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Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Dustin Hoffman and Stefania Sandrelli Star in Pietro Germi's 'Alfredo, Alfredo'

Browsing Amazon, I stumbled upon a rare find-  Pietro Germi's 1972 film Alfredo, Alfredo starring Dustin Hoffman and Stefania Sandrelli.

stars very young and handsome Dustin Hoffman and equally stunning Stefania Sandrelli. Hoffman is Alfredo Sbisà, a down-to-earth, shy guy who falls in love with the beautiful Maria Rosa (Stefania Sandrelli). The film begins with Alfredo (Dustin Hoffman) and (Stefania Sandrelli) as they meet with a lawyer to finalize their divorce. As Alfredo contemplates the spell that Stefania has cast on him, he tells their story through a sequence of flashbacks beginning on the fateful night they met.

Little by little, Maria Rosa reveals her controlling, jealous tendencies, which Alfredo believes marriage will solve. But after the two marry, life gets more chaotic and ultimately becomes unbearable. During a rare night out with his best friend, Alfredo meets Carolina (Carla Gravina), the polar opposite of Maria Rosa. They fall in love and suddenly, Alfredo finds himself the leader in the movement to make divorce legal in Italy. Although the film is a comedy, the story is complex and tackles real-life issues of personality disorders and emotional abuse. It’s not a very well-known movie, but an example of the masterful storytelling by Germi’s generation of iconic filmmakers. The film won a David Di Donatello for Best Film and scored Hoffman Honorary Citizenship in the town of Ascoli Piceno, located in the central region of Marche, where it was shot.

Italy's affection for Hoffman has continued through the years with invitations to appear on several television shows including the annual music festival in San Remo. Click here to check out a clip of Hoffman and Fiorello.

Hoffman was recently in Rome shooting Donato Carrisi's L'uomo del labirinto (Into the Labyrinth) at Cinecittà opposite actor Toni Servillo. The film is expected to be released later this year. Click here for more information. 

Alfredo, Alfredo is not available to stream as of now, but the DVD is available on Amazon. Click here to purchase the DVD. There is currently an English-dubbed version available on YouTube. I'm usually in favor of purchasing films but since this is such a rarity, I will share it. 

Follow this link to watch the film on YouTube... 


Tuesday, May 21, 2019

A Conversation with Chef-Turned-Director Luigi Diotaiuti

“I am from Basilicata, Italy, and I owe my entire career to this magical region.” With those words begins the charming documentary short, The Beauty of Basilicata. Washington, D.C.-based chef-turned-director Luigi Diotaiuti brought together the worlds of food and film to document the origins of a special dinner he prepared at the James Beard Foundation. The documentary —  which follows his quest to find the best of the region’s products, like peppers from Senise, cheese from Moliterno and beans from Sarconi — also shines a spotlight on his non-profit, Basilicata Way of Living. It was presented at the Lucania Film Festival in Basilicata. 

Diotaiuti is one of six children. His town of Lagonegro is nestled in the mountains of Basilicata in the province of Potenza, where his family grew their own crops and raised farm animals. “The only items we bought at the store were sugar, salt and coffee,” Diotaiuti explains. “The day started when the sun came up. First, I had to milk and tend to the cows. Then I had to walk 14 kilometers to school. It was a tough life, happy but not easy.”
Food was always a huge part of Diotaiuti’s life. In 1976, he became fascinated with the program at the Culinary School of the Arts in the nearby coastal town of Maratea and decided to enroll. Attending culinary school made him realize his mission in life was to make his food and traditions his profession. After spending his entire life living and working on his family’s farm, he felt the urge to do everything at once and to see the world. He went on to work all over Italy, as well as in France and England, and even on a cruise ship. “I wanted to see more, and I wanted to learn more,” he recalls.

During the 1980s, while he was working in Montalcino in Tuscany, an opportunity arose to work in Washington, D.C. “One day, someone came looking for a chef. It was out of the blue and six months later, I made the decision to go, because I wanted to have one more experience in a foreign country before settling down in Italy. It was supposed to last for three months, and here I am 29 years later.” 

Diotaiuti runs two popular but very different restaurants there. Al Tiramisu, which opened 23 years ago, is a D.C. institution. Very small with just 18 tables, it is among the most authentic Italian restaurants in the nation’s capital. “It’s one of those restaurants that you will find in the center of every Italian city, where all the locals know each other and the owner,” Diotaiuti says. Aperto opened in 2016 and has a contemporary flair with a lively bar that is popular Happy Hour destination. There is a main dining room and two private rooms, which are commonly used for business meetings and special events.

