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Sunday, March 21, 2021

Celebrate Nino Manfredi's Centennial

Born Saturnino Manfredi on March 22, 1921, in Frosinone, Nino Manfredi was one of Italy’s most prolific actors from the 1950s to right before his death in 2004.

Manfredi graduated with a law degree but famously declared while delivering his thesis, “Ladies and gentlemen, I swear to you, I will never be a lawyer.” Shortly thereafter, he began his acting career in the theater, working on numerous productions with the likes of Eduardo De Filippo and Vittorio Gassman.

In 1949, he made his big-screen debut in Mario Sequi’s World War II drama, “Monastero di Santa Chiara.” He spent the 1950s honing his skills, often playing a friend and confidant of the protagonist. Among his most popular supporting roles during that decade are Peppino in Antonio Pietrangeli’s 1956 “Lo scapolo” (The Bachelor) and Raffaele in Camillo Mastrocinque’s 1956 “Totò, Peppino e la … malafemmina” (Totò, Peppino and the Hussy).

The following decade brought more substantial roles that revealed his talent for comedy, which made him a key player in the commedia all’italiana genre. In 1960, he teamed up with a pair of comic greats in Mario Camerini’s classic black-and-white mystery, “Crimen” (Suddenly, It’s Murder). The all-star cast features Manfredi, Gassman and Alberto Sordi as three men accused of murder. Silvana Mangano, Franca Valeri and Dorian Gray play their wives. Manfredi is Quirino Filonzi, a happy-go-lucky husband whose wife, Giovanna (Valeri), calls the shots in their marriage. Eugene Levy released a notable remake in 1992 titled “Once Upon a Crime.” Dino De Laurentiis produced both the original and the remake.

Manfredi shined in the lead role of Luis García Berlanga’s 1963 comedy, “El verdugo” (The Executioner). Manfredi plays José Luis Rodríguez, an undertaker who falls in love with Carmen, an executioner’s daughter. After they marry, José is obliged to carry on the family “dynasty” once his father-in-law retires. Terrified at the thought of executing someone, José becomes obsessed with the crime section of the newspaper, going out of his way to break up street fights in the hopes of preventing someone from earning a death sentence that he will have to carry out. 

One afternoon, he receives a telegram stating that he will have to perform his first execution. The news sends him into a frenzy until his wife reads that the deed is to be done on the Mediterranean island of Mallorca. They decide to make the trip the honeymoon they never had, all the while hoping the condemned will receive a pardon. Their enthusiasm is dampened when Carmen’s father guilt trips them into taking him along, proclaiming he was only sent to depressing places during his long career. Arriving at the prison, José pleads with the guards to let his father-in-law put his 40 years of experience to good use. To his chagrin, the duty falls to him.

By the 1970s, Manfredi evolved into a strong leading man, carrying a variety of films with ease. This was nowhere more evident than in Ettore Scola’s 1976 “Brutti sporchi e cattivi” (Ugly, Dirty & Bad), in which Manfredi completely transforms himself into the detestable Giacinto Mazzatella. The film follows a poverty-stricken family devoid of morals living in the slums of Rome. Giacinto receives a large sum of insurance money after an accident causes him to go blind in one eye. Everyone wants a piece of his fortune, so he hides his money and sleeps with a rifle. When he falls for Iside, a promiscuous young woman, he wines and dines her, and eventually moves her into his home to live alongside his wife and children. Feeling disgraced, his wife cooks up a plot to kill him.

Over the course of his award-winning career, Manfredi juggled stage, film and television roles. He also stepped behind the camera to direct. He suffered a stroke in 2003 and passed away the following year. His son Luca carries on his filmmaking legacy, having recently directed two acclaimed movies about his father and Alberto Sordi.

Below are Manfredi's films available on Amazon. Click here to watch "The Executioner" on Criterion Channel. Click here to watch "Ugly, Dirty & Bad" for free on Tubi.


- Written by Jeannine Guilyard for the April issue of Fra Noi Magazine. Click here to subscribe.

