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San Diego Italian Film Festival Celebrates 13th Year And New Executive Director

festivale 2019 adds new Italy Exported shorts block

Photo credit: Primer Plano Film Group

Jacopo Cullin stars in "L’uomo che comprò la luna," the closing night film at the San Diego Italian Film Festival on Oct. 27.

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San Diego Italian Film Festival kicks off its 13th year at the Museum of Photographic Arts with a madcap murder mystery and new leadership. Here's a preview.

Aired: October 15, 2019 | Transcript

San Diego Italian Film Festival kicks off its 13th year at the Museum of Photographic Arts with a madcap murder mystery and new leadership. Here's a preview.

Being Italian I can say that Italians love to talk and at the San Diego Italian Film Festival they love to talk about films. With 37 film screenings over the past year in San Diego and Encinitas drawing more than 5000 people, SDIFF provided panels and Q&A's at a third of the events to inspire discussions sometimes running late into the night after a film has ended.

New leadership

Diana Agostini has just taken over the executive director role from Victor Laruccia (who now serves as the board president) and she sees movies as the best means of cultural sharing and has big plans for the future.

"I joined the festival basically as soon almost as I moved to San Diego," Agostini recalled. "I had the fortune to meet both Antonio [Iannotta] and Victor Laruccia, who is our former executive director who is now the president of the board. And both Antonio and I were able to put our soul, sweat, tears and blood into the organization.

"We are known as the San Diego Italian Film Festival but our organization is technically the Italian American Arts and Culture Association of San Diego [so] there is also a very strong cultural component that I think through the years has been coming out through our programming, bringing movies that also speak to the communities that open up dialogue that are meaningful in bringing our perspective and that of the Italian perspective [whether] from a simple comedy to a more structured drama or documentary but at that same time would allow our audience to not just see that but also reflect on what they're going through here in San Diego and globally also in terms of some immigration to family dynamics and whatnot. So I think that we want to push a lot on that and grow that aspect including potentially also other forms of art."

Like writing. This year's festivale 2019 has a focus on writer Elena Ferrante with a film based on a Ferrante novel and a post-film discussion.

Cinematic vision

Artistic director Antonio Iannotta endows the festival with much of its cinematic vision and he works hard to bring the best contemporary Italian cinema to San Diego, so audiences can feel like they are just walking into a movie house in Italy today.

One film that feels particularly modern is "Selfie," in which filmmaker Agostino Ferrente approached teens in a gang-ravaged neighborhood and recruited them to film themselves using smartphones in “selfie” mode as they go about their daily lives.

Photo credit: SDIFF

The documentary "Ccà Semu" screens as part of San Diego Italian Film Festival's new shorts block and competition Italy Exported.

That sense of daily life is also reflected in one of the shorts paired with the film, "Shine." This exquisitely and simply crafted documentary about one Italian American's dream of making a successful business is something to be savored.

This short is also part of a new program that Iannotta is particularly excited about. It's called Italy Exported and includes not just a showcase of short films.

"We have a very big, innovative program with Ristretto Short Film Awards. We put together a competition of shorts open to everybody, either if you or you are an Italian director or you are an American director or a director that comes from another part of the world. If you have an idea of what is Italian culture today you can participate in our competition. So we put together an independent jury. We just made the first selection of movies and the jury decided the two main awards and we're going to give during our Gala Party on Oct. 26."

Italy Exported and Ristretto Short Film Awards

Iannotta pointed out that more than 25 million Italians have left their homeland since 1875 and through these shorts, he hopes to explore some of their stories. I was honored to be one of the judges this year and watched 20 short films that ranged from outrageous comedy to introspective documentaries to experimental films. Ten of the twenty shorts will be showcased on Oct. 19 including my favorites "Ccà semu," "The Mosisani Americans," "Onikuma," "Quando La Banda Passeò," "Doppio Sei," and "Ferrini."

Shorts playing outside this block that are worth checking out in addition to "Shine" include "Vale la Pena," "The Place of Happiness," and "The Looney Boxer."

The festival doesn't shy away from complicated films or issues. "Comadante" looks to Italy in the 1970s, which Agostini described as "a tricky historical period but also a very complicated one that needs some kind of explanation and some sort of introduction so Antonio is going to do that to better support our audience in terms of understanding what they're about to see, and the film is followed by a Q&A as well."

As San Diego Italian Film Festival hits its teen years it continues to grow and mature in rich and rewarding ways.

And just a note, I will be part of a panel following the screening of "Dogman" on Friday, Oct. 18.

Listen to this story by Beth Accomando.

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