Sardinia Festival Put Focus on Women in Film

Eva Longoria, Patricia Arquette, Claire Forlani, Marta Milans and Julia Stiles are among stars expected on the island of Sardegna (or Sardinia for English speakers) for the second edition of the Filming Italy Sardegna Festival, the Italian summer shindig celebrating the ongoing crossover between high-end film and TV content and the power of women driving that crossover. Festival runs June 13-16.

“I’m trying to give it a modern stamp,” says former Taormina Film Festival general manager Tiziana Rocca, who last year launched this innovative fest in the capital city of Cagliari and nearby Forte Village resort as an offshoot of her annual Filming in Italy/Los Angeles event that promotes Italian cinema, locations and talent.

Alternating movies and series, the 2019 edition will open with the Italian launch of Brian De Palma’s high-voltage thriller “Domino,” starring “Game of Thrones” alums Nikolaj Coster-Waldau and Carice Van Houten — both expected to make the trek — as European cops on the trail of an ISIS cell. The film will be followed by local launches of the second seasons of HBO’s “Big Little Lies,” with star Laura Dern in tow, and Sky’s Cote d’Azur-set “Riviera,” created by Neil Jordan and toplining Stiles.

A selection of five recent film fest circuit standouts picked by Variety critics, such “Fig Tree,” Ethiopian auteur Aalam-Warqe Davidian’s love story set during the country’s civil war, will be sprinkled into a mix that includes small-screen standouts such as the European premiere of Viacom Intl.’s high-end Spanish-language series “To Catch a Thief,” which takes its cue from the Alfred Hitchcock classic.

“I’ve found that audiences react to movies and TV series with the same enthusiasm,” says Rocca. “And as this co-existence increases, they are actually supporting and driving each other.”

The upcoming edition of the June 13-16 fest will feature 30 titles, including documentaries. Its guests place the accent on women working in the industry in different guises such as Longoria, who, in parallel with her acting career, has also directed multiple episodes of TV shows including “Black-ish,” “Jane the Virgin” and “The Mick,” and is now in pre-production on her feature film directorial debut, “24-7,” for Universal.

The Filming Italy Sardegna Festival will also focus on younger female stars that are breaking out internationally such as Spanish-born Milans, who in “Shazam” plays Rosa Vasquez matriarch of a multicultural home for foster children and “a superhero in her own right,” Rocca notes. Gender parity is not an issue at this event.

The spirit of détente between big and small screens looms large in the fest’s two panels: one, titled Moviegoing Never Goes on Holiday, is dedicated to Italy’s pivotal push to fill movie theaters in summer months.

The country’s Deputy Culture Minister Lucia Borgonzoni, praised by Rocca as “the woman driving Italy’s industry,” will be coming to the island to lead that discussion. The second panel will explore ways to get more Italian content to penetrate the international market.

Momentum for this carried forward in the recent sale of director Marco Bellocchio’s Mafia drama “The Traitor” to more than 20 territories following its Cannes premiere, including to Sony Pictures Classics for the United States.

Execs from Netflix, HBO, Sky, Disney, Paramount Channel and local broadcasters RAI and Mediaset, which both have film distribution arms, are expected to attend the fest, as will a host of other top Italian players.

The emerald island, which recently hosted the shoot of George Clooney’s “Catch- 22” for Hulu, as well as De Palma’s “Domino” and Paolo Sorrentino’s “Loro,” is looking to attract more international productions, with overseas guests will be offered tours of its wide range of locations.

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