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Monday, April 23, 2018

The Anna Magnani Awards Ceremony - Tonight at Cinecittà Studios

Today's edition of Italy's newspaper Il Messaggero features my favorite Roman street art with an article about an awards ceremony that is taking place this evening at the Cinecittà studios in Rome.

Carlo Verdone, Valeria Solarino, Vinicio Marchioni, Oscar Dante Ferretti and Francesca Lo Schiavo are the recipients of the 5th edition  Anna Magnani Award. The ceremony will take place this evening, April 23rd, at the Fellini Hall in Cinecittà.

The award, which is dedicated to the memory of the great Italian actress was conceived by Matteo Persica, author of the book Anna Magnani, Biography of a Woman, and is a group effort by the likes of  Francesca Piggianelli, president of Romarteventi, with the collaboration of Luce Cinecittà, the support of the Rome Lazio Film Commission, the sponsorship of the Cinema-MiBACT General Management, the Lazio Region, the Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia, the Cinecittà Panalight and with the support of the Associazione Equilibra.

Congratulations to all the recipients of this year's award! Click here to read an article in Italian about the event.

Netflix Announces New Italian Projects

Cineuropa is reporting that Rimetti a noi i nostri debiti by Antonio Morabito is due to be the very first original Italian film to be released on Netflix. The film will be available to stream from 4 May and is not due to be released in cinemas. The CEO of Netflix, Reed Hastings, made the announcement in Rome while presenting the streaming company's new season to the European press. On the cards are 55 new productions from Europe, the Middle East and Africa, which will raise investments outside the United States and exceed US content for the first time. The new season will widen its content beyond Anglo-Saxon productions and will open up the floor to a variety of projects, while adjusting itself more to individual cultures. Netflix now boasts 125 million subscribers (7.4 million new users between January and March) and has a turnover of $3.7 billion. "We are working with other European partners," stated Hastings, "so that customers can watch Netflix shows in just one package. The most exciting thing is that we are sharing content." 

In terms of new releases in Italy, Netflix has announced the production of a film by Morabito starring Claudio Santamaria and Marco Giallini, which tells the story of a debt collector and debtor who turns from victim into culprit. Also on the cards for Netflix’s new season is Luna Nera, an original series produced by Fandango, which tells the story of a group of women accused of witchcraft in seventeenth-century Italy and the original series Baby directed by Andrea De Sica and Anna Negri, inspired by real-life events and the world of child prostitution in the Parioli district of Rome. Netflix has also announced that shooting is due to commence on the second season of Suburra, the docu-series First Team: Juventus,and the adaptation of Winx Club into a live action show.

Click here for the full story.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Lucia Grillo Talks with Filmmaker and Artistic Director Irene Dionisio about the Lovers Film Festival – Torino LGBTQI Visions

Irene Dionisio is the artistic director of the Lovers Film Festival – Torino LGBTQI Visions, the oldest themed film festival in Europe. She is also a filmmaker in her own right. Her first narrative feature, Le ultime cose, made its North American premiere last year at Open Roads: New Italian Cinema, an annual showcase of contemporary Italian Cinema hosted by the Film Society of Lincoln Center. That’s where we caught up with Dionisio and asked her about the film festival and why the timing is so important. Our contributor Lucia Grillo was guest reporting for us during the series and conducted the interview.

You just became the Artistic Director of an LGBTQ film festival. Tell us what inspires you and how it’s going so far.
This is sort of a revolution because it is the oldest film festival in Italy. They asked me to be the artistic director of the festival. So, it’s a great change and for me, it’s very important because this is  a female artistic director. It’s important because before, it was the Gay and Lesbian Film Festival and now, we changed the name. The name is “Lovers Torino” and then “LGBTQ Visions.” So, for me, that is very important because it shows this point-of-view, this kind of community and this kind of research because it’s an identity research, which is very important and very contemporary.

Right now, we need this with everything that’s happening in the world.
Yes, I think there is a new struggle in contemporary life. You can find the true important point of research that we have to approach. The first is the role of gender. This struggle sometimes is the most important subject of the festival. We have to create new debates.

It’s really important to normalize because gender is something that’s invented to make the system work the way it does.
This is a really strong point-of-view and in Italy, this point-of-view is really dangerous. For me, it’s like you said but it’s not easy to say this. You have to be strong in your point-of-view. I think girls, women are searching for their identity. There is a very quick development of these girls. We know that it’s a role built by a culture. So for a woman, it’s a new way to find an identity and the same goes for a man.

