With an exquisitely judged blend of contemporary and classic films, the Italian Film Festival returns to showcase the cinema from one of the great filmmaking nations
To all but the most dedicated enthusiasts, the story of Italian cinema begins with the neorealist movement and the talent that it introduced, enduring auteurs such as Fellini, Visconti, Rossellini and De Sica. With each director determined to chronicle the frequently bleak conditions in post-war Italian society, the best works of the period are compassionate, socially conscious works awash with technical innovation and vitality. However, as the fifties progressed, the nation began to dabble in increasingly escapist and apolitical fare in the hope of receiving elusive government funding. An impact was made by a run of low-budget spaghetti westerns over the following decade, but this was to be the last time the country's film industry would sustain international interest. By the eighties, it had taken to churning out trashy, populist fluff, a cavernous gulf existing between innovators and the mainstream.
The Italian Film Festival debuted in Scotland in the early nineties, fully supported by an enlightened Italian Cultural Institute that recognised the industry's need for regeneration. Currently in its nineteenth year, the festival has done much to champion the country's cinematic accomplishments, though it still has a long way to go. As co-director Richard Mowe states, "Italian cinema still sadly is under-represented on these shores which makes this event even more important than ever.” He and partner Allan Hunter “feel sure that audiences will relish the opportunity to sample the best that il cinema italiano has to offer," and have curated a typically diverse programme for our viewing pleasure.
Ostensibly an excuse to screen films that received minimal distribution in this country upon their initial release, the festival's programme strikes a perfect balance between critically acclaimed works, box-office successes and evergreen Oscar-winners. The selection sees ten new films rub shoulders with a trio of shrewdly chosen classics.
De Sica's Il boom (18 Apr, GFT; 24 Apr, Filmhouse), an intelligent satire on the economic woes that shook the country, is likely to strike a chord with modern audiences, while Michelangelo Antonioni's unimpeachable Il deserto rosso (15 Apr, GFT; 18 Apr, Filmhouse; 22 Apr, DCA) is an appropriately weighty work with which to celebrate the late director's centenary. Contemporary highlights come in the form of Daniele Luchetti's Cannes smash La nostra vita (15 Apr, GFT; 17 Apr, Filmhouse; 18 Apr, DCA) and Emanuele Crialese's 2012 Oscar candidate Terraferma (17 Apr, GFT; 19 Apr, DCA; 21 Apr Filmhouse), both of which deal with the issue of immigration in thoughtful and unexpected ways.
The festival runs from 13-26 April, with screenings taking place in Glasgow Film Theatre, Edinburgh Filmhouse, DCA Dundee and Eden Court Inverness. Edinburgh's Valvona and Crolla Vin Caffe and Glasgow's Fratelli Sarti, meanwhile, are set to host special events and lend their support to the proceedings.