Italian Embassy Cultural Centre in collaboration with India Habitat Centre recently organised Budding Italian Film Director Festival that endeavored to showcase some for the best contemporary works of budding Italian filmmakers to the Indian audience. As part of week-long festival which ran from 5th-12th April 2019 as many as 12 films were screened which included feature films, documentaries, and short films. Laura Bispuri’s Daughter of Mine (original title: Figlia mia), Sebastiano Riso’s Darker Than Midnight (original title: Più buio di mezzanotte), Suranga Deshapriya Katugampala’s For a Son (original title: Per un figlio) were the three feature films to be screened.
The festival opened with Suranga Deshapriya Katugampala’s film which revolves around a middle-aged Sri Lankan woman who lives with her teenage son in Italy where she works as a caregiver. The film tries to explore the hardships of migrants who are forced to move to alien lands in the hope of securing a better future for their children. The film while trying to examine the delicate nature of the mother-son relationship also highlights the generational and cultural gap between the mother and son owing to their different upbringings. The Sri Lankan born Suranga who moved to Italy as a young teenager likes to see himself a product of multiculturalism. “For filmmakers like me it is very important to tell our stories and remind everyone that these stories are as Italian as any other. The urge to tell this particular story was so strong that we ended up selling ours cars and taking loans from banks. So it was really hard for us to finance this independent film but we were also fortunate to meet some really good people on the way who supported us in our endeavor to tell this story,” revealed Suranga.
While Suranga’s film is rife with a lot of poignant and equally unsettling moments, it’s Sebastiano Riso’s Darker Than Midnight that was by far the most difficult film to watch. In a short time the 35-year-old Riso, who is openly gay, has managed to establish himself as one of the most promising contemporary Italian filmmakers. Interestingly, Riso’s Una Famiglia, his sophomore effort, was in competition for the Golden Lion at the 74th Venice International Film Festival. It was screened in Delhi as part of the Habitat International Film Festival last year. Darker Than Midnight revolves around an androgynous teenage boy who, persecuted by his father, is forced to live on the streets of Catania. In Riso’s own words, “Darker Than Midnight is a movie about Davide, a 13-year-old transgender living in Italy; it’s essentially a movie about identity. The story comes from the desire to talk about my childhood and the childhood in general. It’s a movie about the right of freedom.”
The documentaries that were screened as part of the Budding Italian Film Director Festival included Walter Bencini’s The Last Italian Cowboys (original title: Gli ultimi butteri) and Michele Cinque’s Iuventa. While the former deals with the last remaining butteri, heroic men who still rear cattle in the wild and in effect serve as a bridge between humans and nature, the latter follows a group of youngsters who buy a ship and start a search and rescue programme in the year 2016 in order to rescue African migrants in the Mediterranean Sea.
The festival also featured some interesting short films such as Adriano Morelli’s Il Nostro Limite, Francesco Pascucci’s Alla luce del sole, and Salvatore Allocca’s award winning short La gita (English title: The School Trip) which the best director and the best cinematographer awards at the 75th Venice International Film Festival in the MigrArti section, which is dedicated to showcasing the issues faced by the second-generation youngsters from immigrant communities living in Italy. La gita revolves around a teenage daughter of an immigrant family from Senegal but born and brought up in Italy who is denied the opportunity to go on a school trip abroad with her best friend owing to a prejudiced legal system that continues to differentiate between native Italians over other citizens.
For decades Italian cinema has been marshalled by masters like Roberto Rossellini, Vittorio De Sica, Federico Fellini, Luchino Visconti, Michelangelo Antonioni, Sergio Leone, Bernardo Bertolucci, and Ermanno Olmi, and Giuseppe Tornatore. Their dominance is evident in the fact that Italian films over the years have managed to win 14 Academy Awards for the Best Foreign Language Film, which is the most by any country, and as many as 12 Palme d'Or Awards at Cannes—the second highest by any country. While it remains to be seen if the emerging filmmakers whose films were showcased at the Budding Italian Film Director Festival can carry forward this glorious legacy, it can be safely said that there is great promise in their early work. Hopefully, they will only improve from here on.