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.

Multicultural Expressions of Islamic Art

CMCT Islamic Arts ExhibitChristchurch has been making news recently for its fantastic street art, but our city holds many more artistic treasures that are not so easily seen by the majority of our residents.

This week this will change! South Library is privileged to be hosting Multicultural Expressions of Islamic Art, an exhibition of items and images that belong to the multicultural Muslim community in Christchurch. The exhibition will be running from Sunday 2 April to Sunday 9 April.

The display is organised by the Canterbury Muslim Community Trust (CMCT) with support from Creative Communities NZ.

Ruqayya and Nick, a couple of the trustees from CMCT, kindly answered a few questions about the display.

How does Islamic art differ from the art forms normally seen in Christchurch?

Islamic arts are quite distinctive and they are not restricted to paintings, sculptures or even religious objects as you would expect in other traditions. The idea is that art should be incorporated into everyday life.

There is a quote that sums up this concept, basically that as ‘Islam is integral to every part of a Muslim’s life and makes it beautiful, so [too] Islamic art should be used to make the things of everyday life beautiful’ (Z. Hussain). So most of the objects we’ve included in this exhibit are items that we use to decorate our homes.

What are some of the basic concepts of Islamic art?

The basic concepts of Islamic art transcend time and space, as well as differences in language and culture, but there are also regional differences in interpretation. The Muslim community in Christchurch includes over 40 different ethnic groups so we hope to show some of that difference in diversity.

We have grouped items into four broad categories: Architectural Arts, Calligraphy and Written Arts, Textile Arts, and Decorative Arts.

Calligraphy is a major art form that is used to decorate buildings and everyday objects, but geometry and vegetal or floral patterns are also common themes. These are represented in all four of the categories.

Wall hanging of Surah from Qur'an Embroidered red cushion Syrian Inlaid Qur'an Stand

[images supplied, copyright CMCT)

What are some of the items that will be on display? How were they selected?

To start with we didn’t really know what items people would have, so we put out a general request for anything that had special meaning for them or represented traditional arts encompassing an Islamic aesthetic. It has been really interesting to see what turned up!

We will be showcasing displays of calligraphy. We have several examples of a verse from the Qur’an produced in embroidery, wood carving, carpet and papyrus painting. There are also photographs showing Islamic designs in architecture and henna art as well as modern art.

In the display cabinets, we will group items according to their use so there will be a section on textiles with examples from Pakistan, Afghanistan and the Maldives. Also, beautifully decorated metalwork, traditional jewellery and even examples of incense burners and Arabic coffee pots, as well as many other items.

What motivated CMCT to put on this display?

Muslims are often in the news for all the wrong reasons so one of our motivations was to show a different side to Islam. We want to emphasise some of the beauty and diversity in Islam. It is also a fantastic opportunity to educate the wider public about some of the items that have meaning to us. We have prepared some posters and short descriptions to help people understand more about the objects on display.

CMCT were fortunate to obtain some funding from the Creative Communities grant which is covering the costs of setting up the exhibition. It has helped to bring the community together to collect and produce some of the items on display. We have some very talented people out there and we’ve had a lot of fun putting it all together.

The items will be on display in three main areas of South Library. Photos, paintings, calligraphy and wall hangings will be displayed along the far wall; household objects including metalwork, ceramics, textiles, personal items and religious items will be housed in the glass display window. Check out the foyer display for posters explaining more about the different categories.

Find out more about Islamic art

Cover of Persian Art and Architecture Cover of Palace and Mosque Cover of Islamic Art and Architecture 

Don’t miss this wonderful opportunity to admire the beauty of Islamic art.

 

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!

This week in Christchurch history (4 to 10 January)

5 January 1940
First echelon of Canterbury troops for World War II leave Lyttelton on “Dunera” and “Sobieski”.

6 January 1851
The first school (which became Christ’s College) opens in Lyttelton.

Chart of Banks’ Peninsula. 1850
Chart of Banks’ Peninsula. 1850, CCLMaps 440870. View enlargable version (with Zoomify).

7 January 1844
First European child (Jeannie Manson) born at Riccarton.

8 January 1979
First women bus drivers on Transport Board buses.

10 January 1830
“Antarctic” (Captain Morrell) anchors in Lyttelton Harbour, which he names Cook’s Harbour.

10 January 1867
European birds introduced on “Matoaka” to Lyttelton. Species include pheasants, partridges, blackbirds, thrushes, linnets, skylarks, chaffinches, and starlings. The destruction of native insect eating birds by hunting and fire had caused disastrous crop infestations in Canterbury.

10 January 1887
Tramway to New Brighton completed.

A double-decker horse tram crossing the original Seaview Road bridge on the way to Christchurch [ca. 1900]
A double-decker horse tram crossing the original Seaview Road bridge on the way to Christchurch [ca. 1900], CCL Photo Collection 22, Img02319
More January events in the Christchurch chronology: a timeline of Christchurch events in chronological order from pre-European times to 1989.