Mimmo Verdesca's Portrait of Alida Valli Streams One Day Only in the US

A new documentary about actress Alida Valli will be available in the United States on Sunday, March 21 through the virtual film festival, Filming Italy Los Angeles. Contemporary actress Giovanna Mezzogiorno is the voice of Alida Valli in Mimmo Verdesca's new film, “Alida” aka “Alida Valli: In Her Own Words” on the Italian icon whose influence reached far beyond Italian shores.

The film consists of photos, 8mm home movies, archival video from Istituto Luce Cinecittà, Rai Teche, and Rome's film school Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia as well as scenes from her most memorable films, which include Mario Soldati's "Little Ancient World," Alfred Hitchcock's "The Paradine Case," Carol Reed's "The Third Man" alongside Orson Wells, Luchino Visconti's "Senso" and Bernardo Bertolucci's "1900." The film also features testimonies of those who knew and loved her. From her family to her closest friends to the great artists who worked with her, such as Bertolucci, Vanessa Redgrave, Roberto Benigni, Charlotte Rampling, Marco Tullio Giordana and many others. Through these mediums, Verdesca's documentary showcases an extraordinary, international career that spanned 70 years in both cinema and theater.

I contacted Verdesca to ask him about the making of this film. He was very generous and forthcoming with his answers. 

Why did you want to make this documentary?

I felt the curiosity and the need to tell the story of one of the greatest and most famous actresses of Italian cinema, as no one had ever done, through the words of her private writings, letters and diaries, which, for the first time, come to life, becoming the “narrator" of the film. It's a new, intriguing and unique story in which Alida's thoughts are protagonists, telling of an extraordinary life, divided between great joys and enormous pains, made up of difficult and conflicting choices, but always sincere and in the name of love. These thoughts and experiences formed the character of Alida, first as a woman and then as an actress, in an artistic path, which was only the reflection of a mysterious and fascinating personality, often deliberately impenetrable. I wanted to show the woman behind the character and to bring out her essence. Hence the choice to use only her name "Alida" as the title of the film. These desires arose from the privilege of being the first director to deal with the immense personal archive of Alida Valli and having discovered and understood the depth of her soul, thanks to meeting with her family, her nephew Pierpaolo De Mejo, her daughter-in-law Maria Laura and her second son Larry. This vast, unprecedented and precious personal heritage can now be relived and shared by the new generations, allowing them, through my film, to discover one of the most important and representative actresses of our country, of our cinema, of our history.


Tell me a little about the journey of doing it and the most interesting and moving things you learned about Alida Valli.
It was truly a journey, an exciting journey, which lasted three years, spent in the incredible life of Alida Valli, in search of her soul. To do this, I had to completely immerse myself in all of her unpublished writings in order to understand the deeper meaning of every single and wonderful word, to then render it in the most sincere and faithful way possible. This was achieved through the interpretation of Giovanna Mezzogiorno's voice, one of our best actresses who shares not only talent but also a certain rigor and a certain pride of mind with Valli. Her intense and decisive voice, at times melancholic, accompanies us in a story that I have enriched with so much other repertoire material, never shown before. 

I tried to give back to the public the many emotions I experienced personally in telling Alida's story, such as her youthful love for the Turin aviator Carlo Cugnasca. It was a great love story, which ended tragically with his death in the war in 1941. The letters they exchanged are imbued with love, passion, tenderness and infinite respect. The last letters are moving, when Carlo was in Africa to fight. They're writings to which Alida and Carlo confide their fears and the hope of seeing each other again soon. Heartbreaking and desperate are those to which Alida received no answer, because Carlo was already dead, but she did not know it yet. Alida will then call her eldest son by the name of Carlo.

In your opinion, what is Alida Valli's legacy?
Alida Valli will always live in her famous interpretations that have stood the test of time. Her talent, skill, beauty and charm will continue to thrill viewers of every past and future generation around the world. Alida Valli will remain, especially thanks to my film, the example of a strong, independent, modern woman, faithful to her values and to the people she loved, "special" as her son Larry defines her in my film. In short, a great woman, simply respectable.

Verdesca added that the wonderful journey of making this film that was "undertaken with so much passion and determination" is shared with his collaborators and with all the producers of the film, Venicefilm, Kublai Film, Istituto Luce Cinecittà, MiC, Rai Cinema, Fenix ​​Entertainment, Union of Istrians and with the collaboration of the CSC - Cineteca Nazionale, which allowed him to make the film he wanted. 

