo Pasolini by bringing their production of Trash to the Big Apple. I sat down with Roberto Terribile, one of the foundation’s artistic directors and Cecilia Cinelli, the former head of international relations. They told me what Fondazione Aida is all about at how its homage to the great Pasolini keeps his spirit alive and his work relevant.

What is the mission of Fondazione Aida?
Our foundation is a professional theatre company for young audiences. It's been around for more than 20 years. Its mission is to promote, among the new generation, the classic writers and masters of Italy, to keep alive the importance of the masters' personalities and work. They weren't just filmmakers or poets, but intellectuals, complete artists.

Tell me about Trash.
Every year, we have at least five or six new productions. A performance of Trash was orginally performed in Italy a couple of years ago when we organized an exhibition dedicated to Pasolini. There was a theatre performance that was presented to university students but it was just with one actor. So this performance in New York is not only with English text, but there are two actors; Rhonda Moore, who is an American actress and Lorenzo Bassotto, an Italian actor and director. 

Where did the name, Trash, come from?
The performance is made up of several poems by Pasolini. The poems were written about the lives of young people living in the rough suburbs of the big cities. He had a very special eye for the most humble people. He compared those neighborhoods to trash because of the violence and poverty that was taking place. It wasn't just a chronicle that he made of society. His way was always poetic with his gentle eye towards these poor people. So this performance highlighted the way he expressed what he saw.

How do children find out about your foundation?
Our headquarters is in Verona. We are known for our weekly performances, which students attend and on Sunday afternoons. We have a special family day in which students come with their families. We organize workshops and we tour Italy, performing at schools, theatres and festivals. Our company has also toured Mexico and Guatemala, participating in the Festival International Cervantino. We travel all over the world and have done many productions in the United States with different authors and illustrators.

Is your foundation open to American children?
Yes, we are always looking for co-productions where we can work with American actors and dancers like we're doing with this Trash performance. So, we're very open to meeting people, meeting actors. 

Can you tell me about other interesting projects?
Well, we're working on many projects, but one of our most important is an exhibition on Gianni Rodari, a famous children's author in Italy. He's also very well known all over the world. He died in 1980. He just loved children and had a great relationship with them. He knew how to relate to them. The exhibition consists of videos of him interacting with children and a performance of one of his novels, Grammatica della Fantasia (The Fantasy of Grammar).  

For more information about Fondazione Aida, visit them online at

- Jeannine Guilyard

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...