This week in Christchurch history (28 December to 3 January)

28 December 1912
First New Zealand croquet championships held in City.

30 December 1988
Water restrictions in force for first time in City’s history as water tables dropped to record low levels.

31 December 1984
“Kiwi House” opened at Orana Park (first chick born in captivity in South Island, November 1989).

Cover of Nimrod by Beau Riffenburgh1 January 1862
New Zealand’s first rowing regatta held on Lyttelton Harbour.

1 January 1908
Shackleton expedition sails for Antarctica in “Nimrod”. A crowd estimated as high as 50,000 watched the departure – probably the largest in Lyttelton’s history.

2 January 1896
Australasian Amateur Athletic and Cycling Championships held at Lancaster Park.

Ten mile championship of New Zealand [Jan. 1896]
Ten mile championship of New Zealand [Jan. 1896], at Lancaster Park, CCL PhotoCD 1, IMG0057
3 January 1883
Graving dock in Lyttelton Harbour officially opens.

More December and January events in the Christchurch chronology: a timeline of Christchurch events in chronological order from pre-European times to 1989.

This week in Christchurch history (21 to 27 December)

21 December 1877
New Christchurch railway station opens.

Christchurch railway station [1878]
Christchurch railway station [1878], CCL PhotoCD 18, IMG0028
22 December 1885
Statue of William Moorhouse unveiled in the Botanic Gardens.

23 December 1876
Lyttelton time-ball station in operation. Its time signals to shipping were superseded by radio signals in 1934.

24 December 1864
First gas street lights.

24 December 1953
4 Christchurch victims among 151 dead in Tangiwai railway disaster.

25 December 1864
Durham Street Methodist Church opens – the City’s first stone church.

26 December 1863
Opening of the Royal Princess Theatre, the city’s first true theatre. It had been the Canterbury Music Hall.

26 December 1870
First rowing regatta on the Avon. This photo shows a 1921 regatta.

Regatta Day on the Avon [ca. 1921]
Regatta Day on the Avon [ca. 1921], PhotoCD 12, IMG0030
26 December 1879
Serious Catholic/Protestant riot in Manchester Street.

27 December 1850
“Cressy” arrives. These 4 ships brought a total of 773 settlers. Although Cantabrians like to commemorate these “first four ships”, there were actually 8 chartered vessels which brought 1500 Canterbury Association settlers in the first few months. By the following December, 19 ships had brought over 3000 settlers.

Port Lyttelton, showing the first four ships and emigrants landing from the Cressy, December 28th 1850 [28 Dec. 1850]
Port Lyttelton, showing the first four ships and emigrants landing from the Cressy, December 28th 1850 [28 Dec. 1850], CCL PhotoCD 10, IMG0017
More December events in the Christchurch chronology: a timeline of Christchurch events in chronological order from pre-European times to 1989.

Log on board the S.S. Somersetshire, 1869

If you enjoy local history, heritage, or generally intriguing snippets of information, make sure to  keep an eye on our digital collection.  New additions appear regularly. One of the latest is the Log on board the S.S. Somersetshire, 1869, by W. C. Walker.

Log on board the S.S. Somersetshire from Plymouth to Melbourne, 1 July-30 August 1869
Log on board the S.S. Somersetshire from Plymouth to Melbourne, 1 July-30 August 1869, CCL-Arch489-013

Mr Walker left Plymouth on 1 July and arrived in Melbourne on 30 August 1869. His diary is an amusing compendium of vignettes of daily life aboard ship. Days pass by lounging on deck under the awning, playing whist in the evenings, and attending concerts and dances. For the sport-inclined there’s the excitement of guessing how many knots the Somersetshire has done the previous day and maybe winning the sweep.

Of course there are the usual irritations of sharing facilities. As Walker notes, “nothing is sacred on board ship – all is common property” (p. 14).  In the bathroom a notice appears requesting that bathers limit themselves to 8 minutes apiece – a time limit that was apparently strictly monitored.

I particularly enjoyed Walker’s descriptions of his fellow passengers:

Miss Weston as the elder of the 2 deserves the first place & for other reasons as well. I can’t tell you her age – all I know is that she is young enough to think her youth requires her to dye her hair. (p. 27)

And with apologies to all readers lucky enough to have Irish ancestry or red hair:

Mr Moynan… remarkable in appearance from possessing the reddest hair & whiskers I ever saw, but apparently and I think luckily wanting in the immense assurance & self-appreciation generally associated with such flaming embellishments especially when the owner is an Irishman. His eyes without speculation of a neutral fishy hue, so neutral as to be hardly called hue or colour at all; and probably to this accident this sanguine temperament generally accompanying red hair has been so subdued as to be conspicuous by its absence. (p. 6)

All in all, the trip could almost appear to be one of pleasure. As Walker himself writes in the final pages of his log:

if you don’t see that it was a jolly one, the fault lies in my way of telling the story”. (p. 164)

Yet there are clues that not everybody is as lucky as Mr Walker. In Plymouth the Somersetshire “passed close under another ship on the point of starting for Australia, the ‘Royal Dane’… crowded with emigrants & waiting for a fair wind, & less fortunate than the ‘Somersetshire’ in having only wind & sails to trust to” (p. 5). Most shocking to me was the passing remark that about a week into the voyage, 6 stowaways gave themselves up, including a boy about 11, who was given to the boatswain to “slave for him” (p. 55). I can’t help but wonder which category of traveller my Scottish ancestors who settled in Southland belonged to.