"Alida" was selected for the Cannes Film Festival 2020 in the Cannes Classics section, presented at the Rome Film Fest 2020 and was nominated for the 2021 Nastri d'Argento as "Best Documentary on Cinema.

"I am really proud that the film is traveling the world in numerous festivals and I am happy that today it's also landed in Los Angeles, thanks to Tiziana Rocca who chose it and wanted fit or her prestigious Filming Italy Los Angeles," Verdesca said.

"Alida" will be available though midnight tonight Pacific Time. Click here to stream it. 

Filmmaker Mimmo Verdasca

Intervista in Italiano

Perché hai voluto realizzare questo documentario?

Ho sentito la curiosità e la necessità di raccontare la storia di una delle più grandi e celebri attrici del cinema italiano, come nessuno aveva mai fatto, attraverso le parole dei suoi scritti privati, lettere e diari, che, per la prima volta, prendono vita, diventando l’“io narrante” del film. Un racconto quindi nuovo, intrigante e unico, in cui i pensieri di Alida sono protagonisti, per narrare una vita straordinaria, divisa tra grandi gioie ed enormi dolori, fatta di scelte difficili e contrastanti, ma sempre sincere e in nome dell’amore, la cui ricerca ha condizionato e formato il carattere di Alida, prima come donna e poi come attrice, in un percorso artistico, che è stato solo il riflesso di una personalità misteriosa e affascinante, spesso volutamente impenetrabile. Ho voluto raccontare la donna dietro il personaggio per tirarne fuori l’essenza, (da qui la scelta di usare solo il suo nome "Alida" come titolo del film), nascono dal privilegio di essere il primo regista a confrontarsi con l’immenso archivio personale di Alida Valli e aver scoperto e compreso la profondità della sua anima, grazie all’incontro con la sua famiglia, suo nipote Pierpaolo De Mejo, sua nuora Maria Laura e il suo secondo figlio Larry. Questo vasto, inedito e prezioso patrimonio personale ora può rivivere ed essere condiviso anche dalle nuove generazioni, permettendo loro, attraverso il mio film, di scoprire una delle attrici più importanti e rappresentative del nostro paese, del nostro cinema, della nostra storia.


Raccontami un po’ il viaggio di farlo e delle cose più interessanti e commoventi che hai imparato di Alida Valli.

E' stato davvero un viaggio, un viaggio emozionante, durato tre anni, nella vita incredibile di Alida Valli, alla ricerca della sua anima. Per farlo ho dovuto immergermi completamente nella lettura di tutti i suoi scritti inediti, comprendere il significato più profondo di ogni singola e meravigliosa parola, per farla poi rivivere nel modo più sincero e fedele possibile, attraverso l'interpretazione della voce di Giovanna Mezzogiorno, una delle nostre migliori attrici che con la Valli condivide, oltre che il talento, anche una certo rigore e una certa fierezza d'animo. La sua voce intensa e decisa, a tratti malinconica, ci accompagna in un racconto che ho arricchito di tanto altro materiale di repertorio, mai mostrato prima. Le foto private e pubbliche, gli home movies a colori in 8mm, le immagini provenienti da archivi importanti, quali Istituto Luce, Rai Teche, Ina, Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia di Roma, e poi le scene dei suoi film più memorabili, da "Piccolo Mondo Antico" a "The Paradine Case" di Hitchcock, da "The Third Man" al fianco di Orson Wells a Senso di Luchino Visconti, fino a Strategia del Ragno e Novecento di Bernardo Bertolucci e tantissimi altri, in una carriera internazionale durata 70 anni, vissuta intensamente tra cinema e teatro. 

Non mancano anche le testimonianze di chi l'ha conosciuta e amata. Dai sui famigliari agli amici più stretti, fino ai grandi artisti che hanno lavorato con lei, come Bernardo Bertolucci, Vanessa Redgrave, Roberto Benigni, Charlotte Rampling, Marco Tullio Giordana, Margarethe von Trotta, Thierry Frémaux, Dario Argento, Piero Tosi, e tanti altri. 

