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Giffoni fest takes young to heart

Event gives filmmakers chance for kid input

A festgoer at Italy’s Giffoni Film Festival might be surprised to see a large group of children watching Italian and English-subtitled films during their summer holiday, but the 35-year-old fest located near Italy’s Amalfi Coast has proved there are thousands of kids willing to do just that.

With 1,500 jurors between the ages of 6 and 16, the Giffoni fest is a rare chance for filmmakers to screen their wares directly to young filmgoers.

The reactions to Mexican pic “Innocent Voices,” the harrowing tale of 11-year old El Salvadoran Chava, whose village is attacked almost every night by soldiers, are raw and uncensored.

A collective cheer interrupts the screening when Chava has his first kiss, and the screening is followed by a 10-minute standing ovation. At an intense 90-minute Q&A between scriptwriter Oscar Torres and jurors from Armenia, Iran, Italy, South Africa and India, reactions include, “Do you still hate the soldiers that destroyed your city or do you forgive them?”; “I am 14 years old and I have never ever seen a movie like this in my entire life”; and “What did it feel like to have a gun to your head?”

“I have seen directors cry. These are uncensored critics,” says fest artistic director and founder Claudio Gubitosi.

Says German helmer Dennis Gansel, “Your target audience is watching the film, not a film critic. If they like it, that is very interesting, and if they don’t, well, that is also interesting to find out.”

Gansel’s film “Napola” was screened for the “Y Gen” section with fare for 15- to 19-year-olds.

Gubitosi started the fest at the age of 18 with some friends in his hometown of Giffoni Valle Piana. “In the 1970s, the festival was very experimental.”

Today the fest has a E3.5 million budget and is exporting the concept to other countries, including Giffoni sidebar events at the Adelaide and Krakow fests. 2006 will see the second Giffoni Hollywood.

Gubitosi says of this year’s pics in competition, seven have found distribution in Italy. The average Giffoni film is sold in a minimum of 20-30 countries, he adds.

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