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Preview: San Diego Italian Film Festival

A good line-up of films kicks off Oct. 13

Giovanni Oliveri surrounded by admirers in the anti-Mafia comedy,

Credit: The San Diego Italian Film Festival

Above: Giovanni Oliveri surrounded by admirers in the anti-Mafia comedy, "Viva La Liberta."

Guest blogger Rebecca Romani says neo-noir and a comedy about twins top this year's program at the San Diego Italian Film Festival starting Tuesday and running through Oct. 24 (at Museum of Photographic Arts, La Paloma in Encinitas and the UltraStar at Hazard Center).

For San Diego film festival fans, October is like Christmas with a number of film festivals running through the region's theaters. With the San Diego Film Festival drawing to a close, cinema aficionados can follow the screening trail to this year’s San Diego Italian Film Festival, which promises a good line up at a number of venues.

If all roads lead to Rome (the theme of the launch party), then the road to this year’s San Diego Italian Festival leads not only to the Museum of Photographic (MOPA) but also to the UltraStar in Hazard Center and to La Paloma in Encinitas.

In the interest of disclosure, I am part of the screening committee and so was part of the selection process of this year’s line-up. But that also meant I got to see a lot of the films, and not just the ones that made it into the festival.

The selection committee looked at a wide number of films to create this year’s festival, which offers some of the most diverse selections yet. As part of the committee, I have a number of films that represent some of the top picks for the 12-day run.

The festival starts out at the MOPA with "O’mast" a deeply beautiful documentary as homage to the craft of Neapolitan tailoring. “O’mast” is dialect for master, and the masters here are the artists of bespoke tailoring. Described as the documentary version of a coffee table book, "O’mast” is both visually stunning and a gorgeous commentary on the art of wearing a cut well.

If it’s intrigue and mystery you are after, two films may well fit the bill. “Perez” is dark, delicious and not a little bit neo-noir. Screening only at MOPA, “Perez” features fantastic Neapolitan mean streets and a brilliant criminal lawyer who must make a deal with the Camorra (organized crime) to survive.

Often wondered how certain medicines got in your medicine cabinet to begin with? “Il Venditore Di Medicine” (“The Medicine Seller”) might have a clue. Not surprisingly, the pharmaceutical industry is just as corrupt in Italy as it is here. Suave Claudio Santamaria plays a drug rep whose wheelings and dealings catch up to him in a surprising ending.

Secrets don’t always have to be dark, as the comedy “Il Nome Del Figlio” (“An Italian Name”) suggests. The Jewish-Italian Pontecorvo family (a nod to Jewish-Italian director Gillo Pontecorvo) is having one of those splendid Italian dinners with family and friends, when suddenly, with the next course, out come the secrets. Is Benito REALLY a good name for the baby?

Not to be missed is “La Nostra Terra,” (“Mafia and Tomatoes”), an anti-Mafia movie that uses humor to discuss a serious situation in Italy - organized crime. Based on a true story, “La Nostra Terra” follows a cooperative in Puglia as they try to grow organic produce on land seized from the Mafia. When the former owner is granted house arrest, the big question is, will this year’s harvest bring tomatoes and zucchini or organized crime?

The festival finishes at MOPA with “Viva La Libertà” ("Long Live Liberty”) starring the thinking man’s actor, Toni Servillo, seen in past San Diego Italian Film Festivals in films such as “Il Divo” and “La Grande Belleza” (“The Great Beauty”). Servillo again takes center stage as a politician, this time doing double duty as the opposition leader Enrico Oliveri who ducks out after an embarrassing speech, only to be replaced by his twin brother Giovanni, a philosophy professor, whose slightly off-balance approach makes him the darling of his brother’s constituents.

As with prior San Diego Italian Film Festivals, the final film is accompanied by a gala at MOPA, featuring typical Italian dishes and desserts. New on the menu this year is vegetarian fare.

Like the new gala menu, this year’s festival hopes to have something for everyone, be it at MOPA in San Diego or La Paloma in North County.

As they say in Italian, “A presto,” see you soon.

For times and more information, please see the San Diego Italian Film Festival website for more details.

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