Diotaiuti’s experience in making The Beauty of Basilicata and presenting it at the Lucania Film Festival was unforgettable. Although he is busy running his restaurants and making regular television appearances in the D.C. area, he is planning a new project that will document the culinary traditions along the southern tip of his region on the coast of Metaponto. The seaside town was built by the ancient Greeks and still houses the colony’s remnants. The area is close to the border of Calabria, the stomping grounds for the Greek mathematician Pythagoras, whose travels took him to Crotone, Calabria, and then to his final resting place in Metaponto. It is exactly this journey that Diotaiuti is looking to explore and document. Pythagoras is said to have had a secret society, and one of its laws was to refrain from eating meat. Diotaiuti wants to dive deeper into the events that led Pythagoras to become a vegetarian and to recreate the typical feasts enjoyed by the members of this society. “It’s a complex project that will shed light on Pythagoras’s way of living rather than focusing just on him being a mathematician,” Diotaiuti explains.

Follow him on Twitter (@LuigiDiotaiuti) and Instagram (@chefluigidiotaiuti). Watch The Beauty of Basilicata on Diotaiuti’s YouTube channel...






-Written by Jeannine Guilyard for the June edition of Fra Noi Magazine, Chicago. 

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Filmmaker Gio Crisafulli to Present New Film at the Harlem International Film Festival

New York-based Filmmaker Gio Crisafulli of Zio Ciccio Cinema will present his short film Chevere con Salsa at the Harlem International Film Festival on Saturday May 18th. 
The film follows Yesenia (Melinette Pallares), a disgruntled Washington Heights native, on the hottest day of the summer as she struggles to keep her cool navigating the sexual politics of her home, the city streets, and her dating life. After having her morning thrown into a frenzy by her mother, Criselda’s (Jackie Almonte), nagging, she escapes the confines of her oppressive home to the more carefree demeanor of her best friend Carlos (Pascal Arquimedes). Together, they venture down St. Nicholas in search of Dominican shaved ice to cool off, only to find themselves in a heated debate about the toxic masculinity in their culture, the gentrification of their hood, and Yesenia’s dating habits. Yesenia’s own one-sided beliefs get called into question when Carlos sheds light on her contradictions as well as the nuance in male-female relationships and the changing face of Washington Heights. Yesenia, with Carlos’ help, is later able to understand that she does not have all the answers and that it’s okay to simply enjoy the ride.
Click here to watch the trailer. Click here to purchase tickets.

A List of Italian Films in the Lineup of the 2019 Cannes Film Festival Courtesy of Luce Cinecittà's Film Italia

  • THE BEARS' FAMOUS INVASION OF SICILY by Lorenzo Mattotti: Un Certain Regard
    To find his long lost son and food to survive the winter, the great bear king leads his clan down from the mountains and into the world of men. After escaping terrible monsters and defeating an evil duke, the bears and men live together in peace – for a time.


  • The last interview of the Master Bertolucci who recalls his work with precision, delicacy and philosophy. A movie lesson.
    DIRECTOR’S NOTES:
    The first time I met Bernardo Bertolucci he asked me: When did you realize you are not immortal? It happened to him when he was shooting Novecento, he told me. Because a strange sickness he became blind for some days. He was 35 at that time and he had already directed very succesful, provocative, seminal movies that had made him a sort of little god of european auteur cinema. He had directed his first film when he was 21 years old, La commare secca and he was the first time on a set with Pier Paolo Pasolini, as his assistant, in 1961, when he was just 20 years old. At that time when Bernardo Bertolucci found out he was not immortal, because quite suddenly he quit to use his eyes, for some days, he had already surprised american critics with The conformist in 1972 (an english critic wrote that the film had the same virtuosity of Style of Citizen Kane by Orson Welles). Two years later, with Last tango in Paris, he transformed an icon of american cinema, Marlon Brando, in a fascinating and enigmatic european hero of eternal resarch of desire, love and meaning in our life. The film was so shocking and touched deeply something hidden and obscure in relationships of sex, power and intimacy. In Italy, after it became the most successful film at the box office, it was blocked by the justice and its negative print burnt: something similar happened to whom, in the past, who dared to believe in different ideas, in extreme and revolutionary dream. So, you can imagine why Bernardo Bertolucci, who, 35 years old, had been so powerful to upset the world with his films, was surprised discovering his own physical fragility. Last time I met him he was in a wheelchair from several years: he knew better than anyone else what physical vulnerability was and he has been telling it to us through sweet, empathetic and moving films like Little Buddah, The sheltering Sky, Besieged. To make the camera a very special character exploring with excitement, fear, rebellion and passion what does it mean to be human has been the outstanding skill of his cinematic style, now it became to face sorrow, pity, marginalization and, of course, death - the greatest of all adventures of our life".

