Italy’s Il Cinema Ritrovato Festival, which is dedicated to cinematic treasures of the past, last week wrapped its 33rd edition with a record-breaking turnout. Long a summer fixture for vintage film geeks and distributors it also draws prominent contemporary cinema personalities. This year these included Academy president John Bailey, Francis Ford Coppola, Nicolas Winding Refn, Jane Campion, Thierry Fremaux, and Philippe Le Guay. The fest is the brainchild of Gianluca Farinelli, also chief of the Bologna Film Archives and its film restoration lab known globally as a prime film preservation entity. Farinelli spoke to Variety about the fest’s easy co-existence with his friend Thierry Fremaux’s similar but younger Lumière Festival in Lyon, how they both drive this market segment, and singled out some gems of this edition starting from the world’s first film with a gay narrative. Excerpts.
What makes Il Cinema Ritrovato different from the Lumière fest in Lyon?
They are similar in that they have the same approach, the same passion for cinema of the past. But Il Cinema Ritrovato is 22 years older, it has a consolidated legacy and tradition across the entire history of cinema. What Lyon has additionally is Thierry’s identity, his ability to draw a large presence of contemporary artists who link the present and the past. We also try to do that, albeit on a smaller scale. Since we have a longer history there are some topics and themes which we tend cyclically to return to. Our 100 Years Ago section; our research in the field of color; our great attention dedicated to the theme of restoration which is in our DNA and one of the reasons the festival was created. Another aspect that makes us unique is we don’t just focus on cinema from the West…this attracts distributors and fills seats, especially with young spectators. Lyon and Bologna are two slightly different events, but I think the things we’ve done in Bologna help Lyon and vice-versa.
What are some of the gems of this year’s lineup that you are particularly proud of ?
This year’s 100 Years Ago section really made it clear that 1919 was a very important year during which the film world realized it could tell tales that weren’t allowed before. That section has the first film that tells a gay story [“Anders also die Andern” by Richard Oswald; it also has [Romanian director] Lupu Pick’s “Tötet nicht mehr,” a passionate plea against the death penalty; and [Carl Theodore] Dreyer’s first feature “Praesidenten” in which a woman who bears a child out-of-wedlock is not stigmatized for this. Then there are also lots of discoveries among the restorations. Marco Ferreri’s “L’Ape Regina,” which was considered a minor work…has been brought to new life. And I’m very proud of John Huston’s “Moulin Rouge” and the first ever preview of one [Abbas] Kiarostami’s first films “First Case, Second Case” which he made [in 1979] shortly before the revolution, not to mention “Apocalypse Now — Final Cut” in which Coppola went back to [work on] this masterpiece for the third time. Or the freshly restored “Easy Rider” print which played on the Piazza Maggiore (picture below) for some 7,000 enchanted viewers.
Documentaries seemed particularly strong this year
In past years there has literally been an explosion of documentaries on cinema history and both Bologna and Lyon offer a selection of the best of what’s produced around the world. This is becoming an increasingly important part of the program because —and we are seeing this clearly in Bologna —young audiences comprise a very high percentage of our audience. Through documentaries our formative role towards a young potential cinephile who was born in the year 2000 becomes crucial. The documentary selection this year is particularly interesting because we had titles made for TV viewing alongside huge works such as Shivendra Singh Dungarpur’s 7-hour-plus “CzechMate: In Search of Jiri Menzel,” which opened the festival (introduced by the director). It gives you the idea of how the history of cinema can be depicted in so many different ways.
Lyon has a bona fide market, which Bologna does not. But if I’m not mistaken plenty of companies came to Bologna this year, including Criterion, Studiocanal, Kino Lorber, Pathé. Is the market aspect growing?
Yes, the international industry community that comes here has been growing every year. Lyon, of course, is in France and France is the country that has invested the most in cinematic heritage. But we have at least 500 professionals coming here, out of 4,000 accredited attendees. And I’m sure that within the next five years “L’Ape Regina,” a film that previously practically did not exist, will be distributed in all the major territories. There are other cases: take [U.S. director] Felix E. Feist [whose “The Devil Thumbs a Ride” and “The Threat” played in Bologna] a master of noir who today is practically unknown. Thanks to [U.S. writer] Eddie Muller [who was instrumental to these restorations] it’s easy to imagine we will be seeing his works in blu rays and retrospectives.