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Saturday, September 28, 2019

Six Italian Films in the Lineup of the 2019 Chicago Int'l Film Festival

Vivere by Francesca Archibugi
The following films have made the cut...

Bangla by Phaim Bhuiyan: Comedy

Maternal by Maura Delpero: New Directors Competition

The Mayor of Rione Sanita' by Mario Martone: International Feature Competition

Sole by Carlo Sironi: New Directors Competition

The Traitor by Marco Bellocchio: Special Presentations

Vivere by Francesca Archibugi: Comedy

The festival will take place October 16- 27. Click here for more information.

Friday, September 27, 2019

Rare Italian Gems in the Retrospective and Revivals Section of the New York Film Festival

The extraordinary documentary shorts made by Italian director Vittorio De Seta in the fifties stand alone from the films of his contemporaries for the rigor of their observational eye. Shot in locations around Sicily, Sardinia, and Calabria, these vivid, colorful, narration-free nonfiction works alight on the daily labors and traditional customs of rural workers and their families, bringing out their rituals with such focused determination that they become almost dreamlike. Watching these films together creates a mesmeric immersion into a time, place, and cinema itself. Titles include Lu tempu di li pisci spata (1954), Isole di fuoco (1954), Pasqua in Sicilia (1955), Surfarara (1955), Contadini del mare (1955), Parabola d’oro (1955), Un giorno in Barbagia (1958), Pescherecci (1958), Pastori di orgosolo (1958), and I dimenticati (1959). Restored by the Cineteca di Bologna at L’Immagine Ritrovata laboratory and The Film Foundation, with funding provided by the George Lucas Family Foundation. The films will be shown on October 2 at 3:15pm. Click here to purchase tickets.

In Valerio Zurlini’s penetrating character study, Alain Delon—who also co-produced—stars as Daniele, a tragically hip poetry and literature professor who travels to Rimini for a four-month teaching assignment with his suicidal wife, Monica (Lea Massari). During his tenure, Daniele is indifferent to his students, even letting them smoke in class. He spends his free time gambling with locals, and begins an ill-fated affair with one of his students, Vanina (Sonia Petrovna). This melancholic visual poem, a film of cold and fog, shot in shades of gray disaffection, was cut down upon its release at the insistence of Delon. Now, 45 minutes have been added back in for a new generation of viewers. The new 4K restoration was done by Pathé and Films du Camélia, by the lab L’Image Retrouvée (Paris), and by Titanus. The film will be shown October 1 at 3:15pm. Click here to purchase tickets.

Monday, September 23, 2019

Rome Reports: Documentary Films and Beyond

The Vatican for the World

From daily news to feature stories and in-depth profiles, Rome Reports is an invaluable resource for everything about the Vatican.

With offices located on Via della Conciliazione, the street leading directly to St. Peters Square, the international news agency specializes in providing correspondents for television stations and subscribers around the globe. 

The English-language website, which is brimming with interesting stories and live streams from the Vatican, also broadcasts a half-hour weekly news program. The “Other Topics” tab contains stories on arts, culture, technology and places of interest when visiting Rome. 

For those of us who can appreciate a good nonfiction film, the agency's documentary division offers nearly a dozen productions to stream via an online store. Topics include an inside look at Pope Pius XII’s role in helping Jews escape Nazi persecution during the Holocaust, the resistance of one Iraqi town against the country's persecution of christians and a fascinating look at the life and legacy of a relatively unknown saint- Therese of Lisieux. Click here to go directly to the online store. 

Click here for more information about Rome Reports or to read about what's happening inside the walls of Vatican City and around the Eternal City.

Saturday, September 14, 2019

Filmmaker Lucia Grillo Launches New Show

Lucia Grillo with her vegan
cacio pepe at NYC's Osteria 57
Lucia Grillo recently launched Lucia’s Vegan Lifestylea new show dedicated to plant-based living. In talking with her about this new venture, I was surprised and thrilled to learn that a conversation between the two of us planted the seed for the project.

What is Lucia’s Vegan Lifestyle?
Lucia’s Vegan Lifestyle is a show that focuses on the all-around vegan lifestyle: from daily living to special events. As people are becoming more conscious – environmentally, health-wise, and about animal cruelty in the various consumer industries: food, fashion, cosmetics, etc. – veganism is becoming more popular and more diffuse, people are more open and at least experimenting. 

Tell me a little about your experiences that led up to this show.
A near-lifelong vegan (vegetarian from age 12 and vegan since 1996), it is my normal, and I hadn’t been very involved in the vegan movement… until I had an opportunity to produce culinary segments for a cable program I was working on. I informed the station that I am vegan therefore would not promote any animal-based dishes, and they went with it, giving me carte blanche. The station itself has a reach of 7.3 million broadcast households in the New York metro area and my vegan segments have had over 45,000 individual views (and growing) once uploaded to YouTube – a record for the specific show’s viewership as well as for the station, so I knew it was something for which there is a demand. 

What is the mission of Lucia’s Vegan Lifestyle?
The mission of the show is to facilitate compassionate living – for vegans, non-(yet)-vegans, and the vegan curious – the go-to resource for those who want to live sustainably, without compromising the Earth and its sentient creatures, and without compromising taste.

How did the venture get started?
Actually, you sparked the seed for the show! Talking with you about veganism when we met up in New York and Rome and the transition from vegetarian to full vegan, you suggested I do a show dedicated to the vegan lifestyle. It stayed on my mind since then, and when another friend (a non-vegan) suggested I do a vegan lifestyle show, I picked up the camera and put my skills to use. I so far have episodes on where to get vegan shoes in New York City, Jamaican vegan food in Brooklyn, vegan skin care and makeup sessions, coverage of this year’s Animal Rights March, an interview with Dustin Harder/The Vegan Roadie’s book, “Epic Vegan,” a forthcoming series on new and secret places to eat in Los Angeles and so much more. 