  • LA PASSIONE DI ANNA MAGNANI by Enrico Cerasuolo: Cannes Classics
    The destiny of legendary actress Anna Magnani through archive footage, often unpublished. To dive into the history of Italian Cinema.


  • THE STAGGERING GIRL by Luca Guadagnino: Quinzaine des Réalisateurs - Courts & Moyens Métrages
    The cinematographic language and the language of Couture simultaneously follow an intimate story line, made of symbols, gestures and images. Moving between Rome and New York, the movie narrates the strength of a blood relationship between two women who have come to a day of reckoning with themselves, through a diachronic and introspective overview.


  • THAT WHICH IS TO COME IS JUST A PROMISE by Flatform: Quinzaine des Réalisateurs - Courts & Moyens Métrages
    In the course of a long, slow take over Funafuti, both drought and floods appear in a constant uninterrupted rhythm. The state of flux between both type of events is reflected in the places and actions of the inhabitants making the island's extremes seem familiar: the air is riven with waiting and suspension. The island of Funafuti, in the archipelago of Tuvalu, for some years now has become the stage for a unique phenomenon. Due to the unnatural warming of the sea, saltwater seeps into the subsoil bubbling up through the porous terrain provoking floods which put the future of life on this island at risk.


  • TOMMASO by Abel Ferrara: Séances Spéciales
    TOMMASO is the story of an American artist living in Rome with his young European wife Nikki and their 3 year old daughter, Dee Dee. A work concerning imagination.



  • THE TRAITOR by Marco Bellocchio: En Competition
    In the early 1980’s, an all out war rages between Sicilian mafia bosses. Tommaso Buscetta, a made man, flees to hide out in Brazil. Back home in Italy, scores are being settled, and Buscetta’s allies are killed off one after another. Arrested and then extradited by the Brazilian police, Buscetta makes a decision that will change the entire story of the Mafia: He decides to meet with Judge Falcone and betray the eternal vow he made to the Cosa Nostra.

Monday, May 6, 2019

Matteo Garrone's Latest Short film for Campari

GRUPPO CAMPARI
Following up his 2018 short for Campari, The Legend of Red Hand, Matteo Garrone's latest, Entering Red, marks the 100th anniversary of the famed Negroni cocktail. Starring Ana de Arma and Lorenzo Richly, the film "traces the journey of the evolution of a woman who, through a series of experiences related to mysterious events, goes through a process of development that will lead her to become a more self-aware individual. [Actress] Ana [de Arma]'s path is a journey of discovery into the world of Campari, an elegant world, a dreamlike and at the same time glamorous dimension," explained Garrone in a recent interview with Forbes.

 Check it out..



In case you didn't catch it, here is the 2018  The Legend of Red Hand..




Friday, May 3, 2019

A Tranquil Hideaway in Francis Ford Coppola’s Ancestral Town

Francis Ford Coppola’s resort Palazzo Margherita is located in Bernalda, the town of his family’s Italian origins. The resort's enchanting grounds boast a private cinema room, robust herb gardens, a family-style dining room run by local culinary experts and a Romanesque private swimming pool surrounded by a walled garden.

Since beginning our series “Basilicata: Land of Cinema” back in 2015, I've visited Bernalda twice and spent a weekend at Palazzo Margherita, which I found to be an extraordinary utopia of culture, food and cinema. The town itself has an atmosphere of wonderment. As you explore the narrow streets lined with well-kept homes and charming churches, you get the feeling of being transported through time. With distant views of the Ionian sea, it truly feels like an untouched corner of paradise. 

My much-anticipated stay at Palazzo Margherita was like something out of a dream. Everything is so beautiful and articulately maintained. The regional food is simple yet decadent and the staff makes you feel like family. However, my most cherished memory is having watched Francesco Rosi's Christ Stopped at Eboli in a lavish private screening room. Adapted from the novel by Carlo Levi, which he wrote during his exile from the Fascist controlled North, the story recounts the extreme poverty of Basilicata in the 1930s and the resilient spirit of its people. Seeing the movie at Palazzo Margherita in Bernalda was a deeply moving experience, knowing my great-grandparents left that very poverty. Experiencing how those strong-spirited people turned that poverty into the modern, intriguing region that Basilicata has become, brought the experience full circle. 

