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Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Viva il Cinema Italiano a New York City!

The first week of December is huge for Italian cinema in NYC! 

Here is the rundown with links to more information.

December 1- Director

Antonio Piazza to attend screenings of his film SICILIAN GHOST STORY at the Quad Cinema for Q&As.. Go to Strand Releasing and Cinema Made in Italy for details.

Click here to read my interview with one of the stars, Filippo Luna.

December 3 & 5- Maria Sole Tognazzi will talk about her documentary film Portrait of my Father at the Italian Cultural Institute on December 3 and present it at the Museum of Modern Art on December 5.
Click here to read my interview with Maria Sole Tognazzi.

December 4N.I.C.E. New Italian Cinema Events presents Francesco Falaschi's Quanto Basta.
Check out my interviews with the star of the film, Valeria Solaria, co-star Mirko Frezza and
Maya Breschi, one of the organizers of N.I.C.E.

December 5- The film retrospective 'Ugo Tognazzi-Tragedies of a Ridiculous Man' opens at MoMA The Museum of Modern ArtClick here for the full schedule.

Italy On Screen New York kicks off December 8. The following day, the New York premiere of Euforia directed by award-winning actress Valeria Golino will take place with the special participation of Academy Award-nominated director Julie Taymor and Novelist André Aciman.
Here is the full schedule of films..


Sunday, November 18, 2018

Meet Italy's Newest Stars- Elisa Del Genio & Ludovica Nasti

Directed by Saverio Costanzo and adapted from Elena Ferrante's novel My Brilliant Friend, HBO’s new television series is enchanting, mystical, suspenseful and full of drama.

A young veteran of contemporary Italian cinema, Costanzo brings to the table his modern style of filmmaking with nostalgic echoes of Italy's Golden Age of cinema. Set in 1950s working-class Naples, the films of Vittorio De Sica instantly come to mind.  Then add the subtle yet powerful performances by its two young stars, Elisa Del Genio and Ludovica Nasti, non-professional actresses, and Costanzo endearingly, perhaps even subconsciously, pays homage to the neorealist genre that De Sica was key in creating.

The development of a close friendship between Elena (Elisa Del Genio) and Lila (Ludovica Nasti) is the basis of the first episode, which introduces us to the harsh reality and flawed characters that surround them. The two girls are top in their class and while their teachers encourage their studies, the girls hesitate to embrace their intellectual gifts due to the society in which they live. 

Costanzo's sets are rich and sumptuous in their grey and earth tones yet ominous and creepy, giving the feeling that something bad is always waiting around the corner. He succeeded in creating an intriguing, fable-like world where fantasy and reality meet. 

My Brilliant Friend airs Sundays at 9pm on HBO. Click here to watch the trailer.

Sara Lo Russo's High-Tech Take on Basilicata

After honing her skills in Rome, she returned to her native region to conjure 3D worlds that bring history to life.

Sara Lo Russo was raised in Potenza, the capital of Basilicata, where she attended college and majored in journalism. Upon graduating, she moved to Rome where she held a position as a news coordinator. Living outside the region allowed her to grow personally and professionally, but she longed to return home and cast a contemporary light upon her region.

So she headed back to Potenza and partnered with engineer and 3D technician Michele Scioscia. With the help of the Lucana Film Commission, they founded Effenove, a film production and visual effects company.

“We specialize in 3D computer graphics,” says Lo Russo. “For us, technology is a tool, not the end, and 3D allows us to add a different language to the way we talk about Basilicata and its stories.”

Effenove literally means F9. As Lo Russo explains, “When Michele and I were trying to come up with a name for our production house, he suggested Effenove because the F9 key is what you press after a long processing of data entry before getting the final image.”

In pursuit of that final image, the artists of Effenove use drones with 4K resolution and SLR/digital cameras to shoot the real word (monuments, landscapes, people) and transform them into 3D models. Using highly sophisticated software, they create stunningly realistic virtual worlds that you enter via computer.

