Warm up your winter with Cinema Italiano Festival NZ

Many dread winter — the cold, the wet, the short days. Me, I love it! To bandy around the latest fashionable word, winter brings us the opportunity for hygge writ large: cosying up indoors enjoying the simple pleasures of a hot drink and a good book or film.

And this year there is an additional reason to welcome June because, together with the icy tendrils of winter, it brings us the warmth and conviviality of the second edition of the Cinema Italiano Festival NZ.

Cinema Italiano logoThe brainchild of Kiwi-Italian actor, director and playwright Paolo Rotondo, the Festival redoubles the successes of its inaugural year with a fantastic selection of 20 features, ranging from traditional to comtemporary masterpieces.

So much so that, when I started selecting my top 3 picks, they somehow multiplied on me. I present you then (in random order because ranking them further is just too hard!) my top 9 suggestions.

Roman Holiday
The Spanish Steps, the Colosseum, the Trevi Fountain! Breathtaking, stunning Rome is as much a star of this classic 1953 romantic comedy as Audrey Hepburn and the iconic Vespa scooter. Not coincidentally, Roman Holiday has been selected as the Opening Night film for the Festival.

Image of Rocco and His Brothers
Rocco e i Suoi Fratelli

Rocco e i Suoi Fratelli / Rocco and His Brothers
The epic tale of five brothers who migrate from the poverty of post-war Southern Italy to the wealthier industrial North, this is the other classic masterpiece of the Festival. Directed by Luchino Visconti and featuring Alain Delon and Claudia Cardinale, Rocco and His Brothers promises to be a glorious experience in the new digital restoration by Martin Scorsese.

Non Essere Cattivo / Don’t Be Bad
Italy’s entry in the Foreign Language Oscars for 2015 is the perfect flip-side to Roman Holiday: an R-18 drama featuring two twenty-something “losers” living on the outskirts of Rome in the late 1980s. As the Festival booklet describes it, Don’t Be Bad is a “gritty, visceral, rollercoaster ride, but at its core […] a clever and deep exploration of friendship, hope and life”.

Image of Quo Vado?
Quo Vado?

Quo Vado? / Where Am I Going?
Quo Vado? delivers 90 minutes of laughs while skewering the Italian obsession of pursuing a cushy public service job-for-life. As the highest-grossing film in Italian cinema history, it’s a cultural phenomenon not to be missed.

Perfetti Sconosciuti / Perfect Strangers
Another huge hit in Italy. A group of friends get together one evening and agree for fun to let the others read and hear all the messages and phone calls they receive on their smartphones. What could possibly go wrong?

Image of Belli di Papà
Belli di Papà

Belli di Papà / Daddy’s Girl
As an Italian, I have to admit that there is some truth to the stereotype that many Italians are rather spoiled by their parents, at least by NZ standards. In fact I have known a fair few molly-coddled Italian men (I may even have one or two in my extended family, who I trust won’t be reading this…). So how could I resist watching “three ‘bamboccioni’ (big babies) […having…] to experience something they have never done before, work”?

Veloce come il Vento / Italian Race
This comedy drama won a swag of David di Donatello, the Italian Oscars. It tells the story of 17-year-old Giulia, who is trying to win the GT Championship, while dealing with the death of her father and the reappearance in her life of her drug addict brother Loris.

Image of La Stoffa dei Sogni
La Stoffa dei Sogni

La Stoffa dei Sogni / The Stuff of Dreams
A tale loosely based on Shakespeare’s The Tempest which sees Camorra criminals and a theatrical company end up shipwrecked on a Mediterranean prison island. I was sold as soon as I spotted the setting: Asinara, an island off the north-western tip of Sardinia, which is now a nature reserve and home to albino donkeys.

Fuocoammare / Fire at Sea
The setting is another starkly beautiful Mediterranean island, but the tale this time is true and much grimmer. Fire at Sea documents the tragedies which take place day in and day out in Lampedusa, the southermost Italian island and the first port of arrival for thousands of refugees escaping conflict in North Africa and the Middle East. If that is not enough to convince you that you should watch Fire at Sea, it won Best Film at the 2016 Berlin International Film Festival and Best Documentary at the 2017 Academy Awards.

Image of Cinema Italiano

The Christchurch leg of the Festival runs from 14 to 25 June at the Academy Gold Cinema at The Colombo. We are very lucky to have a double pass to the opening night of the Festival to give away to our readers. This not only includes the screening of Roman Holiday but also a complimentary aperitif and appetizers.

