The San Diego Italian Film Festival kicked off it's 5th year over the weekend and runs through November 12 at the Museum of Photographic Arts. Festival director Victor Laruccia and board member Clarissa Clo discuss the films and the festival.
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CAVANAUGH: This is KPBS Midday Edition. I'm Maureen Cavanaugh. Since the days of silent film, Italy has brought a passionate realism to the world of movie making, as well as giving us haunting images that have inspired film makers around the world. This week, we can see some of those images and passion ourselves as the San Diego Italian film festival heads into its second week. My guest, Victor LaRuccia is executive director of the San Diego Italian film festival. Welcome back to the show.
LARUCCIA: Thanks Maureen
CAVANAUGH: And Clarisa Clowe is program director of the festival and associate professor of Italian and European studies at San Diego state university. Welcome
CLOWE: Glad to be here.
CAVANAUGH: Now, Victor, this is the 5th year of the San Diego Italian film festival. What makes this festival stand out among the variety of film festivals we have all around San Diego?
LARUCCIA: One, we're dealing with a niche market, and we deal with movies from a much smaller area than the Asian or Jewish or Latino film festival. But the other thing is that we attempt to introduce Italian culture, and we really rebrand ourselves. We believe that he do this to create a perspective
CAVANAUGH: You work with the Italian consul if getting your films; is that right?
LARUCCIA: Well, there are branches of government. One is the institute of Italian culture, they help us get movies in. The Cinecitta Luce is actually a government agency which for a good portion of the movies which get produced in Italy, it's one of the producers. And they generally retain rights to a lot of the movies. They're responsible for distributing movies to over 94 of these institutes around the world. We compete with a lot of other places to get these government films.
CAVANAUGH: Now, now that you mention Ta lot of the other film festivals around town actually do use -- they take films from, let's say, Asian Americans who are making American films or they'll take films that have an Asian theme, let's say. I'm obviously using the Asian film festival as a model here. But do you take your films exclusively from Italian film makers who make the films in Italy?
LARUCCIA: As a matter of fact, we'll be showing something on Sunday by somebody who is both Italian and American. And we want to do that more because our drift right now is to begin looking at the population movements. Italy and Italians have networks everywhere. There are probably more Italians outside of Italy than in Italy. And we believe there's a fairly large group of people who would identify with a lot of these movies. 2 years ago, we showed a movie called -- which looked at a three continent chase for an Italian
CAVANAUGH: I remember that.
LARUCCIA: Andy woo want to do more of that. We want to begin looking at San Diego as an Italian piazza.
CAVANAUGH: Most of the events for this festival are donation, rather than actual ticket sales
Yes do you take this approach?
LARUCCIA: For two reasons, officially. We did it because we wanted to get as many people in the door as possible. But also strategically, it's easier for us to deal with it because of rights. Rights are just very, very difficult to negotiate for at least two continents and possibly three. And I mean, we will eventually be having tickets for some. But up until now, simply the accounting for how much we would make at a movie is almost more expensive than what we'd ever get. So it just was simply this is an easier thing for us to do
CAVANAUGH: Is it working to sustain the festival?
CAVANAUGH: Oh, I see. So then you're going forward and thinking of expanding then the ticket sales in years to come?
LARUCCIA: We run this festival the way a lot of Italians run their lives. We're looking for the amici di amici.
CAVANAUGH: And that means?
LARUCCIA: That means friends of friends
CAVANAUGH: Okay. Clarisa, in the past, the films that have been shown at the festival have shown a lot of the conflict between northern and southern Italy. That's one of the themes that have arisen. What are some of the new themes that come up in the films being shown this year?
CLOWE: Well, we are still showing films that are it set in specific sites in Italy that tend to be at the periphery rather than the center. And the relationship between north and south are still going to be central, but we're kind of showcasing the aspects of each region. So there are films that are set in Sicily, like the one we're screening tonight. The vanishing of pato. With all the vices and virtues of this wonderful region. And at the same time, we're screening films next week, which is set in Florence. So we're going local and transnational at the same time. And the other focus we're trying to showcase is that on documentary film making. That's going to be the up coming event. You were correct in saying in pointing out we did a -- basically a program on the Italian southern question earlier this year. That was also in light of the celebration of the hundred year -- hundred 50 years of Italian unification. Since Italian unification. We did one showcase, one aspect that was central. But now we're interested in pointing out what are the major aspects of Italian film making. And the documentary is where Italian cinema is thriving.
CAVANAUGH: Is that your favorite -- would a documentary be a favorite film of this festival? What do you think that people really should go out and see of the films that are retaining in this second week of the festival?
CLOWE: Well, what Italians have also done well other than drama, and we do that pretty well, it is also comedy. So I do certainly want to encourage anybody who's interested in coming to see our festival to come out on Saturday night at the birch in Northpark theatre. We're going to be screening La Prima Cosa Bella, The First Beautiful Thing. It's a beautiful film by Paolo Virzi. We did a retrospective of this director a couple of years ago. Here's basically film making, his work is along the lines of comEdia la Italiana, and it's showcasing wonderful actresses as well. I definitely think this is one of the highlights of our if he felt val
CAVANAUGH: Speaking of highlights, are any film makers attending the festival? Are there going to be question and answer periods and meet the director kind of workshops?