Happy Hanukkah!

“Monica, Monica, have a happy Hanukkah!” I’m a tad ashamed to say that, yes, the first thing that comes to mind when I hear the word Hanukkah is Phoebe’s holiday song in Friends.  I suspect that I may not be alone in my limited awareness…

Beth El Synagogue, Christchurch [1901]
Beth El Synagogue, Christchurch [1901], CCLPhotoCD 6, IMG0079
Yet Hanukkah is one of the most popular Jewish religious holidays and people with Jewish heritage have played an important role in New Zealand since the first days of European settlement.

As the book Jewish Lives in New Zealand points out, Auckland alone has had five Jewish mayors. New Zealand’s first woman doctor, Emily Siedeberg, and first woman lawyer, Ethel Benjamin, were both Jewish.  Similarly, Jewish families, like the Keesings, de Beers, Ashers, and Hallensteins, were and are still prominent in the business community.

So what is Hanukkah? Traditionally it celebrates the rededication of the Holy Temple in 165 BCE, when, after a three-year struggle led by Judah Maccabee, the Jews in Judea defeated Antiochus IV, the Seleucid king who had invaded Judea.

The celebrations last 8 days and involve lighting candles each night in the menorah, a special eight-branched candelabrum. Scriptures are read each day and a special hymn is sung.

Cover of Jewish Holidays CookbookAnd what would  a celebration be without special food? Potato pancakes (latkes), doughnuts, and other treats fried in oil take the starring role at Hanukkah. Children receive presents and gifts of money (Hanukkah gelt), which may be the real thing or chocolate coins wrapped in gold foil.

Today is the last day of Hanukkah for 2015, so Happy Hanukkah to all who are celebrating!

If you do observe Hanukkah, why not share some of your family’s traditions?

This week in Christchurch history (14 to 20 December)

15 December 1848
Captain Joseph Thomas, William Fox, and surveyors Cass and Torlesse arrive at the site of Lyttelton in the “Fly”. Thomas names the harbour “Port Victoria”. He and his party had been sent by the Canterbury Association to choose a site for the new colony and make the necessary preparations for the arrival of settlers in 1850.

Ad on Papers Past
Advertisement of the laying of the Chief Corner Stone of the Cathedral, Lyttelton Times, 10 December 1864, Page 6

16 December 1850
“Charlotte Jane” and “Randolph” arrive at Lyttelton.

16 December 1851
Anniversary celebrations in Hagley Park. First organised sport, including horse races, athletics and a cricket match.

16 December 1864
150 years ago the foundation stone was laid for ChristChurch Cathedral. The weather was atrocious.

17 December 1850
“Sir George Seymour” arrives.

17 December 1935
City Council decides to buy 230 hectares of land at Harewood for a city airport. The purchase was strongly criticised in many quarters as excessively large, but subsequent history has more than vindicated the decision.

20 December 1955
First Antarctic flights by USN Operation Deep Freeze from Christchurch. Browse our page on Antarctica and its Christchurch connections.

More December events in the Christchurch chronology: a timeline of Christchurch events in chronological order from pre-European times to 1989.

This week in Christchurch history (7 to 13 December)

8 December 1843
Greenwood brothers (James and Joseph) settle at Purau, Lyttelton Harbour.

9 December 1867
Lyttelton railway tunnel was the first in the world to be drilled through a volcano rim. It was New Zealand’s first tunnel, and at the time was described as one of the longest in the world, yet had been planned and financed by this tiny colonial settlement whose population was just over 9000, (6,647 in Christchurch and 2,510 in Lyttelton.)

Geological sections of Lyttelton and Christchurch railway tunnel [by Julius von Haast].
Geological sections of Lyttelton and Christchurch railway tunnel [by Julius von Haast], [ca. 1875], CCL ATLMAPS ATL-Acc-3741
10 December 1989
Sunday trading begins in Christchurch.

11 December 1979
Completion of airport international arrivals terminal, stage 1 (arrival hall).

Cover of Douglas Lilburn12 December 1849
New Zealand Company agrees to reserve two and a half million acres as a site for the Canterbury settlement.

13 December 1942
Premiere in Christchurch of Landfall in Unknown Seas by Douglas Lilburn and Allen Curnow.

More December events in the Christchurch chronology: a timeline of Christchurch events in chronological order from pre-European times to 1989.