To enter the competition email your contact details to competition@ccc.govt.nz with the subject line “Cinema Italiano Festival competition” by 5pm on Monday 5 June. (Sorry, staff of Christchurch City Libraries and Christchurch City Council are not eligible to enter). Good luck!

P.S. Want to attend several screenings? Members of the Società Dante Alighieri di Christchurch get discounted tickets.

Win tickets to Cinema Italiano Festival NZ!

Love Italy? The scenery, the language, the culture? If so, rejoice, for the first ever Cinema Italiano Festival NZ is coming our way, bearing an exciting selection of almost 20 Italian features, as well as 2 New Zealand films with an Italian connection.

Wondrous Boccaccio film
Wondrous Boccaccio

It’s a heartwarming turnaround for Kiwi Italophiles, who just last year were mourning the demise of the Italian Film Festival, after a 19-year-run.

Enter Paolo Rotondo to the rescue. It is in fact thanks to the considerable efforts of the Kiwi-Italian actor, director and playwright that this new celebration of Italian cinema is gracing silver screens throughout the country.

Christchurch will host the Cinema Italiano Festival from 15 to 25 June and we are very lucky to have two double passes to give away to our readers for any screening following the opening night. There is something guaranteed to please all tastes, with features spanning from drama to rom-com to documentary.

My personal, rather uninformed, picks?

  • Wondrous Boccaccio, because it promises a stunning setting – castles, towers and medieval ruins in Tuscany and Lazio – while serving up a dose of historical comic drama. Plus you get Literature with a capital L: the film is based on Boccaccio’s The Decameron, which is one of the classic masterpieces of Italian literature. (Boccaccio has arguably been described as the Italian Chaucer, though it would be more accurate to describe Chaucer as the English Boccaccio).
  • The Mafia Kills Only In Summer: it was a huge sleeper hit in Italy in 2014, and who can resist such a catchy title?
  • The Wonders: the synopsis says it all. “Winner of the Grand Prix Award at Cannes, Le Meraviglie / The Wonders is a poignant semi-autobiographical coming of age story set in the countryside of Umbria. An ecological film where a back-to-nature lifestyle wins out over the world of reality TV. A film charged by intimate performances, female camaraderie and stunning cinematography.”
  • Zoran, My Nephew The Idiot, because it’s set in Friuli, on the border with Slovenia, a very different location from the stereotypical image of Italy.
  • Orphans & Kingdoms: Paolo Rotondo’s directorial debut feature of worlds colliding on Waiheke Island has received great reviews and strikes close to home, while retaining Italian touches such as the musical score which was composed in Rome.

Entering the competition is easy but you have got to be quick to be in!
Email competition@ccc.govt.nz with the subject line “Cinema Italiano Festival competition” by 12pm on Friday 10 June. (Sorry, staff of Christchurch City Libraries and Christchurch City Council are not eligible to enter).

The Wonders film Zoran My Nephew The Idiot film

So uncork the spumante: the Italian Film Festival is dead – long live Cinema Italiano Festival NZ!

Best picks: The Christchurch NZIFF programme

NZIFF 2015 programme cover artLast night the Christchurch programme for the New Zealand International Film Festival was released and boy, are there some goodies in the mix. Not to mention that some films will be shown in the rebuilt Isaac Theatre Royal, just in case you needed any additional enticement to get along to the festival.

Film enthusiasts from The Press are already making their picks for must-sees on Twitter. Senior Reporter, Philip Matthews’ (@secondzeit) top ten is –

  1. Inherent Vice
  2. 45 years
  3. The Women of Pike River
  4. The WolfpackCover of Going clear - Scientology, Hollywood, and the prison of belief
  5. The Lobster
  6. The Look of Silence
  7. Cemetery of Splendour
  8. Out of the Mist
  9. Clouds of Sils Maria
  10. Going Clear

Whereas Charlie Gates (@nzcharliegates), Arts and Data reporter, in all his enthusiasm, can’t limit himself to a top ten, preferring an unorthodox “top 12” instead.

  1. cover of Inherent viceInherent Vice
  2. Amy
  3. The Kid
  4. Out of the Mist
  5. Kiss me Kate 3D
  6. The Misfits
  7. ’71
  8. Turbo Kid
  9. Ex Machina
  10. The Wolfpack
  11. The End of the Tour
  12. Banksy Does New York

And of course, my top ten is different again.

