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Monday, March 23, 2020

100+ Years of the Great Italian Moviemakers: Cristina Comencini's 1996 "Follow Your Heart"

Virna Lisi in a scene from "Follow Your Heart"
"Follow Your Heart" is a sentimental story written by Susanna Tamaro. In 1996, I purchased the book at Rizzoli Bookstore in San Francisco. I was so captivated it, I remember finishing it on the BART train on my way to work at KTVU in Oakland with tears rolling down my face. 

After all these years, I just watched the movie that was directed by Cristina Comencini. As much as I have written about her over the years, I have no recollection of her having made a film adapted from the book. I am still shocked. Of course, I got chocked up at the end to actually see this book from my 20s play out on the screen directed by one of my favorite filmmakers who I actually met a few years ago. So strange how small the world really is. 

Virna Lisi and Margherita Buy are really spectacular as the same character in different time periods. It is such a moving story and so perfectly adapted by these women. Virna Lisi narrates this story of a grandmother who creates a journal recalling the past as she writes letters to her estranged granddaughter who she raised like her own child. There were a lot of answered questions surrounding the death of the girl's mother. So, the journal explains everything. "To make mistakes is natural, but to leave without understanding them takes away the meaning of life." 

I recommend reading the book first. It's a short but moving read. Follow the links below.. 


Thursday, March 19, 2020

Explore Ancient Rome Without Leaving the House

Referred to as “Museum Edutainment,” Bardeum is a new interactive app that’s like having your own private tour guide at some of the most iconic sites in the world. 

A work in progress, the app currently covers Ancient Rome. Florence and Pompeii are slated for a May release and Venice for a 2021 release.

Clicking on Rome in the app will take you to a page titled Rome Experiences. There, you’ll see sections on the Roman Forum and Roman Colosseum. Palantine Hill will be coming soon. Each section covers a variety of topics. Selecting Roman Colosseum, you will be advanced to the story of Spartacus where you will hear a detailed account of the legendary slave-turned-gladiator who led an uprising that gave Julius Caesar a run for his money. The story takes you out of Rome to the slopes of Mt. Vesuvius in Pompeii as the Roman fleet of soldiers was stationed at the Bay of Naples. Selecting the Roman Forum will give you the tragic story of the Vestal Virgin Cornelia who broke her vow of chastity and was reportedly buried alive.

The app is available free of charge through the Apple store and Google Play. Go to for details.

Actor Francesco Colella on His Character in 'Aspromonte: La terra degli ultimi'

Colella on set with actor Francesco Grillo
I am working on my next article for Fra Noi Magazine of Chicago.. a profile on the Calabrese actor Francesco Colella, and I'd like to share a short clip of our interview. 

We met in November at the Rome premiere of his film "Aspromonte: La terra degli ultimi" directed by Mimmo CaloprestiThe film was supposed to make its North American premiere at the Italian Film Festival USA but was postponed due to the coronavirus. 

Colella is from Calabria and has been in many film and television productions made in the region, including the FX series "Trust," which is now available on Hulu, and the new Amazon series "ZeroZeroZero." In the clip below, he talks about his character in ‘Aspromonte: La terra degli ultimi’ who fights to improve the conditions of poverty for his townspeople.

The article I’m working on will be published in the May issue of the magazine. I’ll publish it online ASAP.. and keep you updated on the new date of the festival screening. In the meantime, watch Francesco Colella in "Trust," Episode 8, "In the Name of the Father" on HuluYouTubeAmazon PrimeSling and Google Play.

Check out my interview with two of Colella's costars, child actor Francesco Grillo and musician-turned-actor Fortunato Verduci.

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

The Extraordinary Photography and Cinematography of Arturo Zavattini

Marcello Mastroianni, La Dolce Vita
Watching an old movie today, Love in the City, I rediscovered the work of Arturo Zavattini.

Born in 1930, Zavattini is known for his work as a photographer, cinematographer and director of photography. His father, Cesare Zavattini was one of Federico Fellini's longtime collaborators, so Arturo practically grew up on film sets. He worked as an assistant and camera operator on famous Italian films such as Il Bidone, La Dolce Vita and Divorce Italian Style. He also worked as an ethnographic photographer, accompanying anthropologist Ernesto de Martino on his infamous expedition to Lucania in 1952, which would later inspire Luigi Di Gianni's debut documentary, Magia Lucana.

Being a teenager in Rome during the post-war years, Zavattini was very influenced by the neorealism film movement and that influence was always apparent during the multi-decade span of his career. His images taken in Rome, Naples and other Italian cities and districts documented social life on the streets, in particular the dire conditions in which the children were forced to live.

Although noted for documenting the socioeconomic struggles of his own country, Zavattini left Italy to explore other faraway places. In 1956, he traveled to Bangkok, Phetchaburi and northern Thailand where he made a journalistic report on the shooting of the film The Sea Wall by French director, René Clément, based on the novel of the same name by Marguerite Duras. He captured rare images of life in Thailand during that era.

Thailandia, Bangkok
In 1960, he traveled to Cuba where he had an accidental encounter with Ernesto "Che" Guevara. The meeting came immediately after the revolution, while working as a camera operator on director Tomás Gutierréz Alea's Historias de la revolución (Stories of the Revolution). Gutiérrez studied cinema at the Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia in Rome in the early 1950s. Like Zavattini, he was also influenced by Italian Neorealism and created his first films in Rome. Perhaps the two knew each other from those early days. Click below to watch the film on YouTube.

In recent years, Zavattini has organized and archived his lifetime of images, many of which were on exhibit in 2016 at the Museo Nazionale Arti & Tradizioni Popolari in Rome. Scroll down to see a few of his most recognizable images. Click here to see more photos of the set of Tomás Gutierréz Alea's film with Ernesto "Che" Guevara.

Federico Fellini with Actress Nico (née Christa Päffgen) on the set of La Dolce Vita, 1960

Ernesto "Che" Guevara on the set of Historias de la revolución, 1960

Assistant cameraman Ennio Guarnieri, Nico and Federico Fellini on the set of La Dolce Vita, 1960 

Friday, March 13, 2020

Explore the Immense Historical Archives of Istituto Luce Cinecittà

The historical archives of Istituto Luce Cinecittà offers an extensive online collection of more than 70,000 archival videos dating back to the early 20th century and more than 430,000 photographs. The organization provides free access to the vast digital records of Italy's history and culture, which includes thousands of hours of footage. 

Topics include cinema, arts, history, politics, sports and current affairs. Three hundred silent films spanning the years of 1927 – 1932 have just been added, some never seen before, with a section dedicated to world travel, entitled “Cinemobile.” 

Go to and click on “Esplora” on the menu bar and then choose “Archivio Cinematografico”  for film or "Archivio Fotografico" for still photos... and then explore! Click here to view one of my favorite film menus on the site... a treasure trove of documentaries made between the 1930s and 1960s. Click here to see gorgeous, rare photos of silent film actress and producer, Francesca Bertini.

Thursday, March 5, 2020

Paolo Sorrentino to Make Autobiographical Film for Netflix in Naples

Paolo Sorrentino recently revealed in an interview with Dagospia that he will be making an autobiographical film for Netflix about his childhood, falling in love with cinema and his journey to becoming a director. The film will be set in the neighborhood of Vomero where Sorrentino spent time as a child and adolescent. Longtime collaborator Nicola Giuliano is attached to the project. There are no other details available. We'll keep you updated when we learn more. In the meantime, click here to read my interview with Sorrentino.


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...