While lots of summer events around the world are opting to go online due to the coronavirus crisis, the Filming Italy Sardegna fest will be holding a physical edition on the island of Sardinia in the Forte Village resort near the capital city of Cagliari, where all guests will undergo complimentary COVID-19 tests upon arrival.
“We consulted with a medical committee and decided to follow a protocol combining two very fast non-invasive [coronavirus] tests to all our guests,” says Tiziana Rocca, the former Taormina Film Festival chief who two years ago launched this international event, which combines film and TV with a strong accent on women in the biz.
Rocca says she never really considered canceling and “talked to lots of U.S. talents” during the lockdown.
Among these is Matt Dillon, who this year is the fest’s honorary president and, luckily is in Italy, so will be able to attend. Other guests expected to be present for the July 22-26 Sardinian shindig include Isabelle Huppert, Naomie Harris, who will be traveling to Sardinia from the U.K., and Rossy De Palma, arriving from Spain.
“I have more European actors coming because they are the ones who can travel [to Italy],” says Rocca. “It’s tough getting talents to come from the U.S. since they are quarantined once they get to Europe.”
Travel restrictions did not get in the way of Rocca luring Disney Plus for an opening-night gala that will feature pop star Arisa perform the Italian version of “He’s a Tramp” (E’ un briccone) for a special screening of the live-action “Lady and the Tramp” that’s part of the platform’s global launch. The Sardinia fest’s family-friendly kickoff will also see Disney and Pixar’s animated suburban adventure fantasy “Onward” unspooling.
More esoteric fare with greater gravitas will unspool as part of a curated Variety Critics’ Picks section. Those films are Taiwanese director Chung Mong-Hong’s “A Sun,” about two sons: one an ace student poised to attend med school, the other a raging delinquent; Hong Kong actor-director Derek Tsang’s youth drama “Better Days” about bullying in Chinese high schools; and horror-tinged social drama “Jallikattu” from India’s Lijo Jose Pellissery.
These are films that had been making the rounds on the pre-pandemic international festival circuit.
Then there are the Italian premieres of more recent U.S. studio and indie titles such as Ben Affleck drama “The Way Back,” from Warner Bros.; Nicolas Cage action thriller “Primal,” from Lionsgate; and time-travel sci-fier “Synchronic” by directorial duo Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead, to be released by Notorious Pictures in Italy.
The Italian selection is geared toward pics that were forced to skip a theatrical outing and were released online locally due to the pandemic, most notably Ginevra Elkann’s “If Only,” a sentimental comedy about kids of divorced parents that earned strong reviews at festivals. In May, the debut feature scored a strong 450,000 views during its first week on pubcaster RAI’s RAI Play platform.
“I want to support Italian films that were released in streaming during the pandemic by bringing over the cast to boost their visibility,” Rocca says. “This is the festival’s mission this year.”
As for TV series making their way to the fest, HBO’s “The Plot Against America,” based on the Philip Roth novel that reimagines an America during WWII with President Charles Lindbergh steering the nation toward fascism; Kevin Costner drama “Yellowstone,” which centers on a powerful family of ranchers; and the final installment of hit French TV series “The Bureau” will all have their Italian launches prior to airing locally on Sky Italia.
Sardinia will also host two panels/webinars (part physical, part virtual), one featuring film world players and the other centered on TV talk. Both
topics will take in post-pandemic restart efforts.
On the film side, U.S. producers Bill Gerber (“A Star Is Born”) and Charles Roven (“Wonder Woman”) will be joined by Paolo Del Brocco, chief of Italy’s RAI Cinema.
The TV webinar will mark the first public appearance by former RAI head of drama Eleonora Andreatta, who recently left the pubcaster to join Netflix as VP of Italian Original series.