Where can people see your stories?
The show currently “airs” on the Lucia’s Vegan Lifestyle Instagram profile and Facebook page, both @luciaveganlifestyle. The goal is for it to air on television so the pilot is in development. 

Monday, September 9, 2019

A Conversation with Filmmaker Michelle D'Alessandro Hatt

Photo By LV Imagery
Toronto-based filmmaker Michelle D'Alessandro Hatt followed her heart when she was young and had dreams of working in theatre. She performed onstage as an actress and behind the scenes as a playwright. Before long, cinema came calling and she was cast in independent films like the 2015 award-winning comedy "Guess Who’s Not Coming to Breakfast, Lunch or Dinner?," the 2017 dramatic short "Friends on Facebook" and Justin McConnell’s 2018 "Lifechanger." As a producer, she's co-produced several theatre productions and over 50 video productions. 

In 2018, she made her directorial debut with the short film "Brave Little Army."  The first of a trilogy, the film follows a group of girlfriends from grammar school through adulthood as they develop a bond and support each other in times of difficulty. The film has been shown at festivals all over the world, including Basilicata, Italy, the region of her family's Italian origins.

I spoke with D'Alessandro Hatt about her beginnings, the inspiration behind her wildly successful directorial debut and what it was like to bring her work back to her Italian roots.

You've had a successful career as an actress. What made you change gears and begin directing?
 As I played more and more roles in independent films, I eventually found myself envisioning the stories I wanted to tell through a lens rather than on a stage. That’s when I made the leap to filmmaking.

How did the story of "Brave Little Army" come about?
Four years ago I had the idea for a feature film about the reunion of four lifelong friends that turns into the perfect crime. As I developed the script, I realized there was an opportunity to have two short prequels, showing the women at different stages in their lives. Brave Little Army is the story of how the girls meet at age twelve, and the second short film in the trilogy is set ten years later, when the young women are at college. The feature takes place 20 years later.

What I really appreciated about the characters is that they all supported each other in the end. That's an important message because is a lot of competitiveness, especially in the film industry. What did you intend the message of the film to be? And what was your reason/motivation for wanting to communicate this message?
Thank you. I agree that it’s important to show girls supporting one another. It's starting to get better, but it's true that young women have often been portrayed in movies as mean-spirited and competitive. I wanted to show that girls can be a great source of strength and love for one another.

"Brave Little Army" set photo by Sarah Zanon

As you have origins in Basilicata, tell me about the significance of having your film shown at two film festivals there. Just from seeing your posts on social media, I can tell that it was a very moving experience for you.
Yes, it was an honour to be included in both festivals in the beautiful region where my grandparents are from, and so meaningful to be able to screen my film with so many of my Italian relatives in attendance. I also loved being able to showcase Basilicata on my social media channels as it is a gorgeous part of Italy many people don't know about and don't think to travel to.

Speaking of your Italian origins, do you feel that your Italian-Canadian point-of-view has impacted your films and the way you tell stories?
I grew up listening to stories about mystical, otherworldly happenings in my grandparents’ home village of Pisticci. Tales of werewolves and vampires, of prophetic dreams, and of people traveling to the other side and then coming back to life. I think this family folklore has instilled in me a sense of fantasy and theatricality that I tend to infuse my projects with. Even most of the plays I’ve written have had a surreal element to them.

In your experience, what are the biggest challenges facing women directors?
I’m only a first-time director, so my experience is limited, but from everything I've learned from women at all levels of the industry, the challenges are similar to other male-dominated occupations: it's challenging to get work, to be paid, and to be taken seriously...and there’s also the challenge of being classified based on one’s gender at all. On one hand, there’s a desire to highlight women directors to increase their visibility and chances of being hired, and on the other, there’s the assertion that singling out female directors marginalizes them even further. We don't say  “male directors” so why do we call ourselves “female directors”? I can understand both points of view. 

What advice would you give to young women wanting to become directors?
Don't wait for permission from anyone and don't be afraid to fail and learn - just go for it. We need your stories.

Any plans for the future that you can talk about?
I can’t wait to shoot the second film of the trilogy, which I’m hoping to do within the next year. In the meantime, I’m writing when I can and thoroughly enjoying sharing Brave Little Army at festivals. I feel so grateful for every screening and audience.

In an update, the film has just become available online. Click here to stream it, and follow Michelle D'Alessandro Hatt's production company, Black Lab Films, for all the latest news.. IMDbFacebookTwitter and Instagram.

Sunday, September 8, 2019

Rome Film Festival To Honor Italian Cinema Masters Gillo Pontecorvo and Federico Fellini

A scene from Gillo Pontecorvo's Kapò
The 2019 Rome Film Festival will feature a homage to Italian director Gillo Pontecorvo on the 100th anniversary of his birth with Cineteca di Bologna's restoration of one of his masterpieces, Kapò. Released sixty years ago in 1959, the film is set during the Holocaust and follows a prisoner (Susan Strasberg) as she works with her Nazi captors in order to survive. The film received an Academy Award nomination for Best Foreign Language film in 1961.

The lineup will also feature the restored version of Fellini's Satyricon, the visionary reinvention of the Petronius classic, which was released fifty years ago in 1969.

The Rome Film Festival will be held October 17 - 27. 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...