Giffoni celebrates myths, maestros

Supporters include Meryl Streep, Will Smith

The longevity of the fest has, unsurprisingly, spawned a number of franchise-style spinoffs, known as the Giffoni World Alliance, with umbrella events held not only in Los Angeles (Giffoni Hollywood ran from 2005-2007), but also as far afield as Adelaide, Australia; Krakow, Poland; and Yerevan, Armenia; a first foray into Dubai is scheduled for 2009. Along the way, it’s enlisted some formidable supporters — among them Meryl Streep, Will Smith (who took some of the young jurors bowling) and Jon Voight.

Uniquely, the jury of the Giffoni Film Festival will be made up of 2,100 young people, ages 6 to 16, from more than 30 countries. Most come via a global network of affiliates: film fests, cultural organizations and schools — which all select their best and brightest to make the voyage to Italy, where they’re hosted by local families for 12 days, free of charge. “For many of them it’s their first journey alone, their first time in another country,” says topper Claudio Gubitosi. “It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”

Punching well above its weight, Giffoni manages not only to attract huge numbers during the fest (100,000 visitors are expected in 2008), but also to run supplementary film programs for its local community for more than 250 days of the year — and all on an annual budget of just E5 million. Topper Claudio Gubitosi is reconciled to economizing but believes a change is coming, as private investors begin to recognize the fest’s brand visibility and its singular contribution to the film industry around the world.

According to artistic director Claudio Gubitosi, the theme of this year’s festival — “Myths and Maestros” — is an attempt to address a recurring dilemma: “Young people tend to be fascinated with people who perhaps aren’t ideal role models. But our aim, at this year’s Giffoni, is to present some genuine artists: people who can supplant those archetypes and inspire them for the better.” Thus, aside from the film program, the fest is providing a series of workshops and seminars, emphasizing themes of heroism, courage and personal integrity.

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