That’s important because women and LGBTQ people are grossly under-represented in the established film festivals.
Yes because it’s very difficult for a woman to make a film and then to have the possibility for it to be shown at festivals. So we did some research in Italy to see who makes up the work force in the audio-visual industry and found that the percentage of women in cinema is very small. I believe this is the case for two reasons- because the work in cinema is very male-oriented and also at the same time because there is a sort of censorship that women are doing on themselves. So it’s not easy for a woman to be powerful, to be in a position of power. When I did some interviews to promote my film, they asked me ‘Are you an actress in the film? And I said, no, I am the director.’ Because I am young, I am a woman and so they didn’t think that I could be the director. So we have to move beyond this way of thinking, and I think this is the time to do it.

The Lovers Film Festival – Torino LGBTQI Visions runs through April 24. Click here to visit the festival's website. Click here to follow Irene Dionisio on Instagram.

Friday, April 13, 2018

The Evolution of #Womeninfilm in Contemporary Italian Cinema

Before #womeninfilm was a hashtag, I was talking with Italian actresses and women directors about their plight in the male dominated film industry. With all this week's news about Italian filmmakers like Asia Argento speaking at the Women in the World Summit in New York and the films of Valeria Gollino and Alice Rohrwacher making the official program of the Cannes Film Festival, I'd like to revisit a few of my past conversations with women filmmakers to look at how the conditions and opportunities have improved and what still needs to be done for women in Italy's film industry. There's no better way than hearing directly from the women in the trenches, so I've extracted these quotes from my interviews. Notice how grave the outlook was in 2005 and how it improved through the years with 2017 being the most positive.

Actress Valentina Cervi
New York City, 2005
Open Roads: New Italian Cinema

“I think that cinema in general is going through a hard time because directors are usually men and there are a lot of young directors coming up. Usually because in Italy the directors are also writers, they can write more for men than for women. It’s more difficult for men to think they’re going to make a woman’s journey rather than a man’s, which is closer to them. They’re going to use male characters because it’s more like them. So, it is difficult. It’s difficult to find good films.” 

Actress Donatello Finocchiaro
New York City, 2008
Open Roads: New Italian Cinema

“(My character) Lucia is definitely a woman who has to rise to a lot of challenges. She's a woman who needs to create a space for herself in a world that is dominated by men and of course she struggles with it. She fights left, right and center to do that.”

Actress Sabrina Impacciatore
New York City, 2010
Open Roads: New Italian Cinema 

“In most cases, men are writing about women and creating these female characters, and men just can't understand how complex a woman is, so they are writing these supporting roles, like the mother or wife of the main character. It's rare to find a good, complex, well-rounded female character, and this is something that we actresses suffer from. There are so few roles and it's difficult to find the main role interesting as a woman. And it's also difficult to find roles that are both dramatic and funny at the same time. This is usually just reserved for men, whereas an actress can play a very beautiful woman but not a woman who can go back and forth between comedy and drama the way life actually plays out.”

Read the full interview.

Director Maria Sole Tognazzi
New York City, 2016
Open Roads: New Italian Cinema

“We are definitely smaller in number than our male counterparts but things are changing. There is a new generation of female filmmakers and they are great. Talented female directors like Alice Rorhwacher and Laura Bispuri are bringing hope that there is more room for women. Cinema is still dominated by men not only in the role of director but also in acting roles. Men have the more important roles and women used to be just the wife or a supporting character. But now, there are more roles and better roles for women.” 

Read the full interview.

Actress/Director Karen Di Porto
Rome, 2016
Festa del Cinema di Roma

“If you look at this edition of the festival, the three Italian movies in the official selection, which I have the honor of being one of them, are stories based on women.. it can be a very good vibe. You can get a more warm, intimate feeling if you talk about women and I think this can generate more interesting roles.” 

Read the full interview.

Actress Isabella Ragonese
New York City, 2017
Open Roads: New Italian Cinema

“I come from the generation that is responsible for actually making this change. I am always seeing more films that are telling stories from the point-of-view of a woman and fewer films when the woman is just the girlfriend of the lead character. It's great because it gives actresses the opportunity to do what they know best. So I'm very happy because we are able to create deeper, more profound characters and have more enthusiasm for what we do. It's not a matter of being the lead character.. it's about being a multidimensional character.” 

Read the full interview.

This is an exciting time for women telling their stories thanks to the dedication of all these strong, determined women and those trailblazers before. Be sure to follow our partnership with Directed by Women on Italian Cinema Today to hear more inspiring stories about women in film. There is still so much more to come..

