Campania's two standouts increase ambitions

Film festivals in Campania reflect the region’s flamboyant drive and creative flair while capitalizing on the potent pull of its phenomenal resources as a magnet for bizzers and stars.

Of the roughly 150 shindigs of all types held yearly in Campania’s mainland and its celebrated isles, a handful are standouts, and two — the Giffoni Film Festival and Capri, Hollywood — are highly ambitious, uniquely conceived cinema celebrations that cater to the international filmmaking community, albeit in very different ways.

Giffoni, located in the small town of Giffoni Valle Piana, near Paestum and the Amalfi Coast, emerged a while back as the world’s prime children’s films event, and claims to be the only fest on the planet where pics are judged by 2,800 jurors: all kids, ages 3-17 from more than 40 countries.

For the upcoming 39th edition, July 12-25, Giffoni is being renamed Giffoni Experience. The new moniker reflects its global offshoots and supplementary programs in 54 countries. In its new incarnation, the event is active 250 days annually and adds to its brand the Giffoni Multimedia Valley, a massive $40 million complex which, besides expanding the fest’s infrastructure, aims to become a production entity — and a Sundance Institute of sorts — for kidpics.

“The Giffoni Multimedia Valley will become a laboratory/factory for all types of children’s films and TV products, mixing public and private enterprise,” says Giffoni artistic director and founder Claudio Gubitosi, who says he is talking co-productions with Buena Vista Intl.

Completion of the complex, comprising a film museum, library and two 500-seat digitally equipped cinemas, besides the studios, is expected in 2013.

“The goal is for the area to become a district dedicated to multimedia production for youth audiences, and to foster new talent both on the creative side and also in terms of highly qualified technicians,” Campania leader Antonio Bassolino tells Variety.

“Giffoni represents a new way of interpreting the whole concept of festival,” says Campania region tourism topper Claudio Velardi. “It grows and reinvents itself each year.”

Even as Giffoni evolves and expands, its real strong suit remains the fact that it has never shied away from tough hot-button movies. The fest’s theme this year is “Taboos,” spotlighting pics about social, sexual and racial barriers among kids.

That said, Giffoni has also long served as an international summer launching pad for mainstream kiddie fare from the majors — this year for Fox’s “Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs,” among others.

Still, Gubitosi is particularly proud of the fact that at least half the lineup is made up of first works. Also, the stars who come to Giffoni — and there are always plenty, including past appearances by Will Smith and Meryl Streep — don’t need to have a film playing there.

The region’s ties to Hollywood have intensified in recent years thanks to two younger fests on Campania’s offshore isles of Capri and Ischia dreamed up by Pascal Vicedomini, a pubcaster RAI journo and unstoppable operator who in recent years has lured a who’s who of L.A. and London showbizzers and plenty of A-list stars while consistently raising the quality bar of his screenings and panels.

“The environment, the setting, the warmth of the people, the amazing food — these are all key factors,” says Vicedomini who has expanded his Capri, Hollywood end-of-year affair into sister summer event Ischia Global Film & Music fest, on the neighboring isle while also launching a pre-Oscars showcase for Italian movies in L.A. called Los Angeles, Italia.

“But ultimately it’s about quality of content, art and friendship,” he adds.

The coexistence of informality, picturesque scenery and a multidisciplinary approach mixing movies, music and wide-ranging panels concocted by Vicedomini has yielded glowing reviews for both the Capri and Ischia fests among Yank industryites. Attendees hobnobbing with local players at last year’s Ischia Global Production Summit included Ryan Kavanaugh, Harvey Weinstein, Micheal Nozic, Michael Burns, Lawrence Bender and Ed Limato.

“The fact that there is now such a direct link between us and the American film industry in Hollywood is very important to us,” says tourism’s Velardi.

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