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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..

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