Giffoni Experience builds global brand

Kid's fest bolsters local production infrastructure

ROME — Giffoni, the Italian children’s film fest that taps 2,800 kids from 40 countries as jurors, is rebranding itself Giffoni Experience. And the makeover is not merely cosmetic.

Impervious to economic constraints stunting the growth of other fests, the prime kiddie fixture — located in the small town of Giffoni Valle Piana, near Paestum and the Amalfi Coast — is consolidating its global offshoots in 54 countries, becoming active 250 days a year and expanding its core shindig to two weeks, July 12-25, replacing the previous eight-day format.

The new Giffoni Experience will also comprise the Giffoni Multimedia Valley, a massive $40 million complex, which, besides expanding its infrastructure, aims to become a production entity.

Over nearly four decades, founder and artistic director Claudio Gubitosi has gradually gone global with a wide web of international spinoffs, including Giffoni Hollywood and Giffoni Australia, besides outposts in most Italian regions. He is organizing a high-profile European Youth Media confab to be held in Warsaw on Nov. 18-21.

But what Gubitosi is most proud of is the fest’s defining trait: 2,800  jurors, aged 3-17, attending a fantastic cinematic summer camp as guests of local families. “Giffoni is not just a festival; it’s a formative, creative itinerary,” he says. “The kids who come to Giffoni aren’t spectators; they are protagonists. That’s why I’ve renamed it Giffoni Experience.”

Of course, the Experience isn’t just for jurors. About 120,000 attendees are expected this year for round-the-clock free screenings of some 160 entries, about 100 of which compete in various sections. Millions follow Giffoni on TV in Italy where the fest, budgeted at roughly $7 million, gets the highest amount of government coin after the Venice Film Festival.

While the Hollywood majors have long picked Giffoni for their summer Italo launches — it opens with Warner Bros.’ “Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince” and will close with Disney’s “G-Force” — Gubitosi is proud of the fact that at least half the lineup consists of debut films. Perhaps more important, they are “films that deal with reality,” including potentially controversial themes such as teen sex, depression, kid soldiers, racial tensions, unemployment and death.

Accordingly, Giffoni’s theme this year will be “Taboo,” a look at many hot-button subjects, including homosexuality and euthanasia.

“More than a festival for kids, we are a festival for movies that know how to talk to kids,” Gubitosi says.

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