Italian Contemporary Film Festival - Toronto

25 Jun 2012

Weekend Box Office

Toronto’s inaugural Italian Contemporary Film Festival (ICFF) has unveiled an exciting lineup of films representing the best in new Italian films. The first year of its kind!

The festival, which kicks off in Toronto on June 26 during Italian Heritage Month, will shine a spotlight on a wide array of Italian films ranging from comedies and dramas to documentaries and shorts.  Six days of screenings and receptions will be capped with the Closing Night Ceremony on July 1, at 9:00 PM at the TIFF Bell Lightbox where the ICFF will announce the winners of two inaugural awards.

For the complete film line-up and ticket information visit: www.icff.ca

Capsule reviews of 5 of these feature films are provided below and the full list of films following at the end of the article.

Directed by Gennaro Nunziante
Making Italian box-office history in 2011 by becoming the most successful Italian film of all time, this film is ideal in showcasing the contemporary Italian Film Festival.  The festival and film will introduce Canadian audiences to comedian Checco Zalone already famous for other comedies like THREE MEN AND A LEG.  In WHAT A BEAUTIFUL DAY, he plays a bumbling security (also called Checco) for the Vatican, given the specific job of guarding the Madonnina, the uppermost statue of Milan’s Duomo cathedral.  Unwittingly, he falls for an Arab terrorist, the beautiful Farah (Nabira Akkari) who intends to use him to carry a bomb into the cathedral.  Checco learns Arabic for his work and the film’s title comes from a mis-translation of his.  It is easy to see why this film did so well.  It is a well intentioned, hilarious little film, not offensive despite its touchy theme.  The film runs like a Pink Panther film with the character Checco like an Italian version of Inspector Clouseau, even driving his superior crazy as Clouseau did Inspector Dreyfuss.  There is a believable romance in the story as well, and this bumbling security does have a heart of gold.

HABEMUS PAPAM (WE HAVE A POPE) (Italy/France 2011) ***
Directed by Nanni Moretti
As the film title implies, the world needs a new pope, the previous one having passed on.  Veteran director Nanni Moretti undertakes the detailed process of the installation of a new pope as performed by the Vatican.  Moretti’s film contains details of the decision making process.  The authorities granted him access to the Vatican and his film is so realistic, it occasionally feels like a documentary.  But the star of the film is the ageing veteran French actor Michel Piccoli (LA BELLE NOISEUSE) who plays Cardinal Melville, the man unexpectedly elected the new pope.  The humble churchman, petrified by the responsibility, turns away from addressing the faithful in St. Peter’s Square, effectively rejecting the papacy.  Facing a major public relations crisis, the Vatican calls in a psychiatrist (played by Moretti himself) to help the new pope get over his stage fright.  Eventually Melville makes an escape to a hotel and the Vatican loses knowledge of his whereabouts.  The Vatican fools the public including the psychiatrist to think that the new pope is better and just resting, waiting to make his speech.  This is the story of what happens when the position of God is placed on the shoulders of a human being.  In contrast, the position of the psychiatrist is a complete reversal.  He is an extremely proud man, believing for one, that his wife had left him because, she, a psychiatrist like him, cannot work with someone better than her.  He also thinks that he knows all, holding a ‘God’ like position, even forcing the other Cardinals to play a ridiculous volleyball tournament while awaiting news of the health of Cardinal Melville.  WE HAVE A POPE, is a quietly humorous yet insightful examination of the frailty of the human body and ultimately of the human being.

Directed by Ivan Cotroneo
Director Ivan Cotroneo who is well known as the writer for the films LOOSE CANNONS and I AM LOVE takes the director’s chair with his debut LA KRYPTONITE NELLA BORSA so named for the substance being Superman’s downfall.  This is the story as the narration introduces, of a boy with glasses, Peppino (Luigi Catani) and a superhero (Superman).  Set in Naples in the 70’s Cotroneo captures well the atmosphere and the spirit of both place and time with lots of quirky humour, such as was found in his LOOSE CANNONS script.  Yes, the film is very funny.  The dysfunctional family is comprised of a cheating father, Antonio (Luca Zingaretti), his resulting depressed sick mother, Rosario (Valeria Golino) and his three older siblings forced to look after him.  Fifteen minutes into the film, Peppino’s cousin Gennaro (Vincenzo Nemolato) who thinks he is Superman gets run over by the 111 bus.  But Gennaro frequently appears to Peppino to cheer him up, give him advice and occasionally fly him around the city.  With a cheerful plot like this, one can hardly dislike this hilarious film.  But what this coming-of-age story lacks is a stronger narrative as the message is muddled with all the froth that accompanies it.