Lo Russo takes a documentary-style approach aimed at making Basilicata interesting and relevant to young audiences. The goal is to engage them and to teach them the history of the region. The most recent example is “Inventum,” an interactive game that is available through the Apple Store and Google Play. But there’s a catch. You can only play the game at the location in which it is set: the Archaeological Park of Venosa. 

Steeped in history, the park’s ancient ruins, which date back to 291 B.C., were once inhabited by wealthy Romans who relaxed in the thermal baths and watched shows in the amphitheater. Underneath the ruins are ancient Jewish catacombs. Now a museum, visitors learn about the Jewish population that occupied the area during the last centuries of the Roman Empire. The Effenove app brings this world to life through the magic of 3D animation.

“Basilicata is definitely a natural set. From the sea to the mountains to the wheat and the sky, the landscapes are extraordinary. However, the reason for staying here are the actual stories. A place can be as beautiful as you want, but if there are no strong stories to tell, the place is just a set,” Lo Russo explains.

Talking with Sara Lo Russo at the Giornate del Cinema Lucano in Maratea, Basilicata

Until recently, the region of Basilicata was most often described as poor, desolate and hard to reach. With the designation of Matera as the 2019 European Capital of Culture, the world seems to be catching on to the region’s modern side. And while younger residents appreciate and respect the writers and directors who once used the land as their muse and movie set, they feel the need to move on from the antiquated stereotypes they now perpetuate. “(Pier Paolo) Pasolini, (Francesco) Rosi and Carlo Levi gave a lot to Basilicata, but we run the risk of getting stuck in that kind of image,” Lo Russo says. “Basilicata today is much more. There is so much technology. There is so much future, and there is a great desire for the future. Just locate the right tools and start building that future.”

Watch a clip from our interview....

Clips from Effenove projects can be viewed online at Effenove is also on Vimeo and social media, in particular Instagram, where clips are posted regularly. Click here to watch Sara Lo Russo in my documentary Return to Lucania.

-Written by Jeannine Guilyard for the series "Basilicata: Land of Cinema." Published in the November 2018 edition of Fra Noi Magazine, Chicago.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Gigi Roccati's 'Lucania'

The trailer for Gigi Roccati's new film "Lucania" was recently released. Described as "An ancient land brought back to life by the primal force of a young mute girl," the film stars Joe Capalbo and Angela Fontana with Marco Leonardi and local actors Cosimo Fusco and Enzo Saponara. The film was shot on location in Basilicata.

Judging from the cinematography and performances, "Lucania" looks like an intense film. We'll keep you posted on its release. Click here to watch the trailer.

Saturday, November 3, 2018

Interview: Giancarlo Iannotta Talks Molise and his First Feature Film

Chicago-born filmmaker Giancarlo Iannotta’s My Country is a labor of love and symbol of pride for his Italian origins and has made the lineup of Canada's 2019 Italian Contemporary Film Festival. 

A story of two brothers who meet as adults, the duo embarks on a road-trip from Rome to the southern region of Molise where they are forced to get to know each other and family members they never knew existed. The film is a lighthearted adventure with dramatic undertones, which deal with issues of abandonment and the lifetime repercussions it could bring when left unaddressed. 

Iannotta stars in the lead road opposite Antonio Palumbo with Rossella Celati, Demi Zaino and Mario D'Agostino, but one could argue another protagonist is the region of Molise. With breathtaking shots of the landscape and charming details of its towns, Ianotta, in the role of director, presents us with a lesser known but stunningly beautiful region that we don’t often see on travel shows and magazine covers.

Ianotta talked with us about his inspiration behind making the film and why he cast himself in the lead role. 