Gaetano Russo
Interestingly, Coppola's cousins in Basilicata are also prolific filmmakers. Gaetano and Michele Russo have been making films for years. Gaetano shares Coppola's passion for winemaking and has worked on several cinema projects promoting the wine industry of Basilicata. Gaetano Russo has taken his cameras into the vineyards surrounding the Monte Vulture where the DOC and DOCG wine Aglianico del Vulture is produced, exploring how profoundly connected the inhabitants of the surrounding towns are to the land. Michele Russo is Gaetano's younger brother and pride and joy. Michele recently made a documentary about Coppola's Italian origins in Bernalda. The Family Whistle premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in 2016 and has been shown at film festivals throughout the world, including the Boston International Film Festival where it picked up the prize for Best Cinematography. 

Carlo Levi wrote in his novel, "Lucania seems to me more than any other, a true place, one of the most real places in the world." (La Lucania mi pare più di ogni altro, un luogo vero, uno dei luoghi più veri del mondo.)  I couldn't agree more and this authenticity is what makes Basilicata feels so warm and welcoming. 

Click here to visit Palazzo Margherita online.

A Review of 'Endgame' - The Russo Brothers Do Not Disappoint

In all my years of movie-watching, I had only seen one Marvel film and it was because I was writing a story about one of the cast members. But that changed when last year, I was a recipient of a grant from the Russo Brothers Italian American Film Forum to finish my documentary film, Return to Lucania. When I realized how much Joe and Anthony Russo give back to the Italian American community, I thought the least I could do is support their films. I went out right away and saw The Avengers and was blown away by the combination of a beautiful, dramatic story and mind-blowing CGI. So when Endgame was released, I waited until the weekend had passed and caught a weekday matinee. Having just read an insightful review that my friend Curt Markham posted on Facebook, I was very eager to see the film. After seeing it, I can say that I agree with just about everything he wrote in his review and as I have been encouraging him to get his work published beyond Facebook, I thought I'd take the liberty and do it right here. I would just like to add that the last scene and song, as the Russo brothers and I are the same age, gave me the chills and felt like a nostalgic tribute to our grandparents' generation. It was the perfect sentimental ending to a strong powerful film.

So with this review of Endgame, I am officially designating Curt Markham our guest blogger.

As someone who's only been a casual (and sometimes skeptical) follower of the Marvel films, I have to say - if there is not serious Oscar buzz over this one next year then there ain't no justice.

Let's start with the acting. For a crowd-pleasing special effects action epic, this film's early scenes are a very restrained depiction of a CHILDREN OF MEN-like world of people struggling to cope with grief and loss. This is actually one of the most adult films I've seen in a good long while. All of the main actors would be guaranteed Academy Award (or at least Independent Spirit) nominations if they gave these exact performances in a more realistic drama.

But of course the gloom eventually starts to lift, as the heroes who survived the infamous climax of the previous film hatch a daring plan. That's when the film switches to the STAR TREK IV "We'll divide into teams" multiple-storyline structure that I'm an absolute sucker for.

And of course it goes without saying that there is an epic battle at the end. People who appreciate tastefully acted explorations of loss and mortality may not also be the audience for mind-bogglingly vast fight sequences featuring 22 films' worth of heroes and villains. But if you *are* in both camps, then boy has your ship come in.

Obviously this film has been in theaters for a little while, and I saw it at a neighborhood theater with a not particularly large audience. But that modest crowd went 1970s-Times-Square-grindhouse / seeing-Yoda-draw-a-lightsaber-for-the-first-time berserk once the climactic battle went into full gear. And I'm pretty sure I heard real crying at the end too.

I hope to God this film finally drives a stake through the heart of "I hate CGI" attitudes. Not only is there image after image that would have been impossible (or prohibitively expensive) without it, but Thanos and the Hulk are the two most soulful performances I've ever seen from computer-generated characters.

After a certain point I thought "Who the f*** directed this? Because this is some next-level artistry." It turns out the maestros behind this are Joe and Anthony Russo, aka the Russo Brothers, whose previous credits include some of the previous Marvel films as well as a lot of TV including ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT and COMMUNITY. Whenever there is a flashback sequence to one of the previous Marvel films, the contrast makes immediately clear how far the Russos have raised the bar.

It's also impressive just how very many big-name actors have parts both large and small in this movie. It's a tribute to the affection and loyalty that this film series has inspired in its cast, that so many of them have stayed in the fold after all this time.