Directed by Roccu Motelliti

Accomplished little gem that starts off as a mystery detective story that turns into a social commentary on Italy’s class system!  When an actor Pato goes missing, the distraught wife seeks the help of the authorities.  The Sicilian Carabiniere, Marshall Giummero (Nino Frassica) comes into conflict with a Neopolitan police officer, Inspector Ernesto Bellavia (Maurizio Casagrande) on how to question the locals and solve the disappearance.  The biggest joke is that their methods are similar but they argue on the silliest things such as the tone of questioning.  The biggest irony is that when forced to work together, they finally come to the same conclusion and after submitting a common report (of course, after much arguing), their report is rejected.  Director Motelliti tells his moral tale with ease and confidence aided by the superb performances of the two leads.  An unexpected gem of a movie!

TERRAFERMA (Italy/France 2011) ****1/2
Directed by Emanuele Crialese
TERRAFERMA reminds one of the famous Luchino Visconti ‘s neorealist drama LA TERRA TERMA about fisherman in a poverty stricken village etching a living.  In TERRAFERMA also about poor fisherman, the film is set in Linosa off Sicily.  Director Emanuele Crialese’s (RESPIRO) film is no less powerful in depicting the lives of decent and honest folk who obey the laws of the sea rather than those of men.  When grandfather and boy Filippo (Filippo Pucillo) come across drowning illegal immigrants, they do the right thing and save them despite orders by the coast guard and local police to let them be.  The result is seizure of the boat.  Loss of ones primary mode of earning a living has been used very effectively in films like Se Sica’s THE BICYCLE THIEF and also used to full effect here.  Performance by Pucillo and Donatella Finocchiaro are also top notch.  Their facial expressions look so genuine that they will move one to tears.  A gripping tale about life, the living and to do what is right despite dire consequences.  This film has gone on to win many festival awards and is the best film I have previewed in the Contemporary Italian Film Festival.  A must-see!


• TO ROME WITH LOVE (Canadian Premiere)
Director: Woody Allen
Cast: Alec Baldwin, Roberto Benigni, Penélope Cruz, Judy Davis, Jesse Eisenberg, Ellen Page, Monica Nappo
Talent Attending: Actress Monica Nappo

TO ROME WITH LOVE is a story about a number of people in Italy — some American, some Italian, some residents, some visitors — and the romances, adventures and predicaments they get into. The film is being released in Canada by Mongrel Media.

Director: Ivan Cotroneo
Cast: Valeria Golino, Cristiana Capotondi, Luca Zingaretti, Libero de Rienzo.
Talent Attending: Director Ivan Cotroneo and Actress Monica Nappo

Noted screenwriter Ivan Cotroneo (I AM LOVE starring Tilda Swinton) makes an impressive directorial debut with this sharply observed, bittersweet comedy about a large, colourful family in 1970s Naples.

Director: Emanuele Crialese
Cast: Filippo Pucillo, Beppe Fiorello, Donatella Finocchiaro, Mimmo Cuticchio

Italy’s submission for Best Foreign Language Film at the 2011 Academy Awards, Emanuele Crialese (Respiro, The Golden Door) combines the dreamy, magical-realist quality that runs through his work with a hard-hitting social critique in TERRAFERMA. Filippo, whose father was lost at sea years ago, lives with his mother and grandfather on a small island off the coast of Sicily in this lyrical moral tale for our times.

Director: Rocco Mortelliti
Cast: Flavio Bucci, Maurizio Casagrande and Danilo Formaggia
Talent Attending: Director Rocco Mortelliti

Rocco Mortelliti’s adaptation of Andrea Camilleri’s Sicilian novel starts as a simple detective story, but be¬comes an incisive social commentary on Italy’s class system and the true nature of power. This period drama revolves around the disappearance of local banker Antonio Patò. A squabbling Sicilian Carabiniere, Marshal Giummero (Nino Frassica) and a Neapolitan police officer, Inspector Ernesto Bellavia (Casagrande) are forced to work together to solve the mystery.

Director: Rocco Papaleo
Cast: Giovanna Mezzogiorno, Rocco Papaleo, Alessandro Gassman, Max Gazzè

Rocco Papaleo’s indie sleeper hit was honoured with several prestigious Italian awards, including best first feature for the actor turned writer-director. The beautiful, untouched region of Basilicata stars in this engaging road movie. Nicola (Papaleo), the leader of an unassuming band, enters his group in a music festi¬val on the other side of Basilicata. He comes up with the idea of walking there in ten days, partly as a publicity stunt and partly as a bonding journey.

Director: Andrea Molaioli
Cast: Toni Servillo, Remo Girone, Sarah Felberbaum, Lino Guanciale

This well-crafted drama is inspired by one of Italy’s biggest financial scandals, the 2003 meltdown of food and beverage corporation Parmalat. The latest in a string of Italian films that take an unvarnished look at Italy’s dark side (Il Divo, Gomorrah), THE JEWEL is Andrea Molaioli’s follow-up to his acclaimed 2007 debut The Girl By The Lake.