Let’s start at the beginning… Why did you want to tell this story?
Growing up in an immigrant family, my father and relatives were natural storytellers. Late Sunday lunches were prime for stories from “the old country”.  Then when I was twelve, I visited Castel San Vincenzo whichis the 400-person town where my father immigrated from in Molise for the first time. The people, wildlife and postcard-like panoramas immediately hit me. Even at that age, I thought, one day I’ll write a book or a song about the town… but never could have imagined making a movie there. After graduating from film school at Columbia College Chicago, I made a number ofshort films, then did a complete 180° and moved to Rome in 2014 to pursue filmmaking and commercials (while taking night classes to learn Italian.) Two years later, I wrote the screenplay for My Country. The story of two brothers on the road intrigued me but it wasn’t until I heard this horrible phrase, “Il Molise non esiste” (Molise doesn’t exist) which is a common line said around Italy to describe our small region. It was my goal to highlight our beautiful town but also put a spotlight on the Molisani people, culture and of course… il cibo (food).

I am thinking perhaps that your origins are in Molise. Is that true? How much of the film was basedon your own life and experiences?
While it’s true that my roots are in Castel San Vincenzo and we used a lot of friends and family in secondary roles, the overall majority of the story is fiction and I do not in facthave a long-lost brother in Italy (Antonio also has a girlfriend, sorry ragazze). My father is also doing just fine and well in Chicago. My real-life neighbor Mario D’Agostino played the role but I’m complimentedthat many people think the characters in the film must be related. While living in Rome though, I supplemented my income by becoming a tour driver of the Fiat 500 Cinquecento, driving many American, British, French and German tourists around Rome. I incorporated this into the movie which became one of the most fun aspects. Luckily back in Chicago, my father taught me how to drivestick-shift but it made for a hilarious scene halfway through the film.

What is your reason for starring in the film? Did you ever feel that writing, directing and starring in the film was a lot to take on, or perhaps overwhelming?
I definitely consider myself more of a Writer, Director and Editor but the story material was so near and dear to me that it made sense I would play the younger “Americano” brother. Convincing my family that I could act though was a completely different story. I got great technique tips from taking lessons with the help of Second City improv-comedy. Since this was my first movie, I literally have 18 days of acting experience (the length of the shoot). People are very complimentary of the performance though and especially the fun “back and forth” with my older brother (played by Antonio Palumbo from Bari). While I wouldn’t necessarily tell young filmmakers that they should write, direct, edit and act in their first film, it was an incredibly satisfying feeling and I wouldn’t change a thing.

Did you have a screening in Molise with the people in the film, and if so, how’d it go? My impression is that they are locals and not professional actors. This is a great quality of contemporary Italian cinema. If this is the case, what inspired you to use non-professional actors?
Premiering the film in Italy was one of the greatest highlights of my short filmmaking career so far. We had a big premiere in one of the main piazzas of Castel San Vincenzo with a giant projector screen, sound system and large illuminating lights (think Cinema Paradiso.) I think there were more people there in the piazza than actuallylive in CSV! They absolutely loved it though and I know because I had some of my confidants secretly “overhear” some of the chiacchierata(chit-chat) at the local bar the next day. They were just so surprised how much of a “real” movie it felt like and how great the locals were in it, especially my cousins and extended family in our big, outdoor “gnocchi” scene. I definitelywanted that neo-realism/cinema-verité style that was so popular with Fellini, Rossellini and now contemporized in some ways although heavily stylized by Sorrentino (The Great Beauty), Garrone (Gomorra) and Carpignano (A Ciambra).

Were you happy with how the film turned out? Was it close to your original vision?
I think if anything it completely exceeded my original vision. The actors brought so much more than I could haveever imagined and most of the credit goes to my movie brother Antonio. Although scripted, we improvised a good portion of the dialogue once we were on the road but I’m most happy with how the big gnocchi scene turned out. I had no idea my family would come off so natural and it’s also nice to see my great-Uncle Giovanni, who sadly passed since we shot in 2016. I’m truly humbled how the cast, crew and my investors had such faith in me to pull it off. It wasn’t without “bumps and bruises” though: the Fiat 500 got a flat tire halfwaythrough the shoot, the boom microphone broke and we lost our hospital location in Isernia the morning of one of our most pivotal final scenes. In the end though, we stuck it out and now audiences in the States, Italy and abroad are reacting so well to the film. 

