Theater and film intersect in Naples

City draws on rich history, pursues own vision

The spirited port city of Naples is a modern Mediterranean melting pot with showbiz embedded deep in its DNA.

By far Italy’s most thriving theater city, Napoli, as it is known in Italy, draws on a tradition of great playwrights and thesps that flows from its ancient Greek founders, from the Commedia dell’Arte and from the Neapolitan tragicomedies of Eduardo De Filippo, who was its strongest postwar theater personality.

Filmwise, Neapolitans like to boast that theirs is the city where filmmaking first started in Italy during the Lumiere brothers era.

More recently, the sprawling southern Italian metropolis under Mt. Vesuvius has seen a burst of creative energy that erupted in the early 1990s when theater and film intersected to foster a vibrant indie scene. This mix is spawning internationally acclaimed helmers, talent and new local production companies, just as Neapolitan literature and music also enjoy a mini-renaissance.

“We made this rare move of venturing from theater into film and have continued to be active in both fields,” says Angelo Curti, topper of Teatri Uniti, the theater/film company that produced early films by Mario Martone, a partner, and by Paolo Sorrentino, and of which hot thesp Toni Servillo (“Il Divo”) is also a founding member. Teatri Uniti was instrumental as a casting agent for “Gomorrah,” which, alongside Servillo, starred plenty of talented non-pros.

Nicola Giuliano and Francesca Cima’s Indigo Film, which produced “Il Divo,” started out in 1999 as an offshoot of Teatri Uniti for which Giuliano worked as a line producer.

Both Giuliano and Curti ascribe Neapolitan creative energy to the fact that the local dialect is in fact a totally separate language from Italian; “Gomorrah” had to be subtitled for Italians.

“Our language, which is constantly evolving, is what has allowed our theater, music, literary and even our film culture to continue to renew itself,” says Giuliano.

“Naples is not a culturally colonized city,” says Curti. “It’s a place where pop phenomenons from the outside are digested and transformed into something Neapolitan,” he explains.

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