Ho cercato di restituire al pubblico le tante emozioni che ho vissuto personalmente nel raccontare la storia di Alida, come ad esempio il suo amore giovanile per l'aviatore torinese Carlo Cugnasca. Una grande storia d'amore, conclusa tragicamente con la morte di lui in guerra nel 1941. Le lettere che si scambiavano sono intrise di amore, passione, tenerezza e rispetto infinito. Commoventi sono le ultime lettere, quando Carlo è già in Africa a combattere. Scritti a cui Alida e Carlo confidano le proprie paure e la speranza dai rivedersi presto. Strazianti e disperate sono quelle a cui Alida non riceveva risposta, perché Carlo era già morto, ma lei non lo sapeva ancora. Alida poi chiamerà con il nome di Carlo il suo primogenito. 

Naturalmente tengo anche a precisare che questo "viaggio meraviglioso", intrapreso con tanta passione e determinazione, l'ho condiviso con tutti i miei collaboratori e con tutti i produttori del film, Venicefilm, Kublai Film, Istituto Luce Cinecittà, MiC, Rai Cinema, Fenix Entertainment, Unione degli Istriani e con la collaborazione del CSC - Cineteca Nazionale, che mi hanno consentito di realizzare il film che volevo. "Alida" inoltre è strato selezionato al Festival di Cannes 2020 nella sezione Cannes Classics, presentato con successo alla Festa del Cinema di Roma 2020, ed è stato candidato ai Nastri d'Argento 2021 come "miglior documentario sul cinema". 

Sono davvero orgoglioso che stia viaggiando nel mondo in numerosi festival e sono felice che oggi sia approdato anche a Los Angeles, grazie a Tiziana Rocca che lo ha scelto e voluto per il suo prestigioso FilmingItaly L.A.


Secondo te, qual è la sua eredità?

Alida Valli vivrà sempre nelle sue celebri interpretazioni che hanno superato la prova del tempo. Il talento, la bravura, la bellezza e il fascino continueranno ad appassionare gli spettatori di ogni generazione passate e future di tutto il mondo. Di Alida Valli resterà, anche soprattutto grazie al mio film, l'esempio di una donna forte, indipendente, moderna. Fedele ai suoi valori e alle persone che amava. "Speciale", come la definisce suo figlio Larry nel mio film. Insomma, una grande donna, semplicemente perbene.

Saturday, March 20, 2021

Conversations with the Women Directors of the 2021 Rochester Independent Global Film Series' Italian Section

It was such a pleasure for me to curate the Italian Section of the Rochester Independent Global Film Series. Our final lineup features six films, four of which are directed by women. 

I am grateful for the time they took to do Q & A's with me and to answer my questions about the creative choices that went into making their beautiful, compelling films. Below are links to those conversations, which are now posted on YouTube.

Veronica Spedicati

Veronica Spedicati's short film "Il Nostro Tempo" (Our Time) was her final project for film school at Rome's Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia. The film was a huge success for her, making its festival premiere at the 2019 Venice Film Festival in the Settimana della Critica section where she was awarded Best Director.

The film follows nine-year-old Roberta who just wants to enjoy the last days of summer on the beach playing with her friends. Instead, her father forces her to stay at home to help with household chores. When Roberta realizes that her father's health is declining, she stops resenting him and begins to appreciate their time together.

In this interview, I talk with Spedicati about many aspects of the film, including the location, casting and plot. She is a very young director but mature beyond her years. It was such a pleasure to talk with her. 

Watch our interview..

Emanuela Mascherini

Emanuela Mascherini works as an actress and director. She graduated in Acting at the Experimental Center of Cinematography in Rome and earned a Diploma in Digital Filmmaking as a director at the New York Film Academy in New York. She also earned a degree in Theories and Techniques of Film Language at the University of Florence and has written several books.

Her works have been selected and awarded in several national and international film Festivals, including the selection of the Nastri D’Argento and the selection of David di Donatello Shortlist. In 2019, she won the RIFF - Rome Independent Film Festival with the feature's script "Between the Lines" and she was selected by EFA European Film Award and Toscana Film commission for the Residency, “A Sunday in the country.” 

