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Matt Bomer, Lea Michele Honored by Giffoni Festival

Italy’s Giffoni Film Festival for children, the unique cinematic holiday camp where kids, teens and young adults from all over the world watch, talk and judge movies, is set to embark on a totally new course after 44 years of almost constant re-invention that has forged a widely exported fest format.

Funds have been greenlit by the European Union for construction on its long-gestating Giffoni Multimedia Valley project, which involves an expansion of the event’s infrastructure and its transformation, by 2016, into a kind of Sundance Institute for children, plus possibly prompting a proper production studio to sprout in the southern Italian town, a development hailed as Giffoni’s upcoming “rebirth” by founder and artistic director Claudio Gubitosi.

Meanwhile, the July 18-27 edition of the Giffoni Experience isn’t showing any signs of losing steam. A slew of Hollywood talent, including Matt Bomer, above, who will be honored with the Giffoni Award, Lea Michele (“Glee”), Dylan O’Brian (“Teen Wolf”), Richard Gere and Alan Rickman, are set to make the trek to engage with more than 3,500 jurors aged between 3 and 25. The jury comes to Giffoni from 52 nations, including Azerbaijan and Lebanon (for the first time this year). Rickman, known to kids around the world as Professor Severus Snape in the “Harry Potter” franchise, will be honored with the event’s Francois Truffaut lifetime achievement award.

Giffoni’s global jury will pick winners from a lineup of more than 100 titles from 82 countries, with the Italo preem of Josh Boone’s “The Fault in Our Stars” getting top billing. Other high-profile pics that will launch locally include Laurent Tirard’s “Nicholas on Holiday,” sequel to French hit “Little Nicholas”; Disney’s “Planes: Fire & Rescue”; and Lionsgate’s “Step Up: All In,” with star Ryan Guzman in tow.

The Giffoni Experience is a year-round affair, fueled by a large Internet community of 81,000 Facebook fans, 33,000 Twitter followers and “more social media engagement than any other fest in the world,” Gubitosi boasts.

This year’s theme is “Be Different,” chosen via social media, of course. “Difference is the distinguishing trait of beauty; it’s the substance of our being, and the driver of our evolution,” Gubitosi says.

Six years after announcing his most ambitious initiative, Gubitosi has tapped into some €20 million ($27 million) in European Union coin to make the Giffoni Multimedia Valley happen. Construction is now expected to start in September on a massive complex comprising a film museum and library, two 500-seat cinemas, an open-air arena, a 500-bed campus, and, very possibly, professional studio facilities for the year-round production of youth-oriented cinema and TV.

Gubitosi envisions Giffoni as a potential laboratory for development and a proper production studio, to be partly financed with crowdfunding, that would focus on a wide range of kiddie fare, from children’s animation to TV dramas and game formats, documentaries and even theatrical feature films, music scores and a special effects labs.

The EU investment in one of the poorest regions in Italy, with high youth unemployment, makes sense.

According to a recent report by the European Audiovisual Observatory, between 2004 and 2013, European children’s movies accounted for 11% of the total box office generated by European movies in Europe. In other words, at least one out of 10 tickets sold for a European film was for a Euro kiddie pic, which travel better than live action films.

That’s why the next move Gubitosi says he is mulling is re-branding “Giffoni Experience to Giffoni Opportunity.”

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