Buongiorno, and welcome to the 2023 Italian Film Festival presented by Palace Cinemas.
There are some things Italians do very well in film, one of which is comedy. If you look at the last handful of years, comedy has dominated the film festival here in Australia. But this year will hit a little differently. If you are hankering for self-discovery or strong friendships, this year’s festival has a treat for you in The Eight Mountains. If you want to find meaning in life, consider your weekend complete with Supernova and The First Day of My Life.
There is something different about the Italian Film Festival compared to most. Sure, there are subtitles, and, for the most part, the films are set in faraway places you’ve never visited. But the most wonderful part of the Italian Film Festival isn’t only the movies; it’s something bigger than the cinema itself. While I struggled to put my finger on it, Festival Director Elysia Zeccola took some time out of her busy schedule to enlighten me.
“My dream was to live in Italy and speak fluent Italian, but my job is here, and I love the festival too much to leave it after building it up since the inaugural year in 2000. I think there are a lot of people like me who feel the same way, and so the festival is a chance for us to connect with our roots,” she said.
Unlike other festivals I’ve attended, there are these moments before a screening or the opening or closing nights where this cultural event comes alive. Elysia agreed, saying:
“The feeling of people coming together to have a good time and be entertained, laugh or cry in the same moments in a film, and mingle at the before or after events where we share the spirit of hospitality, it feels like being a part of something bigger than just watching a movie.
My original goal was to create a festival that was not just a small cultural event for Italians but a popular event that shared the Italian language, culture and cinema with more people than just Italians.’”
There are plenty of opportunities at this year’s festival to indulge before a screening. The Last Night of Amore opens the festival, and in Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide and Brisbane, you can enjoy the opening night afterparty with cocktails or Birra Moretti and cannoli. Perhaps the Prosecco Premiere is more to your taste as you sip and enjoy the documentary The Genius of Gianni Versace Alive. It wouldn’t be an Italian experience if there weren’t Limoncello involved, and so you can enjoy a Solbevi Limoncello Spritz as you watch the romantic comedy La Chimera.
For moviegoers in Melbourne, the Italian Aperitivo has your name on it. The Thursday, September 21 screening of The Last Night of Amore at Pentridge Cinema has an antipasto box and glass of wine or prosecco on arrival from Small Axe. Or Eat’aliano by Pino has a modern antipasto with a glass of wine before the screening of Burning Hearts. And finally, That’s Amore Cheese will have a grazing table as you enjoy wine before the screening of The Order of Time.
But let’s remember this isn’t just about the stunning Italian cuisine; there are just as many movies to watch. Finding what to watch can be as challenging as deciding if you want white wine or prosecco. This year’s festival has a strong lineup. But finding these films is no easy task. Elysia looks for good storytelling and films that move and entertain. “We go to the movies to escape and be transported. I want to take people on a journey”.
“The themes evolve from the lineup as it takes shape. Often, the films have already been through a selection process because we select them in Cannes, Berlin, Venice and other festivals and markets that I attend”, Elysia said.
Her pick for opening night, The Last Night of Amore, sees a different style compared to the usual upbeat comedies of previous years. This showcases “a different side of Italy. We travel away from stereotypes and cliches and head to the Lombardy capital for a change of pace”, Elysia noted.
The Last Night of Amore stars a familiar face, Pierfrancesco Favino. You’ll know him from Rush, World War Z and Angels & Demons. The dramatic crime-thriller is about an honest policeman who, in 35 years, has never shot anyone. That changed the night before his retirement when everything that mattered to him would be in danger.
Burning Hearts is another one to consider. The investigative novel by journalists Carlo Bonini and Guiliano Foschini inspired it. It’s a mafioso-western, modern-day Romeo and Juliet. And a cinematic tale of love and death, cruelty and passion in a land of irresistible beauty.
What makes this Western style more dramatic is the use of a sharp black and white. Making the action amplified, drawing your attention with particular emphasis.
With a lineup of amazing new Italian films gracing this year’s festival, Elysia knows people are excited to attend events in this world trying to move past COVID-19 lockdowns.
“Our goal is to keep growing our audience, particularly with patrons that are not native Italian speakers. With the strike happening [current writers and actors strike in Hollywood], US content will likely be reduced next year, but there will be no shortage of great European films to see at Palace Cinemas”.
The festival starts September 19 and runs through October 25 at Palace Cinemas in Sydney, Adelaide, Canberra, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth and Byron Bay. Head to italianfilmfestival.com.au to book tickets or visit participating Palace Cinemas.