LARUCCIA: The director and the producer of Pane Amaro, Bitter Bread, will be here on Sunday. We're going to do a Skype interview with Marco Vertozzo, who is the director of Apunto Romani, and those are the people that we know we'll have this time. We had the possibility of a couple others but it fell through. We have a tendency to have a very big appetite, and sometimes we just simply don't have the resources to fund it all
CAVANAUGH: Now you mentioned appetite. So I'm going to go there. The food is quite a part of this festival. Is it an important component of the the festival Victor?
LARUCCIA: We never have shown a movie where the words for food shouldn't shown up. Every movie that people were were talking about it. Of it's present, the problem is getting enough of it into the people that come. So getting food at a theatre is difficult. We use our May thing as a way to deal with food and film. Probably the most important thing we do with food is our gala. It's like a 12-course meal with really great wine. But I have to tell you, that's always on the books, and it's one thing that comes up at almost every one of the meetings of the board. How do geget more food out there? It's not incidental, it's really important. And a big issue for us is to figure out way, way to make it as present as possible
CAVANAUGH: Tell me more about the gala, if you would, Clarisa. I know it's a screening of a film, and it's sort of like a cultural event as well
CLOWE: Yes, it's a way for us to celebrate the end of two intense weeks, but also really to celebrate the entire work that we've done throughout the year. And we have several series. So this is a big thank you to everybody who is involved and it gives us the opportunity to share food, wine, and to showcase yet again one of the most aren't films that are coming out of Italy.
LARUCCIA: I should say that preparations for the gala begin about 3 months before so there is the issue of actually dealing with a caterer to make sure that the dishes are right, making sure there's going to be enough wine. But also to make sure the people who come have the understanding this is a very joyful Italian celebration there are a number of different venues in which screenings are held during the Italian film festival. SDSU's little theatre, birch theatre, and the museum of photographic arts in Balboa Park. How are you using these different venues? How do you decide which films are going to go where?
LARUCCIA: A good part of it is figuring out approximately how big our crowd is going to be or what it is going to be. We're doing the conference here at San Diego state because it's a really important conference on documentary. Clarisa has just coedited a double issue journal on documentary, we're having important people who produce documentaries. And it's an issue that has to deal with Italian identity. That's what we're focusing on. Those we think should be here. We're really looking forward to as big a crowd as possible for the Prima Cosa Bella, and MOPA, which is a good sized theatre, 220, hopefully will accommodate all the people who come. 2 years ago, in 4 days we showed four of his films, and turned away almost three hundred people. We're hoping the very fact that bittersy is so well known amongst Italians is going to bring people out. We will go into other venues. The majority of the people who come from about a 12-mile area of the venue itself. So moving our festival, looking for other places, helps us because there are a lot of other people who are interested, but movies are not really the primary mode of entertainment for anybody anymore. So we're really looking for ways of bringing movies to them outside of their own living rooms
CAVANAUGH: I know you think of this, if I'm wrong, correctly, as much of a cultural event as a film event for Italians and people who love Italians in San Diego. ; is that right?
LARUCCIA: You're absolutely right. For us, it is a cultural event. We basically project ourselves, sell ourselves on the basis that it is a cultural moment. We have this metaphor of a piit isa, we really do believe that that's the kind of feeling we want to engender, which is essentially to share stories in a shared space. It's not a case where we're saying come and see celebrity, and get entertained. We hope those things happen. What we're looking for is a way of helping people see stories that they're familiar with, will share, and understand, and help them have an even bigger understanding of it want
CAVANAUGH: I asked Clarisa what was one of her favorite films ahead in the festival. What would you say people really should not miss as this festival enters this weekend and continues through next weekend?
LARUCCIA: Let me begin with one I think is going to be a young person's answer. Gernate Milurro, it's a funny wonderful romantic comedy. I think that's going to be very attractive for a lot of people. From my point of view, the Moma che Vera is an extraordinary film by an extraordinary Italian director. He gets notices throughout Europe almost instantaneously when he does something. An advantage for us is that we can bring something of his here because he doesn't get distribution here. And that's true for a lot of other directors we have. But it gets distributed really easily in a lot of other places. That's important for us, it's an incredible film, an important moment in Italian history. We've been dealing the past year with the unification of Italy. We think this particular incident that is used in the film is really important in terms of Italian identity
CAVANAUGH: Well, I have to tell everyone that the San Diego Italian film festival continues through November 12th at several venues. You can check their website, San Diego Italian film festival.com to find out the movie that you want to see, and where it's going to be playing. I've been speaking with the festival's director, Victor la ruchea, and SDSU professor Clarisa Clowe. Thank you so much for speaking with us
LARUCCIA: Thank you we're really happy to be here
CLOWE: Thank you.