What were your favorite moments in the filmmaking process?
Admittedly, it was hard to completely enjoy everything in the moment because I had so many roles but the cast and crew always made time to have fun dinners together (especially in Molise.)Seeing my family act was so special like I previously said and also the relationship between Francesco & Anna in the film (played by Rossella Celtifrom Naples). Shooting for three days in Chicago, which makes up the first ten minutes of the movie, was also really exciting. My Uncle Bob (producer Robert Iannotta) let us shoot at his house and we also got to shoot at one of Chicago’s most charming Italian BYOB restaurant’s, Lucia’s. I also loved the scenes with the little dog, Meaty (aka Claude the pug.)

Which filmmakers are your cinematic influences?
As much as I tried not to make an Italian film with organized crime themes, I did grow up watching movies like The Godfather, Goodfellas and The Pope of Greenwich Village which left an indelible impression on me. The first film I was remembering noticing there must be a director behind the camera was 1999’s, Magnolia (directed by Paul Thomas Anderson). Documentaries also influence me tremendously and some of my favorites are Man On Wire, Koyaanisqatsi and Enron: Smartest Guys In The Room.

What is in your future as a filmmaker?
The movie was releasedin July on Amazon Prime and the whole summer my production company was busy promoting the film. Currently, we’re enjoying getting back into commercials, branded content and taking time off from scripted work. Of course, I’ve been circling a few ideas for another feature and hopethere’s another opportunity to film in Italy and especially Molise… which exists!!

My Country will be shown in Montreal at Cinéma Guzzi on June 15. Click here to purchase tickets. If you're not in Montreal, you can watch the film on Amazon. Click below for a direct link. 

Ugo Tognazzi: Tragedies of a Ridiculous Man

Ugo Tognazzi: Tragedies of a Ridiculous Man
December 5–30, 2018
The Museum of Modern Art

The great Italian actor, director, and screenwriter Ugo Tognazzi (1922–1990) was among the inimitable quintet of actors from Italian cinema’s golden age—Tognazzi, Marcello Mastroianni, Vittorio Gassman, Alberto Sordi, and Nino Manfredi—who invented and popularized commedia dell’Italia, that tragicomic admixture of folly and melancholy, and commanded the lion’s share of Italy’s box-office receipts in the 1960s and ’70s. Tognazzi’s career began opposite Raimondo Vianello in satirical sketch comedies of fledgling 1950s Italian television—his gifts of impersonation and improvisation are hilariously on display in films like Dino Risi’s I mostri (1963) and Luigi Zampa’s A Question of Honor (1965)—and deepened as his roles in later years became more acidic and introspective. If a typical Tognazzi character was virile and dissolute, sweet-talking his way into beds, executive offices, and corridors of power, he was also confronted with the sinking awareness of his own mortality. One witnesses in this retrospective, then, a man’s seemingly inexorable passage from brash ambition to bitter regret, a man seeking to preserve his dignity in the face of diminishing prowess.

In collaboration with Luce Cinecittà, Rome, MoMA celebrates Tognazzi with a retrospective that spans his four-decade career. The series features 25 of his nearly 150 films, including his unforgettable, award-winning performances in Luciano Salce’s The Fascist (1961), Carlo Lizzani’s La Vita agra (1964), Pier Paolo Pasolini’s Porcile (1969), Marco Ferreri’s La Grande Bouffe (1973), Elio Petri’s Property Is No Longer a Theft (1973), Mario Monicelli’s Amici miei (1975), Édouard Molinaro’s La Cage aux folles (1978) and Bernardo Bertolucci’s Tragedy of a Ridiculous Man (1981).

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...