Director: Gennaro Nunziante
Cast: Checco Zalone, Nabira Akkari, Michele Alhaique

CHE BELLA GIORNATA made Italian box office history in 2011 by becoming the most successful Italian film of all time. This crowd-pleaser stars popular stand-up comic Zalone as an exuberant mamma’s boy who lands a job guarding the Madonnina, the uppermost statue of Milan’s Duomo cathedral. Unbeknownst to him, the beautiful young Arab woman Farah (Nabira Akkari) who befriends him is actually planning to plant a bomb atop the cathedral.

Director: Carlo Verdone
Cast: Pier Francesco Favino, Carlo Verdone, Marco Giallini
Talent Attending: Actor Pier Francesco Favino

This sharply observed comedy revolves around the complicated lives of three divorced men whose serious economic problems force them to share an apartment in Rome. However, living under the same roof also brings every possible problem each of them has with ex-wives, young or grown-up children and capricious new partners.

Director: Carlo Mazzacurati
Cast: Giovanni Capovilla, Fabrizio Bentivoglio, Giuseppe Battiston

LA GIUSTA DISTANZA revolves around the lives of an immigrant Tunisian mechanic (Hassan), a substitute teacher hop¬ing to work in Brazil (Mara), and an 18-year old aspiring journalist (Giovanni). A romance blossoms between Hassan and Mara, but Giovanni, a friend of Hassan’s, is also infatuated with her. Hassan spies on her at night, as she sleeps, while Giovanni hacks her email account. Then tragedy strikes, affecting the friendship be¬tween the two men.

Director: Paolo Genovese
Cast: Raoul Bova, Ambra Angiolini, Luca Bizzarri, Barbora Bobulova

This hilarious comedy is the sequel to the highly successful 2011 box office hit Immaturi (The Immature) a comedy about a group of thirty-something former high-school friends, who, 20 years after their graduation, are forced to retake their final exam in order to graduate from high school. The sequel centres on the same seven friends, this time organizing a trip to Greece that they never managed to take while at school.

Director: Matteo Scarfò
Cast: Nick Mancuso, Paolo Turrà, Antonella Civale, Patrizia Furfaro, Mariano Rigillo
Talent Attending: Director Matteo Scarfò and Actor Nick Mancuso

Teresa Talotta Gullace was shot by a Nazi soldier during the 1943 occupation of Rome. Her tragic story in¬spired the great actress Anna Magnani’s unforgettable portrayal of Pina in Roberto Rossellini’s Neorealist milestone Roma, Città Aperta, (Rome, Open City). ANNA, TERESA E LE RESISTENTI is a docudrama told through the eyes of an American soldier (played by Italian-Canadian actor Nick Mancuso) and other personalities of that time.

Director: Nanni Moretti
Cast: Michel Piccoli, Nanni Moretti, Jerzy Stuhr

Nanni Moretti’s comedy takes an imaginary, satirical peek behind Vatican walls at Melville (Michel Piccoli), a cardinal surprisingly elected pope by his peers. At a critical moment before he must address his new flock, Melville insists he can’t take the job.


Talent Attending: Director Cristiano de Florentiis

From the Bay of Vancouver, a journey winds across the mountains and the ocean, traveling through a land that reminds the observer of the Garden of Eden. A documentary, a road movie about British Columbia narrated by members of the Italian community living in B.C.

Director: Rino Noto
Talent Attending: Rino Noto

This documentary honours the experiences of individuals who were interned during World War II in the Petawawa concentration camp for being ‘enemy aliens.’

Director: Tony Nardi
Talent Attending: Tony Nardi

This film is based on letters sent to “middle-men” of the Canadian cultural scene: a film/television pro¬ducer and two theatre critics. ICFF presents the first letter, Letter One, which articulates an actor/writer’s struggle with cultural stereotypes in Canadian theatre/film/TV. The screening will be followed by a panel discussion with Italian Canadian actors, directors and film critics.

Director: Joe Mari
Talent Attending: director Joe Mari and Michel Pillarella

Pizza Bagel takes a comedic look at intercultural dating while poking fun at Mediterranean cuisine and unabashedly patriotic soccer celebrations.

Awards will be presented at the Closing Night Ceremony on July 1, 2012 at 9:00 PM at the TIFF Bell Lightbox where the ICFF will announce the winners of two inaugural awards.

The People’s Choice Award will be chosen by the audience, which will cast ballots for Best Feature. The win¬ner will be announced at the Awards Ceremony.

The Toronto Film Critics Association will present the Angela Baldassarre Award to the “Best Film” of the ICFF in memory of Angela, a gifted Toronto film critic who lost her battle with cancer on November 15, 2007. Angela was a member of the TFCA.

About The Italian Contemporary Film Festival
Founded in 2012, the Italian Contemporary Film Festival is a non-profit cultural organization which provides a showcase for the best in new Italian cinema. Each year, the festival will present international, national and local Italian films to celebrate the diversity of Italian culture.

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