  1. Turbo Kid – There is significant buzz online about this film and the trailer is gloriously over the top, both in gore and tone, which is right up my alley, thanks.
  2. Going Clear – As Matthew’s said yesterday “See it before the Church of Scientology stop you”.
  3. Cover of The diary of a teenage girlThe Diary of a Teenage Girl – Kristen Wiig and Alexander Skaarsgard are people I would watch in anything. In a movie together? It’s a no-brainer.
  4. The Art of Recovery – Very much a documentary about us (Christchurch) in a particular time and place but this time it’s not about destructive forces but creative ones.
  5. A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night – Because I’m a sucker for vampires (geddit?). And interesting takes on gender politics.
  6. Women he’s undressed – Documentary about camp Australian costume designer, Orry-Kelly who makes it big in Hollywood, dressing the biggest stars of the day. Am I mostly in it for the clothes and an insight into Cary Grant’s secret love life? Yes.
  7. Tale of Tales – Sumptuous fairy tales, dark and twisted, portrayed by an amazing cast.
  8. The Price of Peace – Documentary from Kiwi journo Kim Webby explores the greater social issues at work with the Urewera Four and Tame Iti. A story that New Zealand needs to be told.
  9. She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry – Yay for feminism and the campaigners of the 60s and 70s.
  10. The Misfits – Because I’ve never seen Marilyn Monroe on the big screen.

The Christchurch leg of the festival runs 7 – 23 August but tickets to popular sessions do have a tendency to sell out so get booking ASAP.

Read more

Have you had a chance to peruse the film schedule yet? What are your top picks for this year’s festival?

Lamborghini alfredo espresso – win Italian Film Festival tickets

CoverHaving spent much of my life assuming that any European country I visited would be FRANCE, and educating myself accordingly, I now find myself somewhat disconcertingly drawn to a different European destination (still vicariously, you understand, what with teenagers and earthquakes and life in general being so vraiment expensive).

All those years of Bonjour, and Ca va? and Ouvre la fenetre, s’il vous plait! are now being called into question, after several long conversations with well-travelled friends and relations.  Italy, not France apparently, is the place to go.  They have art there, and music, and history, and culture, and food, and coffee.  Lots and lots of coffee.

Quelle horreur! What to do? I must start all over again, learn a NEW language, find friends who speak Italian, immerse myself in a different culture, and all while staying home in Christchurch.

What luck, then, to arrive at the library and find our wee city is hosting the 15th Italian film festival. Starting on 20 October, the Rialto cinema will be showcasing 17 of the best and brightest Italian movies of recent years, thus enabling me to move past phrases like spaghetti bolognese, and on to the real Italy that awaits.  There’s even a grand opening night, with Italian beverages on offer, and the chance to show off your own language talents.

And even better, we’ve got two double passes to any of the film festival movies to give away.  All you need to do is … comment below by Friday 15 October, and tell us your favourite Italiano movie, poem or book (the competition is only open to Christchurch and Canterbury residents, and not to Christchurch City Council employees).

And for those who can’t wait, check out the library’s selection of Italian movies, Italian fiction, Italian language books, and Italian travel guides.

Ditch Hollywood, see the world instead

The recent Reel Anime Film Festival at Rialto proved to me once again that just as translated books offer alternative ways of telling stories, foreign movies can take you light-years away from Hollywood  formulas.

In the brochure, Summer Wars looked like a standard teen love story. Meh. King of Thorn  – dystopian sci-fi.  Meh-be. In the theatre, both of them took my preconceptions, ripped them to shreds, stomped on them, set them on fire and then threw them out the window.

CoverKing of Thorn, in particular, is a truly outstanding piece of cinema.   If I say it is a fantasy/horror/science-fiction/action-adventure retelling of Sleeping Beauty, set in the near future, this will still fail to capture any of its magic.  My movie-watching buddy said  it had completely altered his perceptions of everything in the universe.

And that’s the very best thing about these movies – that they take our pre-conceived ideas, shake them around, turn them upside down and hand them back to us, bigger, better and brighter than before.

To shake up your world:  search the catalogue for international films, by typing feature films and  a country into the search box, like this:

Then sit back and brace yourself …