Cinema Italiano Festival

With 20 films on the programme for this year’s Cinema Italiano Festival, there’s a title for every Italophile’s taste. “The festival is a celebration of Italian cinema, language, culture and la dolce vita and you can’t find that sitting on your couch at home!”, says curator and festival director Paolo Rotondo.  Here Paolo shares his top picks:

Perfect Strangers (Perfetti Sconosciuti)

Perfetti Sconosciuti is a cautionary tale about technology colliding with relationships. 

Directed by Paolo Genovese, it combines “sharp dialogue that bites with comedic moments melting in”, says Paolo. “This all-star cast and modern premise is a perfect combination,” he says of the Best Screenplay winner from the Tribeca Film Festival.

Italian Race (Veloce Come il Vento)

Heart palpitations abound in this high-octane car-racing drama. Italian Race (Veloce come il vento) plunges the audience into the frenetic world of Gran Turismo racing. Directed by Matteo Rovere (I Can Quit Whenever I Want), Italian Race stars Stefano Accorsi as “a washed-up ex-driver who returns to the track to train his sister, Giulia, an upcoming champion”, says Rotondo.

Based on a true story, this film feeds on the power of family bonds, gut instincts and unbreakable spirits. As Paolo says, “This is adrenalin-fuelled entertainment at its best.”

Don’t Be Bad (Non essere cattivo)

Dark, dank and built on grit, this crime drama is “an attack on the senses”, says Rotondo. “This story of two drug dealers in 1990s Ostia, a suburb of Rome, is a journey into the world of crime and addiction.” Centred on the story of hard-living young thugs Cesare (Luca Marinelli) and Vittorio (Alessandro Borghi), Don’t Be Bad (Non essere cattivo) is driven by powerful performances and a strong directorial voice.

This final film from auteur Claudio Caligari – who passed away shortly after finishing it – is racking up awards across Europe ahead of its New Zealand premiere at the Cinema Italiano Festival NZ.

Solo (Assolo)

This frothy yet bold comedy was written and directed by Laura Morante, a stalwart of European cinema who, until now, has been better known in front of the camera for roles in Bianca (1984) and The Son’s Room (2012). With Assolo, she deftly turns her hand to the writer-director role while retaining her leading-lady status as the film’s heroine, Flavia. 

In the Il Passato Nel Presente / The Past in the Present  pocket of programming, this is at once a sharp and surreal search for late-blooming independence.

Rocco and His Brothers (Rocco e i suoi fratelli)

Savour the pleasure of this Italian cinematic staple. “At almost three hours long, Luchino Visconti’s family saga is a masterpiece to behold,” says Paolo Rotondo of this new digital restoration produced by Martin Scorsese’s Film Foundation.

Originally released in 1960, Rocco e i suoi fratelli documents the ruin of southern Italy, still recovering from World War Two. With the inclusion of two previously censored scenes, this is your chance to see the film as its revered neorealist director intended it.

Roman Holiday (Vacanze romane) 

The Opening Night film is an indisputable classic, beloved across Europe, America, Australia and beyond. Starring Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck, it’s the screwball picture that shot Hepburn to stardom, and took home a swag of Oscars in 1954. 

Restored in its nostalgic black-and-white glory, Vacanze romane is an immortal fixture of the rom-com genre, and the perfect way to commence another Cinema Italiano Festival. As Paolo says, “What could be more Italian than zooming around on a Vespa exploring Rome’s most famous sites?”

The Auckland Season of the Cinema Italiano Festival will screen exclusively at The Bridgeway Cinema between 31 August – 14 September.