She also collaborates and has been member of the jury or president of the jury in several international festivals, including the Mostra del Cinema di Venezia for the Lino Miccichè Award and many others. She is the founder of the Festival CineAtelier, which showcases first and second feature films. 

Her latest film, "Come la prima volta" (Like the First Time) is the heartfelt story of a devoted husband who is trying to preserve the memory of his wife who no longer recognizes him. She is suffering from dementia and he sees her fading away.

In this interview, Mascherini and I talk about this reoccurring theme in her films of interpersonal relationships and her innate ability to empathize with people of all ages. She also talks about the true stories that inspired the film.

Emanuela Ponzano

Born in Brussels, Emanuela Ponzano is an actress and director in both cinema and theater. She divides her time working mainly between Rome, Paris and Brussels. 

In 1995, having completed her degree in Political Science at the ULB in Brussels, she decided to dedicate herself completely to theater and film. She studied dramatic arts at the Conservatoire Royal in Liège with Jacques Delcuvellerie (Groupov- Rwanda 94-Ecole des Maitres) and Max Parfondry, where she attained the diploma de Premier Prix in June 2000. 

In 2008 she won the National Artistic Prize for theatre "Filomena Carrara" in Abruzzo, Italy with her show "The Stronger" by August Strindberg dedicated to Ingmar Bergman. Then in 2008, she directed two short films "Bagnasciuga" and "Riflessi" that have since been shown at many national and international festivals. 

Ponzano's 2016 film, "The Sled," is the story of Alfred, a young boy who lives with his family in the mountains of Italy.  His parents have strong prejudices against immigrants. Bored and unhappy, they often quarrel, and they pay little attention to their son, usually disregarding his needs for affection. One day, during a journey through the woods, Alfred comes across a wooden sled and its owner, a young boy from another country who seems strange and different. After an initial clash, in which they project the prejudices of their parents and society onto each other, they start to relate to each other and understand each other’s problems. 

We spoke a number of times about this film and I saw it in the region of Basilicata in 2016 where it was shot. During our recent conversation, we talked about social issues that inspired her to tell this story and the physical attributes of Basilicata that led to her to shoot there. 

Angela Bevilacqua

Born in Naples in 1996, Angela Bevilacqua studies cinema and television production at the Accademia Delle Belle Arti Di Napoli but even before enrolling, she was well on her way to becoming a gifted storyteller and filmmaker.  She made her first short film when she was just 17-years-old. "Il teatro dei ricordi" (The Theater of Memories) stars Alessia Alciati and veteran French actor Jean Sorel who is known for his role opposite Claudia Cardinale in Luchino Visconti's 1965 "Sandra." An ambitious first effort, the film premiered as a Special Event at the 2014 Giffoni Film Festival.

Three years later, Bevilacqua published her first novel La Città del Vizio (The City of Vice), a thriller that explores a personification of the Seven Deadly Sins as they are misguided by the Devil to a supposed place of material and spiritual delight called, The City of Vice. 

Last year, she released her second short film, "L'Attesa," (The Wait), the suspenseful story of a mother who is frantically trying to locate her son after she hears about a terrorist attack in London where he is studying abroad. The 24-minute film is carried entirely by actress Lucianna De Falco who gives an articulate performance filled with a whole host of emotions that reels you right into the fear and dread she is experiencing.

Watch a clip from our brief interview at the 2019 Rome Independent Film Festival where we first saw "L'Attesa."

All films are available through Sunday at midnight (Pacific Time). Click here to stream them. 

Sunday, March 14, 2021

A Short Film Reflects How Food and Family Intertwine for Southern Italians

Veronica Spedicati’s “Il Nostro Tempo” (Our Time) follows a young girl as she deals with her father’s declining health. 

I saw the short film during the celebration of the International Day of Italian Cinema back in June and it remained one of my favorite films of 2020. So when the time came to curate the Italian section of the second annual Rochester Independent Global Film Series, which features contemporary short films from around the world, I invited Veronica to present her film. I was so happy when she accepted. 