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Italian Films at the 2018 Cannes Film Festival

Update May 19, 2018

Two Italian filmmakers were awarded prizes at Cannes -
Best Screenplay went to Alice Rohrwacher for Lazzaro Felice..
Best Actor went to Marcello Fonte for his role in Matteo Garrone’s Dogman
Gianni Zanasi's comedy Lucia’s Grace was named Best European Film in the Directors’ Fortnight
Stefano Savona's Samouni Road won the L'Oeil d'or for Best Documentary given by the French Society of Multimedia Authors (Scam)


Original Post

Five Italian films made the official program of the 2018 Cannes Film Festival plus one in the Directors' Fortnight category. They are:

AS IT IS ON EARTH by Pier Lorenzo Pisano: Cinéfondation Selection

The village was small, and now it's even smaller; only four houses still standing and a street. There is no one around. Nobody to say "hi" to, no one to whine about the heat to. The earthquake didn't even spare the sound of breathing. The story of two souls trying to mend a wound in a torn town.

DOGMAN by Matteo Garrone: En Competition

DOGMAN is the name of a pet grooming shop and also the tragic prediction of the main character’s metamorphosis from man to animal. Based on a true story that took place 30 years ago and of which nobody will ever know the truth, DOGMAN digs deep into the human dilemmas of the violence hidden inside each one of us.

EUPHORIA by Valeria Golino: Un Certain Regard

The film revolves around two distant brothers, forced together by life events. Matteo (Scamarcio) is a young successful entrepreneur who is open-minded, charming and dynamic. His brother Ettore (Mastandrea) still lives in the small provincial town where they were born, teaching at the local middle school. He is a fairly cautious and honest man, who has always stayed out of the spotlight out of fear of making mistakes. They are two apparently very distant people. However, a difficult situation results in the two brothers being given the opportunity to get to know each other, and they soon discover that they have a surprisingly close bond in a vortex of fragility and tenderness, fear and euphoria

LAZZARO FELICE (MY BITTER LAND) by Alice Rohrwacher: En Competition

The adventures of a man living on the margins of his society who can seemingly travel through time.


The film is only the second co-production that the Vatican has made with outside filmmakers and the first in which a Pope addresses the audience directly, discussing topics such as ecology, immigration, consumerism, and social justice.

Pope Francis – A MAN OF HIS WORD is a significant nonfiction film, as it is not a biography about the Pope, rather a film with him.

On March 13th, 2013, the Cardinal of Buenos Aires, Jorge Mario Bergoglio, became the 266th Pope of the Catholic Church. As Pope Francis, he has made communication a vital element of the Church and a key component of his remarkable work of reform.
In Pope Francis – A MAN OF HIS WORD, he responds to questions submitted from around the globe. Exclusive footage from the Vatican’s archive shows the Pope on journeys, sharing his ideas and ideals in different parts of the world.

TROPPA GRAZIA (LUCIA'S GRACE) by Gianni Zanasi: Quinzaine des Réalisateurs - Film de clôture

Single working mother Lucia (Alba Rohrwacher) is trying to find the right balance between life with her teenage daughter, a complicated romance and her career as a land surveyor. Lucia’s future is jeapordized when she realizes that an ambitious new building is environmentally dangerous due to the city council’s inaccurate maps. Lucia is torn by her decision to keep her mouth shut for fear of losing her job. A mysterious foreign woman tries to convince Lucia to stand up to her superiors and recommend a church as the only solution for the troubled building site. Lucia’s belief in miracles will soon be put to the test.

SAMOUNI ROAD by Stefano Savona: Quinzaine des Réalisateurs

In the rural outskirts of Gaza City, the Samouni extended family, a small community of farmers, is about to celebrate a wedding. It’s going to be the first celebration since the last war. Amal, Fuad, their brothers and their cousins have lost their parents, their houses and their olive trees. The neighborhood where they live is being rebuilt. As they replant trees and plow fields, they face their most difficult task: piecing together their own memory. Through these young survivors’ recollections, Samouni Road conveys a deep, multifaceted portrait of a family before, during and after the tragic event that changed its life forever.

Newly announced films include...
THE FIGHT by Marco Bellocchio: Quinzaine des Réalisateurs - Courts métrages
EVERYBODY KNOWS by Asghar Farhadi: En Competition, Film d'overture
IN MY ROOM by Ulrich Köhler: Un Certain Regard
THE BICYCLE THIEF by Vittorio De Sica: Cannes Classics

Movie descriptions were provided by Filmitalia. The 2018 Cannes Film Festival will be held May 8 - 19. Click here for more information.

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...