I'm actually somewhat shell-shocked at what a great movie this was. The other Marvel films that stood apart from the pack for me were the outrageously wacky comedic ones: THOR RAGNAROK and the two ANT-MANs. By contrast, this one blew me away with its dramatic seriousness, while still delivering epic spectacle and the occasional good joke.

The irony is that this is the superhero film to show to people who don't believe the genre can be art, and yet they wouldn't understand a word of it because they wouldn't have seen any of the setup in the previous films. But maybe they don't need to - there were some references that I didn't completely get, to previous films that I have already somewhat forgotten, and I still thought this was one hell of a movie.

Check out the 5-minute extended trailer....



Director Anton Evangelista Talks About His Film 'Il Signor Jackson'

Born in Matera, Italy and raised in New York, filmmaker Anton Evangelista is about to take his films full circle. 

A longtime filmmaker in New York City, Evangelista has made six films over the years that have been screened at festivals throughout the world. His latest, Il Signor Jackson was funded by the The National Italian American Foundation (NIAF), Italian Sons and Daughters of America (ISDA) and the Russo Brothers Italian American Film Forum, and was a co-winner in their competition. The film documents the life of Edward Jackson, a former professor and Italophile who grew up in the Bronx around Italian families. Assimilating into their culture on a professional level, Edward was faced with obstacles and prejudices that with his love and passion for the Italian culture, was able to overcome. The film is an ode to dreams, resilience and nostalgia. 


Il Signor Jackson has a number of screenings coming up that will take the filmmaker and his subjects back to their beloved land, and Evangelista to his Basilicata roots. The film will be shown tomorrow, May 4 at the Manhattan Film Festival and then during the Harlem International Film Festival, which runs May 16-19. At the end of the month, he will travel to his birthplace of Matera, where the film will be shown in competition at the Voce Spettacolo Film Festival on May 31. Following that screening, he and Jackson will present the film at the Uffizi in Firenze.


I spoke with Evangelista about the inspiration behind Il Signor Jackson as well as a documentary called Umberto E that he made about plight of his beloved father, and will also be presenting during his trip to Matera. 

Tell me about the inspiration behind Il Signor Jackson.
My inspiration was/is Edward Jackson. He is the embodiment of the true Italian spirit. He is the face of the future of Italy. His story portrays truth about how the world could be a better place if we are taught at a young age to love and respect all cultures and nationalities. Eddie is a great inspiration not only because of his determination and accomplishments, but he shows us if we open our hearts to one another and see beyond the differences, there may be hope for a kinder world.

What was it like for you to shoot in Italy with Edward?
Shooting in Italy was very special. It was my first time visiting Perugia and discovering this magnificent Etruscan landscape. Following and filming Eddie and meeting some of the long friendships he had formed over the many years of his visits there was very inspiring. I witnessed Eddie feeling right at home, and you'll see and feel his love for Perugia in the movie.

What has this nostalgic journey been like for him?
The nostalgic journey begins and ends when Eddie is not in Perugia. He parallels his time and experiences in Perugia much to the wonderful bond and experiences he formed as a child when growing up in the Bronx. It was the same feeling 'of coming home'. 

Tell me about Umberto E.
Umberto E is a documentary I made on my father. A heroic story of personal triumphs over childhood abandonment, harsh treatment in orphanages and a rejecting stepmother. In spite of all of his adversities, Umberto chose love and forgiveness as weapons of “revenge” which led to finding the love of his life - his wife Luisa, and the new life they would have with their children in coming to America. 


Anton Evangelista and his father

What are your thoughts on going back to Matera to present it?
The reality of going back to Matera hasn't quite hit me yet. I have not been there in 21 years, and because there's so much going on for me now, I haven't totally processed it yet. When I really give it some thought, I get excited. I know this will be a very special trip for me. To be re-united with my place of birth, with extended family who I'm so looking forward to seeing and meeting the children of my cousins, and to also share my stories during this milestone period for Matera' title of European Capital of Culture, is a milestone in my life.

If you're not able to attend the screenings, you can watch Il Signor Jackson on Vimeo by following this link.. https://vimeo.com/287842334
.

Click here for more information about the Manhattan Film Festival screening and here for details on the Voce Spettacolo Film Festival. The film will screen at the Harlem International Film Festival on May 17. Click here for the schedule. Follow Anton Evangelista on Instagram for all the latest news and screenings. 

Filmmaker Lucia Grillo Launches New Show

Lucia Grillo with her vegan cacio pepe at NYC's Osteria 57 One of Italian Cinema Today's frequent collaborators and favorite...