I talked with her about the making of the film and about the presence of tradition. Our entire Q & A will be posted during the series, which kicks off virtually on Thursday, March 18 and will last through Sunday, March 21. One aspect of the film is the strong connection between family and food. So today, I am featuring Veronica in my Cinema & Cibo series, and talking with her about that connection. Click here to watch the story on Vimeo.

Join us this week on Instagram as we @italiancinematoday along with @westside_cutters feature clips from the films in the lineup of the series.

Thursday, March 4, 2021

"Around 1918, (Francesca) Bertini was probably the most powerful woman in Italian cinema. She was certainly the highest paid, and her authoritative temperament and exorbitant privileges were so well known that they could even become an object of irony on screen." 

                                                                            -Women Film Pioneers Project

Wednesday, March 3, 2021

March is Full of Italian Films, Stars and Locations

If Stanley Tucci's CNN series "Searching for Italy" is making you nostalgic for Italian culture, you are in for a treat as March is jam packed with new Italian arrivals. 

Below is a list of interesting, diverse films that you won't want to miss.

“Brave Little Army"


Now Available

Directed by Italian-Canadian filmmaker, Michelle D'Alessandro Hatt, this powerful short is 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. Click here to stream it. 


"The Truffle Hunters" 

March 5 Sony Pictures Classics


Directed by, Michael Dweck and Gregory Kershaw, this highly acclaimed documentary takes us through the forests of Piedmont, Italy as a handful of men, seventy or eighty years young, hunt for the rare and expensive white Alba truffle—which to date has resisted all of modern science's efforts at cultivation. They're guided by a secret culture and training passed down through generations, as well as by the noses of their cherished and expertly-trained dogs. Click here for details. 


Il Cinema Ritrovato On Tour, New Hampshire 

March 5 - 8

This year’s Cinema Ritrovato on Tour in New Hampshire presents an international lineup of comedies, restored cinematic masterpieces, and documentaries sourced from Italian archives.

The festival will be virtual, with films available to stream over a four-day period. They include Federico Fellini and Alberto Lattuada’s 1950 “Luci del Varietà” (Variety Lights), Mario Monicelli’s 1960 "Risate di Gioia" (The Passionate Thief), “Grand Tour Italiano,” a compilation of silent shorts from 1905-1914, and the 2020 documentary “The Forgotten Front: La Resistenza a Bologna” by Paolo Soglia and Lorenzo K. Stanzani. Click here for details. 



“Summer of ‘85” featuring Valeria Bruni Tedeschi

March 13, Film at Lincoln Center's Rendez-Vous with French Cinema 


Directed by François Ozon, this French-Belgium production is set in 1985 Normandy as teenage writer, Alexis (Félix Lefebvre), capsizes while he’s out sailing on a stormy afternoon. He’s saved from certain death by the statuesque, mercurial David (Benjamin Voisin). They become fast friends, and Alexis starts working for David’s affectionate but scattered mother (Valeria Bruni Tedeschi). Alexis’s attraction to David soon blossoms into passion, but turns, by the end of the summer, into a deeper meditation on mortality and the unknown. Click here to purchase tickets.


“A Starry Sky Above the Roman Ghetto” 

March 19 - 21, Naples Jewish Film Festival


Courtesy of the Naples Jewish Film Festival, which is virtual this year, Giulio Base's latest film will be available in the United States for a limited run. Based on writings by Israel Cesare Moscati, the story intertwines the past and present as an old photograph of a little girl leads Jewish and Christian students on a search for the truth. Together they learn the powerful lesson that sometimes indifference is worse than hate. Click here for details. 

"Caught By a Wave"

March 25, Netflix


Described as "a summer adventure under the Sicilian sun that soon becomes a painful love story," Massimiliano Camaiti's brand new film follows a teenage couple who fall in love at summer camp. The film is set to premiere on Netflix at the end of the month. Click here for details.. 

This should keep you busy for the month. Others will be added when they become available. Don't forget to check out our Lenten list  that features 100 years of Italian biblical films and this selection of a few of Sophia Loren's films ranging from classic to contemporary. 

Please note that with one exception, I have not seen these films yet as they are new releases, so the descriptions are from their publicity pages. Feel free to let us know what you think after seeing them. 

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...